As we wait our Lord’s return, we are cognizant of Romans 8:22: “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now (KJV).” When we reflect upon the state of the entire creation at this time — mankind, the earth, the air, the water — we can almost hear all creation groaning for the promised revitalization that will be implemented by our Master upon the establishment of the Kingdom of God.
One does not need to look far to comprehend the numbers associated with AIDS. According to an international AIDS and HIV charity, AVERT, located in the UK, AIDS and HIV is nothing short of an epidemic and, quite frankly, the numbers associated with this disease are staggering. The AVERT web site reports that some “37.2 million adults and 2.2 million children were living with HIV at the end of 2004. This is more than 50% higher than the figures projected by the world health organization in 1991 on the basis of the data then available.”
During 2004, 4.9 million people became infected with HIV, which causes AIDS. It is anticipated that during 2005 this number will double. 2004 also saw 3.1 million deaths from AIDS — a high global total, despite antiretroviral therapy, which reduced AIDS-related deaths in the richer countries. Deaths among those already infected will continue to increase for some years even if prevention programs manage to cut the number of new infections to zero. However, with the HIV-positive population still expanding, the annual number of AIDS deaths can be expected to increase for many years, unless more effective provision of ARV medication begins to slow the death rate.
Around half of the people who acquire HIV become infected before they turn 25 and typically die of AIDS before their 35th birthday. This age factor makes AIDS uniquely threatening to children. By the end of 2003, the epidemic had left behind 15 million AIDS orphans. These orphans are vulnerable to poverty, exploitation and themselves becoming infected with HIV. They are often forced to leave the education system and find work, and sometimes to care for younger siblings or head a family.
In 2004, an estimated 640,000 children aged 14 or younger became infected with HIV. In 2003, over 90% of newly infected children were babies born to HIV-positive women, who acquired the virus at birth or through their mother’s breast milk. Of these, almost nine-tenths were in sub-Saharan Africa. The overwhelming majority of people with HIV, some 95% of the global total, live in the developing world. The proportion is set to grow even further as infection rates continue to rise in countries where poverty, poor health care systems and limited resources for prevention and care fuel the spread of the virus.
The total number of people living with HIV continues to rise in high-income countries, largely due to widespread access to antiretroviral treatment, which prolongs the lives of HIV+ people. This causes an increase in the pool of HIV+ people who are able to transmit the virus to others. It is estimated that 1.6 million people are living with HIV in North America and Western Europe – a figure that includes 65,000 who were newly infected in 2004.
While the AIDS epidemic is a new affliction in today’s world, a very old problem is occurring in the North American grain belt where severe drought has developed. According to the Wall Street Journal, August 4, 2005, “One of the worst droughts across the central U.S. is beginning to shrink potential harvests of corn and soybeans, and slow commercial shipping on some of the busiest rivers.” The drought is causing the overall American corn production to drop by some 16%. When one considers that corn is used for sweetening soda pop, making ethanol fuel and fattening hogs and chickens, Americans can expect to see some significant impact on the cost of many goods in the coming months.
The oceans may seem too vast to pollute. After all, they comprise more than 70% of Earth’s surface. Yet as we know from the effect of chemical emissions on earth’s atmosphere, uncontrolled pollution carried on long enough can devastate any aspect of the globe. In 2004, more than 60 million gallons of oil were dumped or spilled into the ocean. The spills and dumps occur mainly from offshore drilling platforms losing some of their production into the sea. With the quest to produce more oil in offshore locations, this number is sure to climb in 2005.
Despite living in an enlightened age and being part of an advanced country very conscious of environmental issues, Victoria, BC, and St. John’s, Newfoundland, have opted to dump their raw sewage into the oceans rather than treat it first. This sewage carries with it organic waste and nutrients that can lead to oxygen depletion, as well as disease-causing bacteria and parasites that require closing beaches and shellfish beds.
Home to more than 6-billion individuals, the earth cannot long endure the damage it is now exposed to. Surely with all creation, we indeed groan for the soon return of our Lord.