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- Reprinted from HERALD OF THE COVENANT, Volume 7 Number 4
Newsletter of Covenant Presbytery, Presbyterian Church in America
AIDS: A Christian Response
by the Rev. Barry C. Waugh
pastor, Eastland Presbyterian Church
The Black Death which ravaged Europe in 1347 and rapidly spread across
the continent is estimated to have killed from one fourth to three fourths
of the populations of the individual countries of the continent. It is
thought that the plague killed a total of up to twenty-five million people,
a total of one fourth of the entire continent's population. A popular
theory of the origin of the disease was the belief that the Jews had
poisoned the wells of Europe. As a result of such thinking, Jews were
massacred throughout the continent. In one case, twelve-thousand were
cruelly murdered in the hopes that the killing of the Jews would end the
horrors of the Black Death.
The time of the Black Death was, to say the least, chaotic and insane.
When one considers that the medical knowledge at the time was minimal or
non-existent it becomes easier to understand the response of the people.
In our age we have the best of medical technique and knowledge
available to us, but we find our fears cause us to knee-jerk reactions
rather than thoughtful analysis of the AIDS situation.
When we consider the statistics given by the medical and scientific
communities our fears increase. As of November 1986 it was estimated that
1.5 million Americans were infected with the AIDS virus and 15,000 had died
from its devastation. AIDS deaths by 1991 are projected to total 180,000.
It is more frightening when one realizes that as time passes the occurrence
of AIDS outside the "high risk" groups of homosexuals and intravenous drug
abusers is increasing. The percentage of heterosexual cases has risen from
one percent to four percent in recent months. (1)
The guarded projections about the future spread of the disease are
even more frightening. In 1985 there were 19,081 cases and it is projected
that for 1988 there will be over 91,000 cases. The outlook for the United
States in 1991 passes the quarter-million mark. (2)
The disease is not limited to the United States. It is believed that
up to 10 million people worldwide carry the AIDS virus and are potential
victims. We must remember that there is a difference between carrying the
virus and having AIDS in it's advanced stages, but as study continues and
the years pass it is being discovered that a greater and greater percentage
of the carriers of the HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) do come down with
the disease. These 10 million victims represent about eighty nations that
have reported AIDS cases. (3)
It is believed that the AIDS virus originated in central Africa. At
the present time it is central Africa that is facing the greatest
devastation by the disease. The countries of Zaire, Uganda and Kenya are
facing the pain of many of their citizens and loved ones dying from the
An article by Robert Bazell, science correspondent for NBC News, in
the NEW REPUBLIC cites the destructive power of the plague. Bazell
estimates that the disease will kill millions in central Africa as it
spreads in the coming years. Bazell said, "In the six years I have been
reporting AIDS, I never imagined it could become so horrible." (4)
Researchers in Kinshasa, Zaire report that one-fourth of the deaths in the
city's main hospital are now from AIDS. In Nairobi, Kenya scientists have
watched the number of infected prostitutes climb from 4% in 1980 to more
than 60% at the present. (5) In 1985 in Kinshasa, Zaire four cases of AIDS
were being diagnosed every day and almost all were heterosexuals. (6)
Why are statistics from Africa so important? Because if Africa is
where the virus originated it means Africa has a longer history with the
disease and more years for the progress of its devastation. In other
words, what we now see in the African nations is a picture of what may
await the United States and other nations if the spread of the disease
It is necessary for us to understand what we can about the way the
virus is transmitted. The present medical opinion is that it is
transmitted in three ways: intimate contact, contaminated blood, and to
children born to infected mothers. We also know that the virus is not only
present in the blood but in secretions, saliva, sweat, tears and various
body tissues including the brain and skin. (7)
When medical doctors or research scientists give us information about
AIDS they will inevitably qualify their findings with statements like, "as
is known at this time," or "according to our present research." Medicine,
like any other science, is based on research, statistics and
experimentation. If the information available tells us the disease is only
transmitted in the three previously mentioned ways it is on the basis of
WHAT IS PRESENTLY KNOWN. What about the possibility that the evidence is
deficient? What if, since the virus is present in many body fluids, it can
be transmitted through spit, tears or urine? We should be careful to not
conclude it is necessarily true the disease can be transmitted through
these fluids but we better be sure it CANNOT if we are to say it cannot.
What about something as simple as kissing? When you kiss you are
making contact with saliva and if you have bleeding gums or chapped lips,
what then? One health professional has been honest about his lack of
certainty in this area when he said, "I, and just about every health
professional, would like to duck that topic. (The topic of kissing as a
way of transmission.) Designate kissing as a transmitter and, deep panic,
all human association will carry a sudden deductible clause." (8) There is
a hesitancy among some in the health care community to eliminate kissing as
a possible way of transmission.
It could be that some of the responses to AIDS seen today are plain
old superstition or reactions based on fear and not fact. In the case of
Rock Hudson we find that the nurses who attended him while in France burned
their garments and destroyed the utensils he ate with. (9) If the French
nurses attending Rock Hudson acted in such an extremely cautious manner, it
might be appropriate for all who have contact with AIDS victims to take
more caution. It would be tragic for us to discover in the future that AIDS
is transmitted in more casual ways than the three previously listed. The
tragedy would be that we were not as cautious with this deadly disease
which is admitted to be a unique virus by the medical professionals.
AIDS is a disease of utter devastation and destruction. We have all
viewed the news reports showing victims with a drawn appearance, bleary
eyes, and a body covered with sores. It is a pitiable condition. The
destruction, though, goes beyond the ones infected and touches family,
friends, fellow workers and society in general. In one case, an American
soldier stationed in Africa in the late 1970's made use of the services of
a prostitute. On returning home to the States he married and fathered
three children. At age 37, about ten years after his African tour of duty,
he developed AIDS and died. His widow and their fifteen month old toddler
are severely ill with AIDS. The older two children show no infection. (10)
The disease is rapidly spread through illicit physical contact and the
result in most cases is death and destruction that reaches beyond the one
Another case involved chief warrant officer Martin Gaffney of the
United States Marines. He is suing the Navy for 55 million dollars
alleging that its doctors botched the care given Gaffney's wife during her
first pregnancy. Gaffney himself is suffering from AIDS and his 13 month
old son died last summer from the disease. The first child died in the
womb during the mother's complicated pregnancy in 1981 and it was at the
time that Gaffney's wife, Mutsuko, received two units of blood, one of
which was AIDS contaminated. The second child born in 1983 was not
infected with the virus, but the third born in 1985 was the one who died at
13 months of age. This is a real tragedy especially in light of the fact
that the victims were not infected through promiscuity, as the G.I. in the
previous example, but through receiving contaminated blood. (11)
Fear is good when it makes us aware of danger. To be afraid of fire,
electricity or power tools makes us more cautious when we use these forces.
Fear of AIDS is healthy, but we should direct our fear in a proper manner.
This kind of disease could easily bring rampant paranoia and emotional
strain (if it hasn't already). The fear factor has been influential in all
areas of our society. "The Episcopal Bishop of California, for example,
recently issued a pastoral letter in response to the fears of parishioners
that they could get AIDS from drinking Communion wine from a common cup.
In his letter Bishop William Swing said he would not prohibit the use of
the common cup. However he urged 'pastoral understanding' for those who
choose not to drink from it." (12) Is it unreasonable for a person to not
want to drink from a common cup in light of AIDS? It seems good to me to
be cautious in the light of what is not known about AIDS.
With ever increasing numbers of AIDS cases occuring, it is correlative
that the economic cost will rise as well. It is estimated by one study
that health care costs for AIDS patients will run between eight and sixteen
billion dollars in 1991. (13) As the cases increase the long term hospital
stays will increase as the patients face sure death from the disease. The
figures mentioned are not comprehensive in that they do not include the
financial loses arising from the lost employment of the ill nor the costs
to family and friends as they personally care for the victims.
AIDS is not only a national problem but a world disaster. As
Christian citizens of the United States we should be doing what we can to
see that our governing bodies do their duties as the protectors of the
population. We have heard about the danger of AIDS and we know our own
concerns firsthand. It has been argued that the main issue in the 1988
elections will not be Iran-gate, nor the budget deficit, nor defense
spending, but AIDS. The NATIONAL REVIEW reported, "Four specific issues
are emerging (for 1988 elections): AIDS instruction in the public schools,
AIDS testing, AIDS quarantining, and federal funds for AIDS research and
treatment." (14) In the light of the nation's concern in this area we find
that our government is doing little about protecting the uninfected
citizens or our nation. What we find instead is concern for the rights of
the AIDS carriers.
The Department of Health and Human Services charged the Charlotte
Memorial Hospital with discrimination when it fired and AIDS carrying male
nurse. The charge was based on Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of
1973 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in any
program or activity that receives federal funds. It was argued that the
nurse could have been transferred to a unit in which his AIDS would have
not been as great a threat to patients. (15) Is there any such location in
any hospital? Nurses change bandages on open wounds. They come in contact
with the mouth, eyes, nasal passages, and excretory system. A small cut on
the nurse's hand could transmit the disease. Is this protecting the rights
of the majority, or is it catering to the desires of a special interest
group whose lobbying is more effective than that of the majority?
What should our government do? Should the present inaction continue
or should we lobby for action to protect our families?
One article expresses the problem well, "The responses of governments
and public agencies to the threat to mankind from the rapid spread of AIDS
and its related diseases have been dangerously and perhaps fatally
inadequate. On the one hand, they want to prevent the disease from
becoming one of the biggest killers man has known. On the other, they are
over anxious to avoid offending high risk groups or arousing unreasonable
discrimination against known carriers of the disease. They are allowing an
understandable sensitivity to the rights and feelings of minorities to
outweigh their higher duty to protect the lives of all their citizens."
(16) Christopher Monckton goes on to call for: monthly testing for AIDS
and the quarantining of known AIDS carriers from the uninfected population.
It seems to me that monthly testing of the entire population of, in
Monckton's case, Great Britain is a logistic nightmare and would be a
financial and social disaster. If we were to expand this ideas to the
United States the problems would be four to five times greater. The idea
of quarantining, though, may become necessary in the light of the potential
danger to the world.
The purpose of quarantining is to protect the mass of the population
from contracting the disease. Through history the quarantine has been used
to protect people from cholera, leprosy, and tuberculosis. We find the
basis for the quarantine in Scripture in Leviticus 13:46 where we see that
the person tested for leprosy and found contagious should "dwell alone."
Some might argue that AIDS is not transmitted as easily as leprosy,
tuberculosis or cholera, which on the basis of present knowledge about AIDS
is true. The danger of contracting the disease from casual contact may not
be a real one, but the danger of purposefully being given the disease is
Those that argue against the use of quarantining AIDS carriers say the
"quarantining will help no one. Most AIDS patients are too sick to be
transmitting the virus. The virus is being spread largely by people who do
not have AIDS but are infected with the virus, and they may or may not even
know it. Quarantining would be totally futile." (17) Maybe the main
problem is the unknown carrier, but does that mean the known carrier should
be running free to infect the population? In an incident in Birmingham,
Alabama a 26 year old AIDS carrier intentionally threw rocks at a young
woman and spit on the woman's infant child. (18) One homosexual dying of
AIDS has said: "There has come the idea that if research money is not
forthcoming at a certain level by a certain date, all gay males should give
blood...whatever action is required to get national attention is valid. If
that includes blood terrorism, so be it." (19) Most recently, a man who
had purchased the services of a prostitute woke up the next morning to find
scrawled on the room mirror in lipstick, "Welcome to AIDS." The man had
been intentionally infected by the woman as he sinned with her.
In the light of such militant and hateful actions, is it unreasonable
to require AIDS carriers to be quarantined? The quarantine is not a means
of oppressing the diseased, but a means of protecting the public.
"Throughout history true humanitarianism has traditionally involved the
compassionate but firm segregation of those afflicted with communicable
diseases from the world. By carrying out such a policy, diseases have been
It is argued that getting AIDS has nothing to do with who you are in
terms of race or sexual orientation. It is said it is not who you are, but
what you do that brings the infection. (21) To a degree this is true, but
our society is increasingly being victimized by those who DID do something.
The innocent victims who received the virus through blood transfusions, or
the medical technicians and nurses who contracted the virus through open
cuts that were exposes to AIDS infected blood, the innocent children born
to AIDS infected parents, or the women assaulted by AIDS carrying men did
not do anything other than be unwilling victims. Marital fidelity has been
under attack since the Fall of Eden and it seems that those who are
promiscuous do not care if they infect the obedient. Yes, "what you do" is
a major factor, but those who have been involved in nothing are suffering
the ravages of the disease as well.
The fight against the disease should be through the proclamation of
marital fidelity and faithfulness to sexual activity as defined by the Word
of God. "Unless HIV (AIDS carriers) unknown subjects are tested and
develop mutually faithful monogamous relationships with tested partners of
similar HIV status, intercourse, even with condoms, will carry some risk of
HIV transmission." (22) The question arises here whether the NEW ENGLAND
JOURNAL OF MEDICINE sees monogamous to mean heterosexual marriage in
fidelity or if monogamous is being used in a homosexual sense. That is,
the homosexuals should be tested and then remain "faithful" in their
perverted living. I think the language is ambiguous on purpose. This
article does point out that the only safe sex for heterosexuals is that
limited to the bounds of marriage.
In a recent publication the author tells of a "safe sex kit" that was
made available to all Dartmouth University students during the winter term
of 1987. The author describes the unbelievable contents of this "kit"
which are intended to protect people from AIDS. The instructive brochure
enclosed with the kit mentions heterosexual practice in passing, but it is
obvious the kit is intended to reach homosexuals. In the Dartmouth kit and
literature there was no mention of abstinence, only the instructions
concerning the use of the mechanical devices enclosed. (23)
There is no doubt that the society we live in is extremely promiscuous
and adulterous in the way it lives. Man continues to stand in the face of
God and shake his fist proclaiming, "I will do it any way but God's way!"
Homosexuality, adultery, and perverse practices are sin. This raises the
question that is common in the Christian community: "Is AIDS a judgment
from God?" What is usually meant by this question is, did God specifically
send AIDS to judge the promiscuity of the human race?
In order to understand this issue we must understand the nature of
sin. Sin has contaminated all of creation. This does not mean that all
creation is evil, but that evil has made a mark on what exists. We can
enjoy a beautiful flower and then we must bend to pull the weed from its
base. Disease is a result of sin. The flu, cancer, pneumonia, etc. are
here because of sin. In the eternal state we read in the book of
Revelation, "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there
shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be
any more pain: for the former things are passed away" (21:4). The
affliction of the body is here because of sin, whether it is the "sweat of
the brow" in laboring for a living, or the painful death of cancer. So,
disease in general is here because we are sinners living in a sinful world.
I think that Christians need to be very careful about calling anything
a judgment from God. It is tragic that Christians sometimes, with the best
intentions, counsel one another and blame each other's problems on a sin
that was committed. It is true we "reap what we sow," but not all we reap
can be traced back to some particular sin. We cannot forget that for the
Christian, "...all things work together for good to them that love God..."
(Romans 8:25). The Christian needs to see the Lord's forgiveness and
blessing and not get hung-up on "judgment from God" ideas in his life, nor
should the Christian be ready to jump on an evangelical bandwagon and call
every natural disaster and epidemic a venting of the wrath of God.
With the preceding in mind we need to look at the AIDS epidemic in the
light of Scripture. In the book of Revelation, chapters 5-11, we read the
apocalyptic language describing the pattern of human history. From the
seals and trumpets we know that history is marked by times of famine,
death, destruction and drought. The Apocalypse displays the purpose of
these events is to bring people to repentance. When the Black Plague fell
on Europe it was an instrument of God to convict the people of their sin
and need for fellowship with Him. When the tornado strikes and loved ones
die, the purpose of the tragedy is to bring the victims, family, and
friends to the Lord. So, is the AIDS epidemic a judgment from God? In one
sense no one can answer this question absolutely because no one knows the
mind of the Lord, but in another sense we can say yes, God is judging the
sin or promiscuity with the intent of bringing the elect to repentance and
the reprobate to destruction.
If AIDS is a judgment in this sense then how should the Christian
respond to AIDS victims? We should recognize that when the drug addict or
homosexual feels guilt as a result of his disease it is because of his sin.
In one example a homosexual "minister" in Chicago acknowledged in TIME
magazine that people intellectually don't buy the idea of "God's judgment,"
but in their feelings and emotions there is guilt and conviction. (24)
AIDS, like cancer, a death in the family, a lost job, or a home lost in a
fire, can be a tool to bring people to repentance and faith in the Lord
Should we be concerned to see strenuous efforts made to find a cure
for AIDS? Some would say that if AIDS is a judgement from God we better
not interfere. (25) I doubt that the same group would argue against
ministering to the alcoholic or drug abuser, even though, like the AIDS
victim, these are suffering the results of their sin in their bodies. The
plagues and problems of life are a result of our condition as sinners, but
at the same time we are to fight these difficulties as we "fill the earth
and subdue it." For a Christian organization or individual to be against
AIDS research is as wrong as not stopping to help the beaten man in the
parable of the Good Samaritan.
It is difficult to maintain a balance between recognizing that a
person is ill because of their sin and rebellion, and being willing to show
compassion and the ministry of the Word to that person. In the case of
AIDS as in alcoholism, prostitution, child abuse, or drug addiction, the
Christian must be willing to minister to those in need.
Another side of the AIDS epidemic is to see that the disease has
changed people's behavior to conform more to the Bible. Some have come to
the Lord, but many who lived promiscuously have cleaned up their private
lives. In Nevada, where prostitution is legal, health officials say
patronage of the local houses has been off as much as 40% since the
publicity about AIDS began. In Japan the drop has been more dramatic in
some cases as business has dropped up to 90%. (26) AIDS shows the world
that if you step out of God's defined biblical bounds of marriage and sin
in promiscuity you will reap that which was sown.
What should concerned Christians do about this disease? It is the
kind of situation which breeds deep feelings of helplessness, but I believe
there are courses of action believers can take.
1. It has been proposed by President Reagan that immigrants seeking
to enter our country be tested for the AIDS virus and denied entrance if
found to be contaminated. This is a good move toward the protection of the
citizens of the nation.
2. Support the efforts of those proposing AIDS testing for marriage
licenses. If people are tested for other social diseases prior to the
issuing of a marriage license, why not such a deadly disease as AIDS?
3. Though it may be distasteful we must consider the use of the
quarantine to protect the population from the AIDS carriers who
intentionally seek to infect the nation and the world.
4. Support efforts to tell the public that the only "safe sex" is in
the monogamous marriage as God has ordained. In an article in the JOURNAL
OF THE CHRISTIAN MEDICAL SOCIETY, Joe S. McIlhaney Jr. M.D., makes the
point that it is the duty of Christian physicians to tell their patients
infected with the various venereal diseases, including AIDS, that their
illness is a result of promiscuity. The author states further that Doctors
should tell their patients that abstinence is the only "safe sex." (27)
5. Support efforts to find a cure for AIDS.
6. Remember that the presence of AIDS in anyone, whether homosexual,
drug addict, hemophiliac, or victim of a contaminated blood transfusion may
be the tool the Lord will use to bring His sheep to the fold.
7. In the midst of the terrors of the Black Plague of the early
fourteenth century both victims and the uninfected were looking for someone
to blame. One of the solutions seen as viable was the alleged plot by the
Jews to contaminate the drinking water of Europe. It is inherent in man's
nature that he will always look for someone "to pass the buck to" or
someone to become a scapegoat. Homosexuals and drug abusers are the
primary groups that carry the HIV and develop AIDS. It may be the feeling
of our society that such people "get what they deserve," or there may be
indifference about AIDS because it is seen to be the disease of homosexuals
and addicts. It is important for the Christian that he not find a
scapegoat to vent his anti-AIDS wrath against. There is always the danger
of developing the mentality that killed the Jews during the Black Plague.
Homosexuality is sin. Adultery is sin. Prostitution is sin. We must
learn to look past the actions of the sinful heart and see the need of the
homosexual, addict, or prostitute to be redeemed by Christ.
1. "A Dose of Straight Talk of AIDS," U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT,
2. "AIDS, At the Dawn of Fear," U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT,
3. ibid, p64.
4. "NBC's Bazell Claims AIDS Is Devastating Central Africa," WORLD,
5. ibid, p4.
6. "AIDS: A Growing Pandemic?," NEWSWEEK, 4/29/85, p71.
7. Barnes, Deborah M.,"Grim Projections for AIDS Epidemic," SCIENCE, V.
232, 6/86, p1590.
8. Mano, Keith, "AIDS Update," NATIONAL REVIEW, 2/14/86, p60.
9. "The AIDS Question," NATIONAL REVIEW, Universal Press Syndicate,
10. "AIDS: At the Dawn of Fear," U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT, 1/12/87, p60.
11. LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER, 6/8/87, pA-2.
12. Frame, Randy, "The Church's Response to AIDS," CHRISTIANITY TODAY,
13. Barnes, p1589.
14. McLaughlin, John,"AIDS in '88," NATIONAL REVIEW, 5/8/87, p24.
15. LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER, 8/9/86.
16. Monckton, Christopher, "AIDS: A British View," THE AMERICAN SPECTATOR,
17. "Quarantining Will Help No One," U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT, 1/12/87,
18. "AIDS Carrier Accused of Spitting on Baby," THE MIAMI HERALD, 3/5/87,
19. Provan, Charles, M.D., "A Doctor Warns of the AIDS Plague,"
CONSERVATIVE DIGEST, 2/87, p31.
20. Restak, Richard, "Society's Survival, Then Victim's Rights,"
CONSERVATIVE DIGEST, 2/87, p31.
21. "AIDS: At the Dawn of Fear," p62.
22. Goedert, James J., "What is Safe Sex," NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE, V.
316, No. 21, 5/21/87, p1341.
23. Hart, Jeffrey, "Safe Sex and the Presence of the Absence," NATIONAL
REVIEW, 5/8/87, pp43,62.
24. Miller, C. John, "AIDS: The Gay 80's," ETERNITY, 11/86, p16.
25. Frame, p50.
26. "Fear of AIDS Chills Sex Industry," U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT,
27. McIlhaney, Joe S., Jr., M.D., "Here's What a Christian Physician Can Do
About Sexually Transmitted Diseases," JOURNAL OF THE CHRISTIAN MEDICAL
SOCIETY, V. 13, No. 1, Winter '87, pp26-30.
The above notes are based on information in the data files of the
Jonathan Edwards Society, 428 North Watkins, Memphis, TN. 38104. If you
are interested in more information about the Society just write and they
will be glad to help. Membership is available for $12.00 per year ($15.00
outside U.S.) and includes a subscription to their informative newsletter.
For more information on this subject, read the following books. They are
probably available at a Christian bookstore near you, or you can order them
from The Counsel of Chalcedon for the indicated donation amount from the
THE AIDS COVER-UP? The Real and Alarming Facts About Aids by Gene Antonio
HOMOSEXUALITY: A Biblical View by Greg Bahnsen ($20)
THE AIDS EPIDEMIC, A Citizen's Guide to Protecting your Family and Community
from the Gay Plague by Lawrence E. Lockman ($15)
The address is:
The Counsel of Chalcedon 3032 Hacienda Court Marrieta, GA 30066
By the way, a subscription to The Councel of Chalcedon newsletter, one of
the best Christian newsletters available, is $15 a year.
Also, the following cassette tape series by Joseph C. Morecraft, III, pastor
of the Chalcedon Presbyterian Church, Atlanta, is available:
Homosexuality & AIDS I (I Corinthians 6:9-11) Homosexuality & AIDS II (Deut.
28:15-22; Rev. 6:7-8) How God Removes Dross From a Culture (Isaiah 1:18-26)
This set of crucial messages can be ordered for $12 from:
Multi-Media Ministries P. O. Box 28358 Atlanta, GA 30358
An interview with Gene Antonio, author of THE AIDS COVER-UP? is available
on cassette tape for a donation of $10 from:
Focus on the Family Box 500 Arcadia, CA 91006
This article was reproduced in text file form by Bob Nance, SYSOP
for the DOMINION Conference
NEWLIFE Christian BBS
a 24 hour Bulletin Board System in Clarksdale, MS
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Please share it freely with everyone you can. Thanks... BN 8-2-87
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