Being on the verge of the dating game once again, I know important chats loom. Not just the happy-happy topics like what flavour of ice cream is agreed upon or whether taking it from behind’s an indulgence that’s approved of, but that of testing and diseases.
It’s not really a fun topic to think about, if you’re not an open person, but it’s an important conversation to have, and is important to have before you go knocking knees together.
I haven’t had sex since my last test and I know I’m as clean as can be. I was nervous before I got the results, because shit happens and you just never know, but I was elated afterwards. My doctor, because I live in an area with a lot of Asians and other high-risk hepatitis-B factors, encouraged me to get inoculated. I hate needles but decided I would. Didn’t hurt a bit. Better safe than sorry, right? I go for the third part of the inoculation right around Christmas. What better gift for myself than the gift of self-preservation?
And “better safe than sorry” is something that’s ingrained in me as deep as can be now. In this past year, a friend of my best friend’s found out he was HIV positive. Worse than that, he was able to pinpoint, down to the night, when it happened. Some drinks, some passion. Some real fucking ignorance. And, then, news that has profoundly shaped his life. And I think there’s a little part inside of him that really, really hates himself now. I can understand why.
Despite that, he’s lucky. He’s a healthy, athletic, food-conscious guy who got tested regularly and was diagnosed early. His odds are far higher than they’d be if the virus was left out of check for a longer period, and because he’s been a health nut for years. That’s how that game works.
One night, and a lifetime to pay for it.
The thing that strikes me the most about a horrific thing like HIV or AIDS is that it’s almost entirely preventable. Through your actions, you can ensure that you are very likely to never, ever contract it.
And what horrifies me is that, for some insane fucking reason, ignorance (and infections) of HIV/AIDS are on the rise. HALF of all new infections are in youths under 25. Young, immortal? Think again.
If you’re one of these people who thinks there’s a cure, then get your head out of your ass, because there’s not. It’s no longer a death sentence, but that’s only the case when you exercise, eat well, and take the meds. The medications, I hear, are no picnic. And, also, you gotta be lucky.
The virus is not the same in everyone. It is a living, breathing thing, and like all evolutionary beings, it can – and will – adapt to new and different environments. Some people will be to HIV like a match is to a stick of dynamite. You really think you’re invulnerable? Go ahead. Roll that dice. But every risk you take, you subject another to, and, that, you have no right to do.
There’s that old cliché – no glove, no love. If it’s a casual relationship or early in a new relationship or if you even for a moment suspect your lover’s cheating on you, and there’s no condom, there should be no encounter. Period.
I hate condoms. I do. I haven’t tried the new generation of condoms yet, I’ve always done the latex thing, so maybe they’re better. But I’m not the only girl who’s seen a mighty penis deflate because a condom wrapper was a finicky bitch. And, sure, that sucks. Such is life.
The thing is, though, that there are moments and moments can be a powerful thing. I’m sure I’m also not the only girl who’s thrown caution to the wind for an incredible fuck without protection, but that was then, and this is now.
And I know, it’s really fucking hard to deal with someone who’s intent on having sex without a condom. You have to stand your ground. Don’t compromise. No really does mean no. Unfortunately, too many women believe their partners will become uninterested, leave them, or will physically abuse them if they insist on condoms. I really don’t know what to say to these women, but, if you’re one, you have to ask yourself whether that risk is better or worse than the potential of coming down with a disease that’s hard and expensive to fight, and more likely to end in premature death than not.
And far be it for me to agree with the religious right about anything, but let’s say instead that I’m agreeing with, oh, say, Las Vegas oddsmakers, okay? Abstinence is the only guarantee. If you have sex, you’re opening yourself up to the chance of contracting not only HIV or AIDS, but other things that condoms can’t protect you from, like herpes and Chlamydia. (And one in five people has herpes, which is incurable.) Not having sex, well, you haven’t rolled the dice, you’re not even in the game. You’re safe. That’s a fact. Not very fun, but it’s a fact.
Some quick facts, all right? And don’t think it even comes close to ending here.
- AIDS is now the leading cause of death among African-American women aged 25-34, and the 6th leading cause of death for all women in that same age group.
- AIDS has now killed more people than the Black Death/Plague ever did.
- Heterosexual sex is the cause of 78% of all those new cases of HIV/AIDS. (The rest were largely IV drug use.)
- More than 15% of the cases of female diagnoses of HIV/AIDS are between 15-24.
- 47% of those afflicted in North America are African-American.
- 40,000 people contract HIV daily. Half are under 25.
- More than 1 million Americans are living with it as I type.
- More than a QUARTER MILLION Americans ARE infected, and DON’T know it. (You gotta ask yourself: Are you one? Your partner?)
- Nearly 40 million people in the world are living with AIDS/HIV right now.
- More than 4.1 million people were diagnosed last year internationally.
- Nearly 3 million died from AIDS last year.
- Experts predict more than 60 million will have died from AIDS by 2015, if not more.
- AIDS is just beginning to erupt in China, India, and Russia, and the future there looks dire.
- In 2003, more than 40% of Chinese nationals could not name a single way to prevent AIDS.
- Nearly 70% of young women in developing world do not know a single means of AIDS prevention. Gotta wonder, how blissful is that ignorance anyhow?
Now. Do you really wanna be a statistic? Put the fucking condom on. This isn’t just a disease. It’s a pandemic. It’s the new normal. Put the condom on, and then have yourself a little fun. (And, from personal experience, I know that if you’re having trouble keeping the condom on, a cock ring’s the way to go, and darned good fun, too, to boot. Just a thought.)
(My facts have been taken from both the cdc.gov, unaids.org, who.org, and youth.aids2006.org as well as from this excellent page of information and resources at the New Scientist Magazine’s site. The graphic is from CBC.ca.)