SPECIAL SERIES : FROM SPUNK TO SPANK
Communication Key to Checking HIV/AIDS
September 30, 2004 7:18 PM
Scantily dressed actors and actresses with bulging breasts and cut abs prance along primetime television programming on a regular basis. Images of sex are everywhere. Advertising with overt and subliminal sexual content is plastered on roadside billboards, entrenched in song lyrics, boldly displayed on t-shirts and dominates the pages of newspapers and magazines. Ironically, however, sex is seen but not discussed.
Most SF State students are uncomfortable with openly talking about sex with their partners, leaving them vulnerable to becoming additional statistics to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. While they agree that sex is stimulating and stress relieving, students often fail to engage in the responsibility of communication and protection.
“We expect guys to use condoms without us having to tell them,” said Pauline Meyer, an undeclared SF State sophomore. “When they don’t, it’s too late to say, ‘um, excuse me, this can’t happen if you don’t have a condom.’ You’re kind of trapped.”
According to Rafael Diaz, director of SF State’s Cesar Chavez Institute, many people who suspect they have been exposed to HIV do not get tested because they are afraid of knowing. In the meantime, he said, they continue to have unprotected sex with unsuspecting partners.
“The majority of students who visit my office are heterosexual women who are concerned about their status because of a cheating boyfriend,” said Albert Angelo, a health educator at the SF State Student Health Center.
Angelo moderates six HIV/AIDS workshops per semester where he educates in upwards of 1000 students on how to protect themselves and where to go for counseling and medical attention.
“The biggest misconception among students is that having a one-night stand is their greatest worry,” said Angelo. “Not true. Statistics show that the vast majority of HIV cases are caused by the person sleeping next you – the one you’ve been in a long term relationship with.”
Having unprotected sex one time with an HIV infected person does not necessarily mean that you will contract the virus. However, exposing yourself repeatedly to an infected person will increase your probability.
“No matter how much you think you trust someone, don’t,” said Stephanie Corbett, an SF State psychology student. “Always use a condom.”
The Center for Disease Control strongly agrees with Corbett. The CDC suggests that men and women be vigilant about using protection every time they engage in sexual activity because there are tens of thousands of Americans who are HIV positive but do not know it. This is attributed to the fact that symptoms are usually not prevalent until the virus has damaged the immune system to the point where the body can no longer fight off a minor virus, such as the common cold.
“HIV doesn’t kill you,” said Angelo. “It lets everything else kill you.”
The pharmaceutical industry markets a plethora of medications that promise those infected with HIV/AIDS the ability to participate in strenuous athletic activities. But Dr. Jose Ramon Fernandez-Pena, author of Aids: Contemporary Health Crisis, said the medications are a pipedream.
“What those ads don’t tell you is the meds cause such debilitating side effects that you’ll need to go to the bathroom every five minutes,” said Fernandez-Pena. “And when you’re taking 30 to 50 different pills a day, with all of their own and combined side effects, you aren’t going to feel like rock climbing or mountain biking for 10 miles.”
Ryan Olson, a design and industry master’s student, addressed an issue that many people believe excuses them from the AIDS pandemic.
“I’m married, so I don’t have to worry about AIDS,” said Olson. “It’s the furthest thing from my mind that she or I would have an outside relationship.”
Unfortunately, even married people should be proactive in ensuring their partners are not engaging in risky philandering. It is widely reported that over 50 percent of married men and women cheat at least once during their marriage. When this happens, the couple should immediately cease to have unprotected sex for six months from the last time the cheater had unprotected sex. At the six-month point both should get tested.
“Waiting the six months will guarantee the accuracy of the HIV/AIDS test and prevent the couple from having to be retested,” said Angelo.
Another unfortunate trend that married women need to be aware of is “the down low.” According to Angelo, it is when bi-sexual married men “hook-up” in secret.
“It’s mostly prevalent among black and Latino gay men who grew up in strict macho families where being homosexual is 100 percent unacceptable,” said Angelo. “They have professional careers, get married and have children for appearance purposes. Then they have separate lives where they have unprotected sex with other men. In fact, a high percentage of the new cases of HIV come from this sector of the gay community.”
SF State biology student Tiffany Parsons says that sex education should start at home at an early age. If kids cannot talk about sex at home, she questions, then how do parents expect their kids to feel comfortable and confident about discussing protection outside the home.
“Protect yourself,” said Parsons. “Your life is in your own hands.”
POST A COMMENT
|BACK TO TOP|| |
Copyright © 2008 [X]press | Journalism Department - San Francisco State University