An oddly deja-vu-all-over again air hung over the Mexico City 2008 AIDS Conference, in the very newness many of the speakers claimed for their ideas.
They said the HIV crisis has reached such a point that:
- We need to pay attention to research and evidence;
- We need to match the efforts being belatedly put forth to treat people living with HIV as with efforts to keep more people from being exposed to it;
- Ergo, we need every nation to make comprehensive, life-saving sexual education available in schools;
- We need to tackle the structure that feeds the epidemic by repealing discriminatory laws and by promoting unity;
- We need to promote health care as a human right, not a privilege.
The answer is it’s “Great to Wait” for sexual activity — a popular proposition, except for all the people who can’t or don’t want to. Those people, rape and incest victims, teenagers forced to trade sex for survival, people, who as a result of marriage being off-limits to them, would have to wait forever, people who do, in fact, feel ready to experience physical intimacy with others, can go solve their own ensuing problems, apparently.
Those who think it’s “Great to Wait,” can do “Fun Stuff,” that sound almost as much fun as your own funeral, including the “Giving Up” memory game — where kids can see all the great times they’re having now — surfing, playing basketball, playing a ukulele while wearing a Hawiian shirt, riding around in a convertible — that they would give up if they had sex — with the inevitable unwanted pregnancies and diseases that presumably would follow. There is also the “Road of Life” video car game, which is too hard to explain, and seems to end with a crash no matter what you do, and, even more divorced from reality, the “How to say No” game, in which teens can “Click here to learn great responses to some tough situations that you may encounter.”
This one somewhat resembles the much funnier MAD Magazine’s “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions,” which, after all, were meant in jest, where as these are seriously offered up as problem solving responses on this site.
This is the opposite of an evidence or research-based response to the perils awaiting what seems likely now to be the next generation of HIV patients. In fact, while research has shown abstinence-only programs to be ineffective, common sense, even memory, for anyone who has ever been a teenager, rather than having been hatched fully formed on another planet, could tell you that Florida’s Abstinence Program, which is found, of all places on the Department of Health website, is a pointless exercise in faith-based bureacracy.
But be assured, that while Florida remains home to some of the highest rates of HIV transmission in the United States, people are getting paid to produce “Great to Wait.”
And Florida is not alone. Most states in the nation place “stressing abstinence” in sexual education over explanations of how sexually transmitteed diseases are spread and what one must do to avoid them if having sex, including learning to negotiate safer sexual practices if necessary.
This is one of the reasons why, whatever other nations do, in two, four, six and eight years from now, when people from around the globe gather to compare notes on the HIV/AIDS epidemic, there will be an odd sense of deja-vu-all-over-again emanating from the nation with the most resources to change things.