So I was having a quick look through The Gold Coast Bulletin recently, and an old story that I was familiar with was mentioned once again. This story is one of Zimbabwe born circus acrobat, Godfrey Zaburoni, who was committed on one charge of acts intending to cause grievous bodily harm after police allege he knowingly transmitted the HIV virus to a former Gold Coast girlfriend. This story does not just touch my heart because as a Sexologist, the reduction of HIV transmission is something I hope for, but because I once knew Godfrey and his former Gold Coast girlfriend. I did not know them well, nor am I still close to them, but once upon a time I knew them well enough to know their relationship, how happy they were, how sweet he was to her and how she never doubted his love or if she could trust him. They planned for a future together, a life together, one that I’m sure did not include HIV. Like Godfrey and his girlfriend, we all plan for the future of our relationship, but do not ever consider the possibility of contracting HIV from the one we love and trust.
When this story hit the news last year, it sent shivers down my spine. Not only because after seeing the picture and hearing the story did I realise who the people involved were, but that besides the negative light Godfrey was shown in by the media, I always thought he was a lovely guy and I also thought they were that couple who would end up happily ever after. She trusted him, obviously enough to put her life in his hands, as do so many of us with our partners. But are we too trusting of those we date and enter relationships with? What is worse though is that she was not the only one he transmitted the disease to.
I know it sounds dramatic when I say it like that, but that’s exactly what we do when we have unprotected sex. We trust that person with our future, with our life and our health. We take it so lightly these days and are too quick to take off the condom. It seems so many of us never have that awkward conversation of past sexual history or sexual health and even less are insistent on heading off to the doctor together to get checked. I know these are not the most romantic activities to engage in, especially in a new relationship, but what happens if you were the one who was to date and trust Godfrey?
I don’t want to scare you, but I want to give you a reality check and I want to tell you to be real. Sex is a beautiful, amazing and a wonderful thing we experience. Thanks to modern technology and science, we now have ways to protect ourselves from the sometimes negative consequences, yet so many of us still take the risk with our lives. It makes so much sense to keep the condom on, yet we have such a high risk of STIs. Maybe we are going about promoting safer sex the wrong way?
It angers me when I see or hear campaigns about condom use. No one wants to talk about why they are not used and when or how we should be using them. Here are the harsh facts! For many people, using a condom sightly decreases sensitivity or doesn’t feel as good or in many cases it feels to be less spontaneous, intimate or romantic. Let’s call a spade a spade and acknowledge that out loud so we can focus on how to work with it.
In a seminar I once gave, I was teaching women and men how to put on condoms with their mouths, and was often laughed at for sharing this skill. It was just my way to help with the spontaneity and control of condom use. I can’t force everyone to put on a condom at all times, but I can help with the problems of using one. And remember if you put it on with your mouth, it doesn’t give them a chance to say they do not want to use one.
For those of you who also say that using condoms is not sexy, try contracting herpes or HIV and tell me just how sexy that is. If you love yourself enough and you respect your body enough then you should stand up for yourself and make sure at all times you are protected.
I also urge you to work out how to properly protect yourself. Condoms are not always 100% safe and you need to make sure that you use them correctly. I only wish more of this was taught to teens but adults too. You are never too old to learn about sex because you were probably not given all the facts in the first place.
I recently attended a fundraiser for HIV, where after all the banta about eliminating this disease and raising money for programs to help, there was not one mention of the lack of condom use or sex – the most common way these days we transmit HIV. Is there a point at throwing money to the problem if we can’t even talk about what the real problems are, the issues that count or the reasons why so many people insist on not using a condom?
I sometimes think people are too afraid to really talk about the truth and about the real facts of sex and how as a population we suffer and we continue to put ourselves at risk. It might not be the most comfortable subject for most, but trust me, I’m sure HIV is much worse. The more we talk about it, the more it will become normal to be bringing up these subjects.
Lets talk about sex, why we don’t want to use condoms, and how we can work around it. Lets not dance around the issue and instead of educating people that we should use a condom, educate them how to be more spontaneous with condoms and how to make condom use fun (trust me there is a way). We have sex education available but it is not enough and it is not focusing on the right information. People will have sex, young and old, lets not try to stop that but give them the skills to stay safe.
I don’t blame Godfrey entirely for the incident. What I blame is a society where we are too afraid to talk about the issues that count and tell the harsh truth out loud. Maybe if we did, the condom might have stayed on or they both might have been tested before it came off.
I am only one sexologist, and only one person and unfortunately will never be able to change the entire world. But if you read this and put on a condom during a one night stand or talk to your new partner about their sexual history or go and get tested before you have unprotected sex, then my job is done.
In a way sex is unfair. When we get turned on and the blood is pumping around our bodies and our hearts are racing and we are panting for that next step, our body does not slow down and give us a mini break from these physiological functions to put on a condom (sometimes not always an easy task anyway). But yet, when our bodies were made, HIV was not an issue. Actually it wasn’t too long ago that it was not an issue at all. Times have changed and so must our attitudes, practices behaviours and education.
Be happy, enjoy sex but stay safer,