Who's Responsible for HIV?

This week I received an article titled, “ Medical Advances No Substitute for Safe Sex Practices”, which was in reference to the recent case of a baby in Mississippi who was cured of AIDS. I assumed this would be just an average article outlining the study and what implications this might have on society and our sexual behaviours. Half way through this article however, I was outraged by the language used and attitudes of the writer towards those who are infected.


It was the below paragraph where I turned a shade of red in anger.


“Worst of all, AIDS is a disease of choice. It starts with people who are unfaithful to their partners. It is sustained by promiscuous participants who refuse to wear condoms or insist that their partners do.”


AIDS/HIV is not always a choice. There might be people who are having riskier and unprotected sex due to lack of education and knowledge about the disease but there are also people who believe a partner when they said they got tested, got caught up in the moment or used a condom only for it to break. These things happen and are not always a choice. If only staying away from STIs were that easy.


Also people who are unfaithful, which is where the author insists AIDS/HIV is sustained by, are not necessarily the ones having higher risk sex. Lumping someone who is having extramarital relationships in a category of being careless and those responsible for spreading AIDS/HIV is not only judgmental but frankly harsh. I’m not sticking up for those who are having affairs, but I defiantly don’t’ think they can be held responsible for spreading AIDS/HIV.


The steam in my head also exploded over the use of the word “promiscuous”. As a sexologist, that is one of the words we are taught not to use and it’s one without a solid definition and one that can be harmful to someone’s sexuality. What actually makes someone promiscuous? Someone that is having more sex than you? Someone who has a healthy sexual appetite? Should we place a word that is so loaded with shame on someone for their healthy sexual appetite? Is someone who has a healthy sexual appetite necessarily sustaining AIDS/HIV?


I kept reading…..


“The better approach, of course, would be for horny folks to spend 10 minutes thinking about when, how and with whom they wanted to have sex before jumping into the sack.”


I’m quiet sure most of us at some stage in our lives fall into that category of “honey folk” and I’m sure that is many cases “thinking” an extra ten minuets might not make much of a difference. There are still some situations where people will have unprotected sex and still many situations where mishaps might happen. AIDS/HIV also does not have a face and we can’t tell by looking at someone of their status so the “with whom” part might just be useless.


I’m not sticking up for those who do run around this earth having unprotected sex, but I don’t think blaming AIDS/HIV on them is much of a solution. Many people are not aware of safer sex practices and are not given adequate information and education to make better choices around sex. Thinking longer might be one small solution but if they don’t have the knowledge “thinking” will still not make a difference.  Can we blame them or do we need to look at the bigger picture?


Just like using words ”promiscuous” can be harmful, so can words like these. Is putting shame on sexuality the right way to fight AIDS/HIV or is educating and making safer sex methods more readily available?


Happy Educating,


Dr Nikki

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