Saturday, May 17, 2008

I Didn't Know That...

"According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of Americans over 50 who are infected with HIV have grown over 5 times (16,300 people in 1995, to 90,600 in 2003). While seniors represent about 14% of people with HIV, senior women represent 18%. Read more at this site. "

I did know this..."The numbers of women with infections are even higher for American women of color, and come in at a staggering 47% when looking at world HIV infection rates. That means that just under half of all HIV infections are found in women worldwide."

We are living in a time when being uninformed about an issue such as this, could mean the difference between life and death. I grew up in a time when education about preventing STD's and the spread of HIV/AIDS was much better than it was for my mom, because the knowledge of how it was spread had been studied and researchers had better information. I knew that it couldn't be spread by kissing, but by co-mingling of body fluids. Unprotected sex, was definitely a NO-NO and birth control pills, diaphragms, and IUD's didn't protect against it. Interestingly enough, I grew up knowing this, but for all the sexual education classes they supposedly have in schools these days, more and more young women are becoming infected than ever before. Its a scary reality, but women have got to begin to take control of their own sexual health. Accidental pregnancy is not the only thing we should be trying to protect ourselves against.

I see the commercials for Gardasil (the HPV vaccine) and I think to myself, I don't think I would let my daughters get it. HPV (human papillomavirus) is an STD which in its "low-risk" forms can show itself or not, but can be seen (if it presents itself) as genital warts. In its "high risk" form, about 10% of cases, it can present as cervical cancer. HPV generally has no visible signs, and a person can have the virus, and not even know it. I don't think I would let my girls get the vaccine, because I will be advocating abstinence to them; and having them get a vaccine for an STD to me is sending a mixed message. You don't need to be protected from a sexually transmitted disease, if you aren't having sex. Right?

There are so many ways to protect ourselves. One of which is condoms. Honestly I would prefer everyone save themselves for that one true love, but I'm grown and I'm married, and I know "bliss" and I pass judgement on no one. What I want to get across is to "be safe". I sign every post with that, and it means everything to me. Pay attention to what you are doing, your surroundings, buckle up, don't drink and drive, use your head.

I try to be a positive person, but self-preservation is a very strong impulse, and if you are having sex, you need to do a few things: 1. ask the other person what their status is, have they had a test recently, (within the last six months). 2. make sure that you are protected, (carry your own condoms) don't leave your health in someone else's hands--you don't ask someone else to carry your toothbrush. 3.say NO if you aren't comfortable performing some act (even consensual sex can push the boundaries of safety) 4. Don't be shy -its your health- ask all the questions you need to until you feel comfortable. Before I was intimate with my husband, I wanted to know his full history, ( I kid you not) every girlfriend, if they'd ever not used protection, what was his status, what was hers? Have you EVER had an STD? Any drug use in the past? (You have to ask), and if you can't you shouldn't be having sex. That's my personal opinion of course. But I think its a pretty smart concept.

Why this topic. I ran across a project and said hmmmm? I wanted to learn more, and boy did I ever. I have a mom and a mother -in-law, both of whom are over 50 and divorced. My mom was married for over 20 years, so quite a few things have changed, since she last dated. I don't know what her sexual life is or isn't like. We haven't grown so much that we talk about that type of thing. However I hope if she is pursuing a life post divorce that she is informed and asking the pertinent questions. In addition I have younger sisters, significantly younger (the closest is 9 years my junior). And unfortunately today's climate promotes oral sex as "not really sex". The chance to spread an STD is still present, yet young women are performing such acts with the thought that I can't get pregnant, there is not penetration, so no risk for disease. Not to be vulgar, but any orifice on your body is literally an entrance for a potentially harmful virus to enter.

My whole point, I hope people are being safe, protecting themselves, asking the pertinent questions, not being cavalier with their lives. Read this knowing that I don't know you personally, but I care about you and your welfare, and hope you do as well.

Be Safe.

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