The Safe Sex Shag
by Susannah Indigo
My son, who is a freshman in college, reports that students are innundated with safe sex messages, including an academic advisor who walks the halls and visits the dorm rooms with a basket full of condoms and sample lubes casually carried on her arm. The Resident Advisors in the co-ed dorms tend to tape packages of condoms on the outside of their doors, the better not to be bothered late at night for a selection from their constantly-replenished university-supplied stash. But the very best reminder of the need for safe sex, my son tells me, is much more subtle than any of that. There is a poster in the dorm hallway, which says "Worried about pregnancy? Call this number", with tear-off tags for girls to take and use. "The tags are always gone, Mom," he says. "It really makes you stop and think."
He has not reported any sightings of 7 foot condoms, though, which I keep reading about in the news (but yet can't seem to find a picture of on the Web!). Bill Gates is greeted in India by an 8 foot blow-up condom, they say, to honor his $100 million donation toward fighting AIDS there; two 7 foot Durex condoms are reported handing out samples on a beach at spring break, not far from where Carmen Electra is conducting a hands-on game in which contestants race against the clock to slip on condoms, blindfolded; there is a 7 foot tall Condom Couple who show up at AIDS conferences; a Condom Man in Nepal who leads a rally on Condom Day; a 7 foot condom in the U.K., funded by the Health Education Board of Scotland, which gets banned from being outdoors on World AIDS Day because of parents' complaints, and finally there is Scarfie the Safe Shag, who is a 6 foot high puppet of a black seabird wearing a hard hat, steel toecap boots, carrying risk assessment and manual handling certificates, along with a pocketful of -- you guessed it -- condoms.
In spite of this worldwide effort to promote safe sex, we are again honoring World AIDS Day, and keeping watch on both alarming statistics and a bit of good news:
Half of the 42 million people infected with HIV today are women
There were 5 million new infections diagnosed in 2002 (including 2 million women and 800,000 children)
3.1 million people died from AIDS last year
...and a small sign of hope: a report by the World Health Organization and UNAIDS says prevention programs appear to be starting to work in the few areas where they have been set up, and that there is strong empirical evidence that rates of infection are declining, and in each case they are declining among young people.
Still, the fight against HIV/AIDS requires significant changes not only in public policy, but also in individual attitudes, behaviors and in societal norms. This year's theme for World AIDS Day is "Live and Let Live," which focuses on eliminating stigma and discrimination.
Take a few minutes of awareness, and perhaps start with these stories and quilt panel dedications from high school kids, which are impossible to read through without being touched.
Visit The Body.com, a powerful resource for individuals dealing with HIV/AIDS themselves, or with loved ones.
View some of the most powerful art in the world: find out
what's happening with the AIDS
Quilt, and note that you can buy lovely
quilt calendars, posters, and other things to help support
Review the most frequently asked questions about AIDS.
Donate to AIDS research now.
Know that there are FDA
approved home tests for HIV available, and make sure that young
people around you know this too.
And last but never least, while on the lookout for those super-sized 7 foot walking condoms, keep a grip on the ordinary at
Drugstore.com, or try a little glow in the dark, or perhaps female condoms, or even Japanese super thin and sensitive...or enroll in college and get them for free.
©2002 by Susannah Indigo
Susannah Indigo is the Editor-in-Chief of Clean Sheets.
Read previous years' World AIDS Day writing.