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HIV Education and the lack thereof
Jun 1, 2008

Dear Dr. Bob,

Recently I met a young man and we became friends. He is in his mid twenties and I'm somewhat older but we started a nice friendship and during the course of getting to know one another I told him that I was HIV Poz, he freaked out.

Both of us want to keep the friendship and he's trying hard to work through this issue which I've dealt with for many years. But he's unable to sleep or eat and when we talk and I try to educate him about HIV I find that he knows almost nothing about it. He even admits to knowing nothing.

This is a young man who was born after HIV education began. He is college educated. He his smart, compassionate, a genuinely good guy. He has a good job but yet knows nothing about HIV.

How can this be possible in this day and time. It is just beyond my understanding that after all these years that anyone with reasonable intellegence can be so uneducated about something so serious. Is this a result of abstinance education? Not permitting sex education in schools? This is a rural area we live in so is it possible there is just a lack of education in places like this? I moved here from a larger city a few years back. When I told people that I was poz all my gay friends vanished never to be heard from again. While some straight friends didn't bat an eye.

This situation upsets me greatly. Why, how can this still be an issue in the 21st century?

Shouldn't parents take some responsibility for education? And don't even get me started on parents who don't realize their child is gay and therefore there's no need to talk about HIV.

What can be done, and what can I do to help?

Thanks for letting me vent.

Sincerely,

Rich

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hi Rich,

The situation you describe is tragically all too common. Is it a result of abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education? (I use the term "sex education" very loosely.) Yes, that certainly contributed. Is it a result of "not permitting sex education in schools?" Yes, absolutely! Is it more common in rural areas of the country? Yep! How can this be an issue in the 21st century? I wish I knew. It does boggle the mind. Sociologists of the future will have a difficult time explaining our apathy toward HIV/AIDS and the catastrophic failure of our HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention education efforts.

Should parents take some responsibility for education? Sure, but most parents have always been uncomfortable talking about sex to their kids. That's why age-appropriate, science-based sex education in our schools remains so critical.

What can you do to help? Get involved! Contact your local AIDS service organizations and volunteer your time. Promote HIV/AIDS awareness among your friends, family and contacts. Turn folks on to this Web site. Insist we institute age-appropriate, science-based sex education in our schools. Finally, encourage your twenty-something boyfriend to get informed and then become part of the campaign to inform others. Together we really can make a difference.

Dr. Bob



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