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I Was an HIV Homework Assignment

January 9, 2014

Brooke Davidoff

Brooke Davidoff

It's not my first time being someone's homework or getting a letter/email about it. The first time was in response to a letter to the editor I sent in to Parade Magazine for Lynn Minton's column. She used to ask questions weekly to kids and teenagers. Parade Magazine was in the Sunday paper, and I looked forward to her section when I was in high school. In the question I replied to, she had asked if we were optimistic or pessimistic about our generation's future, Generation X. Being what I thought was a writer back in 9th grade, I excitedly hopped on my parents' computer and began to type.

Being a hormonal teenager whose friends were trying drugs like pot, drinking and having sex, and myself being raped by one of my "friends" who stole my virginity, the world lost its magic quickly after middle school.

I've always seen the world from a writer/actor's point of view. I feel the pain of others, whether I know them or not. I can feel emotions it seems like other people do not, or they just choose to ignore them if they do. I can watch a school shooting and FEEL the emotions of everyone involved. I covered two high school shootings in college for my paper and was never the same. I feel what the shooter felt when they went in and wreaked havoc on their classmates; I feel the terror of the kids who hid under desks, and the parents who listened to the news speechless and heartbroken before knowing if their child was okay.


I let Lynn know that being a teenager I was surrounded by kids who had two working parents and most of them did whatever they wanted after school, with no care in the world. Drinking, smoking, having sex, stealing from stores or even their own parents to buy drugs, it seemed like the kids of the late '90s were a generation lost.

My Mormon friends with stay-home moms seemed to have the most direction, or morals. Everyone had divorced parents and seemed to raise themselves either with the help of TV, or friends and their siblings. We silently longed for our parents to keep us out of trouble, but trouble was easy to find especially on half days. Kids seemed to be an afterthought (so we thought) and as much as we pretended not to want our parents around, we were all screaming for them to be more in our lives.

I got boxes of letters from kids in churches, kids in school praying for me and letting me know that if I trusted in Jesus all would be okay. Being Jewish and not religious at all, I laughed at the naive idea that praying could save my friends or me from the desensitized world we live in. I broke Parade Magazine's record in the amount of letters they got in response to my letter. I kept every one of them and wrote back to a few. A mayor in Alabama sent me an autographed Bible, Jehovah Witnesses' people sent me flyers; I even had people show up at my parents' front door to see if I was okay.

I was homework again a few weeks ago, only this time it was not for complaining about my punk friends and our lack of morals or our recreational pot smoking. It was about HIV. I guess I have grown up and maybe can now help the younger generations as well as my own.

This college girl was blown away that a married mother could have HIV. She let me know: "To be completely honest, when I think of someone contracting HIV, I, unfortunately and naively, judge that the person has either done drugs or has been sexually promiscuous, or both."

And she went on to say: "It doesn't take much but having a relationship with the 'wrong' person to contract this disease that will change you and your family's life forever. It can truly happen to anyone and this really alarms me." So at least I'm making progress and if I can save one person from getting HIV when they had no idea they were really at risk, I have done something with my dreams of being a writer.

I never thought I was at risk to get anything like HIV, especially not from my jock ex-boyfriend. From what he told me, he had only been with four girls before me; he was 21 when we began seeing each other. He played football and wrestled in high school, he was extremely shy and his father was an ex-Baptist minister. No red flags came up in his past. I even met three of his ex-sex girls. Two of the three women had kids when I met them, and all from other men since him. Yet still his now ex-wife and I share this fate.

I hope to be more homework in the future and maybe even save a life or two.

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