Today I took off the blinders and let the world in. I can’t afford to do it everyday or else I’d start building a bomb shelter and hording can goods. Don’t laugh I have unconsciously done it before. The last time I went in survival mode it took my spouse mentioning how the cans of Vienna sausages, bean sprouts and bottled water seem to be breeding in the pantry. When I took off the blinders this week I was vulnerable to the HIV/AIDS crisis. With the advent of some successful treatments HIV/AIDS too often gets pushed off the front burner of our consciousness. But steadily and quietly its growth continues here in America and runs at epidemic speeds in many parts of the third and second world.
A few weeks ago in Canada a jury found a man guilty of first-degree murder for the deaths of two of his former sexual partners stating that he killed them with the virus just as if it were a slow acting poison. In total this one man has infected nine women with the HIV virus. You can read more about the verdict and the case at Canada.Com.
This prompted a discussion with my children and caused me to give my husband the evil eye when his arm wandered to my side of the bed later that evening. Is it time to consider the use of a condom mandatory in a committed relationship? My husband is a great guy but his half of our species deserves the evil eye because it seems married women and those in committed monogamous relationships are one of the larger growth segments for the HIV virus. Man’s inability to keep junior on a leash carries deadly consequences for our side of the species. I trust my husband but I bet all the women who haven gotten HIV or AIDS from their spouses said the same thing. Soon my husband may be wondering why his reading glasses are buried under packets of condoms in the nightstand drawer. And what the hell are they doing next to the Vienna sausages in the panty; our sex life may go into survival mode.
From The World Health Organization
Africa: Aids prevalence highest in married couples
Latin America: Aids prevalence highest in married couples
Russia: Two thirds of all new cases married women
Europe’s: HIV Infection rate has doubled since 2000 with the largest growth segment being married women and women in long-term relationships.
On NPR an AIDS activist responded to the Canadian Case and voiced a fear that it would cause the virus to become criminalized. I don’t really share that fear, and I don’t think we need special laws for people who willfully spread the disease. I do think we need to treat anyone who purposely infects someone as harshly as the law allows. I agree with the Canadian prosecutions claim. Here in America there are encouraging and troubling trends. Women are the fastest growing segment by percentage. While African Americans comprise 13% of the population they account for 45% of all new infections. Again with women being a fast growth segment.
From the CDC for the year 2004 (the most recent year for which data are available) AIDS is:
· the leading cause of death for black women (including African American women) aged 25–34 years.
· the 3rd leading cause of death for black women aged 35–44 years.
· the 4th leading cause of death for black women aged 45–54 years.
· the 4th leading cause of death for Hispanic women aged 35–44 years.
· In the same year, HIV infection was the 5th leading cause of death among all women aged 35–44 years and the 6th leading cause of death among all women aged 25–34 years. The only diseases causing more deaths of women were cancer and heart disease.
Incidents of HIV infection in white couples is up 52% over the last decade with women accounting for the fastest growing segment.
Doesn’t seem like HIV/AIDS is under control anywhere to me. I know I sound like Chicken Little because the overall infection rate is down in the U.S. I’m really glad that people in the sex trade are forcing their clients to wear condoms more, and the poor souls whose addiction and needle use put them at risk are learning to take advantage of the many but still not enough free needles programs across the country. What keeps me glum is the incident of homosexual transmission is starting to creep up and these damn can’t control my crotch now I think I’ll go home and infect my partner people.
How do you feel about the issue? Would you or do you practice safe sex in your marriage or committed relationship? Have you talked to your children? When I spoke to my kids about this they acquired the caged animal look they so often wear when I’m speaking about health/sex related issues. I can see the thought bubble over their heads, Moms been reading and listening to the news again!
Still, I know they listen and that’s what’s important. I long for the old talks though when they weren’t tweens and teens. After the discussion with my husband he acquired a pained look and said condoms? After a couple of days of professing his love and fidelity and some intense negotiations I relented but I did buy a gun safe for the bedroom and apply for a gun permit. Shocked my husband asked me why, and I told him “If I get any virus from you short of a cold/flu bug I promise you will die before I do”
Time to put my blinders back on at least for a couple hours, more than long enough to drag my family to see 24 city (Er shi si cheng ji)
For more information on HIV and AIDS
The Body is a great site with links to the WHO, CDC, data on HIV/AIDS in Europe, Asia etc.
Camile Ryerson is our new contributing writer. She'll post a weekly column on Wednesdays sharing her views on politics, world affairs, pop culture and of course, what she's reading. Her favorite genre is sci-fi.