I know that it’s the holiday season and most people would prefer to think about what types of gifts to buy their loved ones, but it is important to remember that the world’s biggest issues don’t disappear just because we want to focus on having a good time. I recently learned that there are about 2.1 million children in the world with HIV. Most of them get the disease directly from their mothers, either during labor, delivery, pregnancy or even breastfeeding.
The problem is most pressing in East Africa, where the first cases of pediatric HIV were discovered. The thing that disturbs me most about the high number children with HIV is how easy it is for people to avoid the disease all together. Unfortunately, a lot of people still don’t understand what this disease is or how it is spread.
For instance, some men in East Africa believe that they can cure themselves of HIV by having intercourse with a virgin. That’s an astoundingly destructive belief with no basis in reality. The result of such damaging beliefs, though, is that more and more young women in Africa get HIV, which they then pass on to their children.
Good HIV education needs to focus on some serious topics that should concern all of us. First off, we have to stop listening to authority figures claiming that condoms are bad. Such a position puts innocent people in jeopardy every day. Second, we have to get rid of the ridiculous belief that only homosexual people get HIV. Right now, heterosexual black women are at the greatest risk of getting HIV, so stereotyping homosexuals is not going to do anything but put people in harm’s way.
(Oh, and for the record, I’d like some new Dereon jeans this year for Christmas. OK? Thanks!)