Making sex bright again on World AIDS day

AIDS awareness campaign

So, how do you like the future so far? As I get closer and closer to being half a century old, it is inevitable for me to compare my daily reality to what we all expected “the year 2000” to be. Man, how remote that seemed like – and yet that magical number just quietly sits in the ‘vintage stuff’ file now! Warren Ellis, one of my favorite authors and thinkers, is fond to remark how the world has gone so crazy that every sensible science fiction writer simply turned to other genres, because the news is way beyond anything fantastic they could ever imagine anyway. I mean, let’s not forget we do have masochist robot asses and cybernetic vegetable molestators (an admittedly peculiar flavor of the sex hackers movement), not to mention cyclonic-powered turbo masturbators.

Don’t make me even start talking about the astoundingly bad comedy show that is passing for world politics today – I honestly can’t believe the planet to actually be on the brink of nuclear extinction because global stupidity allowed two kids drunk on daddy’s money to engage for no reason at all in a retarded international dick-swinging contest. I can’t be the only one around who remembers how dreadful it was to grow up during the original Cold War, knowing that humanity could be annhilated any minute. Say, don’t you recall the mirth and joy of having your class taken to a movie theatre to watch accurate descriptions of how you and everyone you loved would horribly die in World War III? Didn’t that fucking nightmare years teach you anything?

That was a rhetorical question, for the answer is so clear it is painful to see. And yet, as weird as it feels to play the angry old man here, it seems that if people can just dismiss the Armageddon there is nothing strange when they forget about AIDS, even on its official world day. Yes, I know – you probably weren’t aware it existed at all.  But then again, just for the sake of the argument, let me show you what AIDS was back in the late Eighties, when this campaign was begun:

I guess you got the message even if you don’t speak Italian. And, by the way, you cannot possibly comprehend the extent of the scandal it was to show a condom on television back then. The outrage raised by that PSA sparked such a controversy that, two years later still,  “concerned parents” associations forced the Parliament to actually debate about the legitimacy of this other ad.
Point is, we were fucking terrorized by the epidemics, and so was the rest of the planet. With good reason, since it has now killed no less than 35 million people worldwide – a number equal to Canada’s entire population, and higher than the one of 160 smaller countries, or roughly the same number of direct victims of World War II.

Condoms, however, indeed are a very simple and very effective measure to mitigate infection risk. Everybody knows that, don’t they? And yet, in 2016, close to 2 million people became newly infected – and not only in health-challenged countries where condoms aren’t readily available or actively targeted by the institutions. The latest data for Italy, for example, show about 3,500 new cases in 2015 and only one HIV-positive person on five aware of their condition.

Chalk it all up to the global steep decrease in public information campaigns about prevention. Scary purple auras may have been in poor taste, but at least they got the message through. Conversely, the last few years have seen the rise of a new, dangerously misinterpreted narrative: that of HIV as a not-especially-troublesome little health condition.
The matter basically stems from two absolutely correct and pleasant facts: that HIV-positive persons are not dangerous for your health unless you share blood or sperm with them, so they can have totally regular lives; and that recent therapies like PrEP and PEP can greatly reduce the risk of infection and keep it in check if rigorously followed. Which, unfortunately, don’t equal to say that HIV is a laughing matter at all.

Let me state it clearly: HIV is not glamorous. In fact, it is always dangerous, always detrimental to your health and potentially lethal if left free to cause full-blown AIDS. The best scenario you are facing if infected is having to spend lots of money and time for therapy – every single day of your life. And you can avoid all of this just by using those damn condoms.

What researchers see, however, is that especially in the so-called First World countries, there is a growing cavalier attitude towards HIV infections. The old, staggeringly idiotic and yet widespread «those things only happen to others, so I don’t have to worry» belief has been lately joined by a vague awareness of the above-mentioned pre- and post-exposure drugs as a miracle cure in the remote case of an “incident”. Which, by the way, isn’t that remote at all: an admittedly better general information did greatly curb the epidemics growth rate, but it is far from being solved. Europe in particular is behaving pretty badly in that respect. And that doesn’t even take into account the other sexually transmitted diseases.

«Hold your horses, you grim, scaremongering creep!» you are probably thinking now. «STDs are not so widespread and they are easily treated anyway, so stop raining on our already dismal parade already!»

Well, that’s not entirely true either. As a matter of fact, every single day sees one million more cases of STDs infections. Right now in particular hepatitis, syphilis and gonorrhea are on the rise: while all of them are treatable, they must be diagnosed first, and that entails a kind of personal approach to sexual health which, judging by the numbers themselves, is obviously lacking. Also, supergonorrhea strains are simply resistant to every known treatment and, while rare, they represent a serious danger.

Again, shooting the messenger is useless. If you really want to do something besides being scared of the most pleasurable pastime ever, you can just use those condoms and dams. And maybe expand your idea of “sex” beyond basic intercourse: this website has lots of interesting suggestions.
Also, what about helping me making the virus the butt of its own joke? Share this article (or any other article about safer sex) with others, ping a shiny aura of healthy awareness on them to fight the evil, purple one, and make the world of sex brighter together!

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