Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, the mother of the dreaded Human Immuno-deficiency Virus, has posed itself as a monster that all should dread so much. It attacks all without discriminations: white and black, tall and short, man and woman, old and young, religious and irreligious.
Of these, youths worldwide are considered, next to women and children, a vulnerable group in the spread of the disease. Of course we all know why that is the case: they are at the pedestal stage of their sexual experimentation. Call it “fornication” or even “adultery” the fact is that millions of youths worldwide are having fun in sex related activities: be it heterosexual or homosexual. How then can we, as youths, not deny ourselves of this necessary fun while at the same time ensuring our much-needed protection from the monster called HIV/AIDS?
There is no gainsaying the fact that sex and sexual activities are meant to be enjoyed. It is not a crime to experiment (legally) ones’ sexual drives as youths. However, this must be exercised responsibly so as to help curtail the spread of the HIV virus. There are three identified ways by which this could be done: Abstenace, Be faithful and Condomisation. I shall come back to the first option; let’s discuss the second and the third options first.
To be faithful to one uninfected sex partner is considered as a way out. It requires mutual fidelity on the part of both sexual partners to remain faithful and committed to one another. This is very plausible to many but our youthful exuberance sometimes affects this commitment. There is always the usual urge to quickly play a fast one on the other partner.
Apart from this ‘urge temptation’, the option fails to appreciate the simple fact that HIV virus is not only gotten via sex related activities but also through other means such as unscreened blood transfusion, sharing of sharp objects and others. Even if the partners involved were (at the beginning of the sexual episode) confirmed to be negative, will it not be foolhardy to think that they are forever immune from contracting HIV? My advice to those that think this is THE ANSWER, is to have a rethink. There is need to dully educate each other at every opportunity possible to observe and watch out for the other means via which the virus could be contacted.
Next to faithfulness is the option that has been subjected to various opportunistic attacks from all quarters. CONSISTENT and CORRECT condom usage is the option that many have seen as “demonic”, “amoral”, “un-cultural”, “irreligious” etc. This option has been tested in several countries (prior to the Option-A campaign that is now spreading -like a wild fire in the harmattan- worldwide) and confirmed to be “Miracle Working” in helping to curb the spread of the disease.
Most youths do not have problem with this option except that ‘it sometimes reduces the total sum of pleasure derivable from sexual activities’. This excuse regardless of its seeming plausibility is untenable. For those that use condom (or condomise) consistently, this feeling will give way later on to full enjoyment. But again, this option also fails to cater for other youthful (although not exclusive to youths) sexual experimentations like oral sex and other tongue and mouth activities (with the exception of kissing) during sexual escapades.
It is therefore advisable that youths take extra caution when indulging in these fun-filled yet ‘dangerous’ sexual activities. But I will not say “hey! Don’t do it”, rather I will advise youths that can’t do without it to choose their partner or partners with extra care.
Scenes from the AIDS 2006 Global Village, photo credit: Aids 2006
Back to the Option-A agenda, (of President Bush and his allies); even though it might be religiously right, it is morally (and humanly) wrong to make AAA- Absolute Abstinence Alone – the only viable panacea to the spread of the disease. With funds from Bush and allied agencies at their disposal, advocates of AAA (mostly faith-based organizations and some ‘where funds is available, I will go’ NGOs) take little or no notice of the emotional needs of the youths. Good for them and for their coffers at the detriment of our (youths) lives.
Unfortunately for the youths but fortunately for the AAA advocates, the Global Humanist circuit is not as financially endowed as faith-based groups. But as youths, we can stop these campaigners of calumny from destroying us. If we allow them to gradually decimate us, the world will soon regress into economic crisis because there would be increase in the number of dependent population. We must therefore take action to reverse any attempt to demonize condoms.
We should ensure that ATA –Absolute Truth Alone– precedes any AAA campaign; after all, one of the ‘holy books’, the Bible, did say ‘Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set thee free’. If all truths – both significant and seemingly insignificant- could be bare open to the youths, they would be better guided in making informed decisions about their lives.
For youths who are religious, they must not be denied of this opportunity as well. After ATA, they could then be sermonized to embrace AAA ‘so that they could enter the kingdom of god or God’. What youths everywhere need is: to be well informed to make reasoned decisions about their sex and sexuality.
As a youth activist who has been involved in HIV/AIDS related projects, and have seen the negative effects of AAA in action, I want to appeal to youths all over the world to take it as a responsibility to:
Absolute Truth Alone must be priotized when carrying out our youth related activities. We must not allow ‘The project must be funded’ syndrome to make us do the unforgivable: join the AAA bandwagon. Our Humanist education syllabus should be drafted to accommodate the tested ABC options with necessary caution sounded (as noted in this paper).
On a final note, I want to appeal to youths everywhere to arise and pick up the gauntlet to protect the generations yet unborn. We must NEVER give up!
Aluta continua, victoria ascerta (struggle continues, victory is certain)!
‘Yemi Ademowo Johnson is Secretary General of IHEYO, President of the Young Humanist Network-Nigeria and Executive Director of the Center for Applied Ethics and Minority Rights, Ibadan, Nigeria