New Year’s challenge
By Linda Plenert
Ate Anna is changing the format of today’s column for this one time. Sonya, a Pilipino Express reader, sent a letter about the December 1st article regarding World AIDS Day. Ate Anna thinks that Sonya has an important message for everyone. Please keep reading.
Dear Ate Anna:
Thank you for the article about World AIDS Day. I am surprised that someone would be shocked at the rate of HIV infection going up in the Philippines. This is happening all over the world, including in Canada. What is shocking to me is that the world still has such a difficult time talking about AIDS and how to change the trend of the statistics. I have two daughters so the fact that HIV infection is increasing among women is what is most alarming to me.
Ate Anna, please let me offer a challenge to all members of my community. Every year people make New Year’s resolutions about losing weight or exercising more. This year, why don’t we all resolve to talk to at least one person about preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted infections? Parents, your challenge is to talk to your sons and daughters. We have to stop pretending this is just an issue for “other people;” it is an issue for all of us.
I know that this will be very difficult for many people because most of us have been brought up to think that it is not appropriate to talk about sexuality. Maybe that thinking made sense many years ago, but today it is a matter of our health and well-being – and the well-being of future generations.
Ate Anna, you mentioned the added risk that comes from not having correct information and gave us some facts about how HIV is not transmitted. The most common way that the HIV virus is transmitted is from an infected person to a partner when they are having sex. This is about science and public health. However, because we have to talk about sex if we are going to talk about HIV/AIDS, we choose not to talk about it.
As well, I think if we did not attach so much shame to this issue, people would be more likely to go for testing. Ate Anna you said that testing is an important part of reducing HIV transmission in the community. You also said we need to “challenge our attitudes.” People who find out they are HIV+ should be able to talk about that in the same way people talk about having, for example, diabetes. Do we shame people for becoming diabetic? I would also add that we must stop thinking about HIV as a punishment for having sex. This also contributes to the stigma that still exists all over the world.
I have talked to my daughters many times about their sexuality. It is not always easy and sometimes I find myself lecturing. When that happens I apologize and tell them it is because I care about them. Then I take a deep breath and think of a question that can start up the discussion again in a better way. Ate Anna, I remember reading in your column that good communication is a two-way discussion. I just have to remember to be quiet so I can really listen to their answers.
I am guessing it might be easier to talk to a friend or sister about this, but what about a parent? I know that most people do not want to think about their parents being sexual. But what if your mother or father is entering a new relationship after a divorce or the death of a spouse? This could be a more difficult conversation than talking to our children!
I think some people might wonder, “So how could I start this discussion?” My answer would be:
- If you are talking to someone in a casual setting, the conversation could start with: “I was reading an article last week about how many people think there is a cure for HIV. Have you heard anything about that?”
- Be honest. Whether this is your son, daughter, parent, or a friend – if this is someone close to you, talk about your concern for his or her well-being. “Mum, you might think this is none of my business, but I’m wondering how much you know about STIs and HIV. Women are at greater risk, especially close to menopause. I just want to make sure you know how to talk about this with your new partner.”
- Tape an article to your fridge and see how many people read it. This can start a conversation, especially if you ask for the person’s opinions about the article.
Ate Anna, I hope you write an article challenging people to talk about HIV. This is so important. Thank you for your column. Happy New Year to everyone at Pilipino Express.
To my readers:
Ate Anna encourages you to take up Sonya’s challenge for 2013. If you require information or resources to help you, please write to the address at the bottom of the column.
Happy New Year to all readers!