Cross-posted on Right Michigan at www.RightMichigan.com.
We are either rational beings capable of acting in our enlightened self interest or we are creatures of impulse, incapable of controlling our urges and appetites. One or the other but certainly not both.
Color me crazy but I tend to fashion myself the former. The Detroit News? Their coverage of the new, tragic spike in the HIV / AIDS rate among Michigan's youth assumes the latter. Today's front-page story describes the giant increase in infections, practically ridicules the idea that children as young as thirteen years old could control sexual impulses and champions a crusade to all but put condoms and lubricant in your teenage daughter's Hannah Montana lunch box.
Of the more than 1,300 words in the article, "abstinence" is used only twice and both times to imply the concept's teaching is somehow responsible for decreased awareness of the fatal virus. Because apparently when folks are taught about abstaining from sex outside the bonds of a committed (read: marriage) relationship educators never tell kids why it is important. Which is, of course, so much malarkey. Abstinence-only programs certainly do include instruction on the importance of, well, keeping the horses in the stable.
Read on... Trouble is, there's a heck of a lot of counter programming out there, everywhere from TV to the movie theatre to magazines, to the internet (which was actually invented for pornography) and even radio. Lil' Kim and 50 Cent got the magic stick, why can't little Keisha and Jonathan? Or Jon and Robert?
(The Detroit News pretty much declares that abstinence-only education is a bad thing, twice, and paints a sympathetic picture of the plight of young, urban homosexuals but it never once even implies that failing to abstain from gay sex will, statistically, get you far more dead far more quickly than that boring old heterosexual kind. Because while that might be the truth it isn't very cool to talk about.)
Consumers of any sort of information, whether it's the media, school programs or the input of friends and peers are bombarded daily with one simple message... you're an animal. Might as well act like it. Especially if you...looooooooooove each other!
AIDS is a killer and it is getting its hooks into more and more Michigan kids the last few years. It is out there. In the clubs. On the streets. In the dimly lit maintenance cooridor in the basement of Ottawa Hills High School where you couldn't walk a week without witnessing one sexual act or another during my time at the venerable public school.
But Delores Flynn at the Detroit News is right. Let's not teach kids to keep their pants zipped. They're animals, right? Sexual creatures incapable of respecting themselves. Let's give incoming freshmen a box of Trojans, a bottle of lube and our hearty best-wishes on their journey of self-discovery... or, well, other-people-discovery. The CDC previously estimated about 40,000 new HIV cases each year. But better tracking technology has raised that by 40 percent to 56,300 new cases in 2006, according to a recent report by the Journal of the American Medical Association. More than a third of new infections are people ages 13-29.
In Michigan, where an estimated 18,000 are living with HIV/AIDS, the rate for those ages 13-24 has almost doubled from 5.7 to 9.7 cases per 100,000 residents from 2002-2006, based on Michigan Department of Community Health data.
The CDC previously estimated about 40,000 new HIV cases each year. But better tracking technology has raised that by 40 percent to 56,300 new cases in 2006, according to a recent report by the Journal of the American Medical Association. More than a third of new infections are people ages 13-29.
You know what almost all of those 56,300 new HIV infectees has in common? They didn't abstain. Now they have a death sentence.
Setting blood transfusions and risky drug use aside for this conversation, here are the facts:
If you have sex with a (semi)random, even with a condom, you run the risk of contracting HIV / AIDS.
If you do not have sex you will not contract HIV / AIDS.
Pretty simple, right? Assuming of course that human beings are capable of not having sex. That's an assumption Ms. Flynn isn't only not willing to make, it is one she and her newspaper demean and inaccurately belittle as all-but-impossible via their headline coverage of the subject this morning.
This is a foundational question of personal philosophy. Two choices. Animal incapable of controlling physical impulses or a rational creature with a free will and the ability to use it. The consequences of that first frame of mind are being told in the new HIV / AIDS statistics being discussed this morning.
And those of us who are disease free, know it and think other people can be disease free too... we're the subject of derision.