What are some myths that people are still believing?
The biggest myth is that people think they can look at someone and tell whether they are positive or not. And that’s not true. You just can’t judge it based on what someone may think about a person. HIV doesn’t come based on someone’s social status or economic status or popularity. It’s a virus that’s transmitted by certain bodily fluids and that goes into basing it on the facts. Thirty years into the epidemic we are still, as a community, unclear of the truths of a lot of the facts of HIV and AIDS. Knowledge is power. So when you have access to this information—it’s not rocket science you can go on the Internet and get reliable sources and get information and it should be a priority. Sexual health should be a priority. Emotional health is another issue. Sometimes people are so beat down from life that they just don’t take the time to take care of themselves. We need to be more supportive of each other. The teen years is when people are making huge life transitions and because of that, as a community, we need to be more supportive and more embracing of our young people. Not all of them are bad and those of them that have challenges and need more attention, we as a community need to work together to address some of those issues. We see the high violence we see the high crime we see the large numbers of reported and unreported sexual abuse. We see the need for mental health and we also see that a lot of our kids are overmedicated on medicines that they actually don’t need. They probably need more human contact and personal attention so when you think about all of those factors that I just addressed its’ really no surprise that our kids are moving to the quickest thing they have⎯these physical urges that are very natural and they are releasing themselves sexually when it’s probably not even sex that they actually want or need.
What about the myth that HIV/AIDS only affects gay men and that they won’t get it if they’re straight?
People still believe it, and I believe that that has contributed to the high rates of infection among women. It’s still looked at as a disease for gay men and people think that they won’t get it if they’re heterosexual so as a result, as women we aren’t mentally putting ourselves in situations that we might need to be more thoughtful about our behavior and our prevention strategies as well as for HIV infection.
What role the media play when it comes to risky sexual behavior?
We as people influence all contexts that we have in our lives. I believe the media gets more credit than they should and the reason they get more credit than they should is that they get more time and attention. There are some young people who are doing phenomenal things and they’re countering some of the negative images⎯some of the violent and disrespectful images⎯and when there’s a counter there continues to be more of a balance. Right now, I’ll say that we’re not at a place where we can fully say that there’s a balance. There’s not a balance because we are not working to the degree to where we need to have a balance. There’s a lot of risky sex and a lot of violence in the media but also with that, it’s like how do we counter that because it’s not OK. We have power within us to counter it.