Sexual Violence

Have you ever heard of Lauren Bernstein? You will Tuesday. She’s the person to know if you’ve been a victim of sexual violence. She came to Emory last year and now she’s a coordinator for the Respect Program, advisor for Alliance for Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP) and Sexual Assault Peer Advocates (SAPA), and on the Center for Women Advisory Board. She’s bringing awareness to Emory about sexual violence on campus, helping victims, and trying to prevent any further instances. With her help and the programs we have on campus, sexual violence is being brought to the forefront of Emory’s attention.

Before this year, even before this class, I hadn’t even heard of any reports of sexual violence on campus. But as on any campus, there is sexual violence prevalent. In the Emory Wheel, Ariana Skibell writes “Seven rapes reported since August… Three took place in Clairmont Hall, two in fraternity houses on Eagle Row and one in Harris Hall…” When this is mentioned around campus, the attitudes surrounding it are surprisingly negative. I’ve heard “Oh, she probably got too drunk… she was asking for it.” Never, is this the case. Alcohol is not an excuse for rape. “Rape does not happen just because one individual chooses to rape another. Rape happens because there are attitudes and norms that allow it to happen (Guy 10). Society has accepted what is known as “rape culture” – rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women as the norm (Guy 10). It is sad to realize that our culture has accepted rape culture. Women are afraid to report rapes, people are timid to acknowledge that rape happens, rapists are condoned for their actions.

“Approximately 50-70% of sexual assaults involve alcohol” (Guy 19). Inebriated people, especially college students more likely to binge drink, lose their inhibitions. People do things they would normally never do – some can get aggressive while others some can become submissive and act as an easy target. When I attended Take Back the Night last Monday, Emory students told their personal stories of sexual violence attacks against them, many involving alcohol. Many females who reported they had been raped said they never had said no and that they were too drunk to do anything about it.  “In order to change individual campus norms, it is necessary to understand the context and reasons (the how, when, and why) that students use alcohol and the connection to sexual violence” (Guy 19).

Emory’s 8th annual Take Back the Night took place Monday November 12th. It was a supportive collaboration of ASAP, SAPA, the Respect Program, and Emory students that raised awareness of sexual violence on campus by reporting statistics, reading about sexual violence, and telling anonymous and personal stories submitted by Emory students. These are the kind of events that should set off alarms in every students head. Sexual violence happens, and it can happen to anyone. No one is immune. As people told their stories of what had happened to them, I found myself even tearing up. The emotional aftereffects of sexual violence is overwhelming, omnipresent, hard to acknowledge, difficult to overcome, painful, and more. Events like Take Back the Night engage campus communities across the globe. They try to transform the norms of rape culture and prevent further sexual violence. What we can do is bring awareness amongst more members of the Emory community. Let’s prevent sexual violence.

http://www.emorywheel.com/seven-rapes-reported-since-aug/

Guy, Lydia; Lee, David; Perry, Brad. “Shifting the Paradigm: Primary Prevention of Sexual Violence.” American College Health Association. August 2008.

Unaddressed men in the HIV epidemic

Homosexual men were the majority group diagnosed with AIDS a couple decades ago when the disease was first identified. This sexually transmitted disease was passed onto women over time and the latest statistics show that women account for 51% of the HIV epidemic in the US according to the CDC. For a predominantly male disease, there is clearly some reason why the number of infected women has increased exponentially in the past 3 decades.

Higgins suggests a model that women are more susceptible to HIV because of “biological differences in susceptibility, reduced sexual autonomy, and men’s sexual power and privilege”. I completely agree with these reasons, but disagree when she went further to suggest the model believes that men just don’t participate in prevention. It was at this point that I was a little skeptical of what I had gotten myself into reading, however Higgins explains the flaws in this model. She makes it clear that men aren’t the only ones responsible, there had to be some way heterosexual men contracted HIV.

Yet this got me thinking. Why would someone suggest that men aren’t interested in prevention? Although transmission rates are significantly lower in men that doesn’t mean men will never get HIV. This is something that affects your life, and I can’t imagine a reason why knowledgeable men would actively not be interested in prevention.

Reading in one of my other classes that HPV vaccines are available for women as well as men changed my perspective on men not taking responsibility. It allowed me to parallel between men and HPV and men and HIV- although I understand that HPV can be actively prevented while HIV cannot.  I felt a little ignorant realizing that men can be a huge factor in prevention and it caused me to look at the HIV/AIDS epidemic a little differently. Higgins article hinted that men don’t take any responsibility, and I initially had trouble understanding that for HIV, but a disease like HPV makes me understand.

It is obvious that men can prevent certain strains of HPV from being transmitted through vaccine, yet I feel that the public has not been made aware. Similarly, I think this situation arises with HIV as well. HPV has a minimal effect on men, and I think some people may think that HIV has a minimal effect on men (when you consider the higher rate of transmission women have). I think men can alter the current transmission rates of HIV through condom use, abstinence, or monogamous relationships but the first step is to make sure you target both sexes through education. You can’t eradicate a disease by just focusing on one sex.

http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/women/index.htm

1979 Sex Survey

An article about a sex survey in the Emory Wheel (January 30,1979) was quite interesting in several ways and made me engage in some critical thinking. The ‘informal consensus’ on 165 students (80 females and 85 males) of Psychology 214 class compiled by Dr. David Edwards of the psychology department had some interesting statistics.

First interesting point was the difference between responses of male and female students in their frequencies of sexual intercourse. Forty-three percent of the females answered that they were having sexual intercourse several times per week, whereas only 14 percent of the males were having sex with such frequency. After reading this, I could not refrain from asking, who were the females having sex with?

If we assume that most of the students with active sex life were engaging in sexual intercourse that involves 1 woman and 1 man (because the article also mentions that 99 percent of both females and males considered themselves as heterosexual, and only 5 percent and 11 percent of females and males, respectively, had tried same-sex relations at least once in their lifetime), this can be interpreted in many ways.

It can mean that the small number of male students were having multiple partners when female students were being ‘loyal’ to their only partners. It may sound somewhat humiliating to the old Emory alumni who were in that class, but the difference in frequency reminded me of the statistics from primate social psychology class I took last semester. In macaques and capuchin monkeys’ societies, so called, alpha males and the ones very close to him mates with all of the females in the group, that shows similar statistics to that of the psychology class.

However, since the survey asked only a specific group of students, many other possibilities exist. The male students in the psychology class may had not been much sexually attractive, and the females could had been having sex with males in other classes or even the ones outside the campus. The male students themselves could had not been interested much in sexual intercourse, if we consider the 94 percent male masturbation rate (in contrast to 47 percent in females) that suggests that males were perhaps satisfied with fulfilling their sexual desires alone.

We should also note that the big difference (47% female vs 14% male) is from the response to “having sexual intercourse several times per week”. This could also mean the opposite of my first suspicion. Most male students could had been having sex once or twice per week (which is less than ‘several times’) with single partner and female students could possibly be having multiple partners.

The fact that women were having sexual intercourse more frequently just looked too contrasting to what I expected to find, probably because of the sexual stereotype I have that women, especially in times like 1979, should be more conservative than their concurrent males or present women.

Another aspect that surprised me was the openness of the article. Although 1979 can be seen as quite recent, this is the first article that I found in the archive that openly wrote about sexual research or surveys with questions about oral sex, masturbation, and same sex relations. About a month ago, I found and wrote about an article from the Emory Report, February 8th, 1934, tilted “Fair Sex Analyzed In Experiment at Tufts”, but that was merely a joke about female stereotypes. Since this time, the facts and numbers about the students’ sexual lives are discussed in the official university news paper, I believe there had been much changes between 1934 and 1979. I am also happy that I should be able to find more articles about sexual identity in later Emory Wheel.

Emory Wheel Sex Survey 1979

Emory Report 1934

Sex and Abortion Go Hand In Hand

It is likely that the early 70s was a confusing time for those interested in abortion. Last time I mentioned in my blog that, with the 1973 court case Roe v. Wade setting the political forecast, abortion was likely at the forefront of discussion topics. In this fashion, abortion was probably a touchy subject. Not for the usual reason of being something that is not accepted widely, but instead maybe because the sudden rise in advertisements for abortion could have made it awkward. I mean, to go from something not spoken about to something you can’t get away from…there has to be some element of societal shock there somewhere.

Is it possible that this sudden influx of pro-abortion advertisement lead to a societal oversaturation of all things abortion? This week in a 1973 Emory Wheel, there was an abundance of abortion ads and blurbs. In fact, on one page in particular, there were four abortion ads, three of which were nestled right by one another. This time period was different from today in many ways. For one, abortion was just on the rise to social and public acceptance. Abortion was still a young idea and something fresh on the political picnic table. In addition, abortion was publicly and heavily advertised. Although the only evidence of these assumptions are the numerous Emory Wheel ads, the fact that a college publication was speaking so loosely about something as serious as abortion is strong enough to stand alone.

As if these ads broadcasting statements like “Pregnancy Isn’t Always Beautiful,” aren’t enough to raise an eyebrow, adding to the confusion are the sexualized ads in the Emory Wheel. A full spread was dedicated to the Derby Day festivities. Said to be a philanthropic event for an on-campus fraternity, this event was seen as a “rite of passage” for many women. “Derbie Day is a lot like that airline commercial where a sexy stewardess says ‘I’m Debbie, fly me’…Officially what Derby Day is about is spirit, but if you want to get a real message, think about Debbie.” Seeing as though this advertisement was in the same publication as the plethora of abortion ads, it is safe to say that sex was prevalent, and not far behind was a semblance of a celebration of abortion. Readers of the Wheel were likely old enough to be beyond the birds and the bees conversation so the editors had to be aware of the fact that they were publicizing the action that lead to the need for abortions…and viewers could see this. All this is to say that it is interesting to observe, in this era of the 70s,  how publicly accepted abortion was and at the same time how prevalent sex was just like it is in current times.

Today, abortion has receded into the shell of societal distress and politics. It has returned to a state that seemingly mimics what the conditions may have been like before abortion was completely legal and advertised in college newspapers. Yet sex continues to sell. So what has changed? What has happened that has forced the conversation of abortion into the shadows while keeping sex at the tip of society’s tongue? Even more concerning, is the question of what we do now that people four decades down the line will look at and tilt their heads to the side.

Note Nov 15, 2012

Note Nov 15, 2012 (1)

Note Nov 15, 2012 (3)

Note Nov 15, 2012 (4)

Failed Responses to AIDS

In the Peter Lewis Allen article that we read entitled AIDS in the USA, there was a section called “Mistakes Were Made.” The section title foreshadows a section primarily dealing with the failures of the United States in relation to the AIDS epidemic. Allen points out that there have been several AIDS successes in countries with fewer resources economically and medically compared to the United States. Despite America’s failure to hamper the spread of AIDS in the United States, he does acknowledge that the disease spread swiftly and quietly for quite some time until it became detected. One Allen’s staggering statistics claimed that the time AIDS was being reported in the United States, thirty percent of the gay men in San Francisco were infected. This was in part due to the lack of focus on disease prevention. Rather American focus is on the treatment, not the cure. Being a part of a capitalist society opens the floodgates for such instances to allow vulnerabilities like this.

Allen also ties back in to a previous section dealing with religion, and how religious communities reacted to the outbreak of AIDS on American soil. He noted that in 1986, for example, there became a movement from the Presbyterian Church in the United States stating that AIDS was not a punishment for immoral behavior. This particular part of the section seems particularly interesting because Allen obviously felt the need the point out that this was a movement from the Presbyterian Church in the United States, not the Presbyterian Church as a whole. This begs the question of whether he was trying to maintain scope within the article or whether there were differing views with in different regions of the Presbyterian sect. This notion perpetuates considering Allen’s next sentence about the Methodist bishops releasing similar statements about AIDS not being a curse from God. In this part, Allen does not limit to the bishops within the United States.

In another portion of the section, Allen reflects back on the public figures of the time and their lack of contributions. The most notable national figure pointed out was President Bill Clinton. During his time in office, Clinton fired former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders over an AIDS prevention issue. Subsequently after the firing of Elders, Clinton’s serious mistake occurred through his appointed AIDS czars, whom proved to be weak and ineffective. Essentially, the conclusion seemed to be that AIDS prevention, especially in regards to intravenous drug users, stagnated between the years of 1981 through Clinton’s term in office. Interestingly enough though, this message would seem contradictory compared to the Clinton Foundation. According to the website, Clinton aided building a healthcare system to help repress the spread of HIV and AIDS. His site claims that he sought to essentially leverage his connections to help make a “measureable difference” in the areas he cared most about. Comparing these two side by side, there is an obvious difference in the picture painted about Clinton and AIDS prevention. This makes me begin to wonder if he recognized his failures in response to AIDS during his presidency.

Even though Clinton is revered as one of the greatest political talents, I guess he learned a play from Jimmy Carter on how to fail (at least in one aspect) as President but leverage that position to make a difference.

 

 

https://classes.emory.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-1642096-dt-content-rid-262292_2/courses/FA12_AMST_385_DTROKA_Combined/AIDS%20in%20the%20USA.pdf

 

http://www.clintonfoundation.org/main/about/clinton-foundation-history.html

Public Awareness of Sexual Health

Public health efforts are often intimately tied to many other aspects of society. The containment of AIDS has to deal with politics, religion, sexuality, and many other cultural factors. Thus, efforts to try and curb the proliferation need to be likewise thought out in these complex contexts. Jenny Higgins notes how the prevalent women vulnerability model has benefits but also some downsides. Most notably its lack of representing the role of the heterosexual male in the role AIDS transmission and prevention [1].


One of the most effective ways to increase exposure of a cause, and one that was really instrumental in demystifying AIDS, is celebrity support. When an infamous movie star such as Rock Hudson publicly announces his battle with AIDS it can have a noticeable change on public opinion. Magic Johnson is another more contemporary example. These show the masses that it is not only homosexuals or drug users that can contract AIDS; it can be the average heterosexual man or woman as well. Ryan White also became synonymous with the innocent contraction of AIDS and was a poster boy for AIDS support efforts. Nationally renowned figures like this have the ability to affect public health goals as well as to shape the mass attitude in a beneficial way. Conversely, public figures also have the power to impact a cause in a negative light as Peter Lewis Allen attributes to Jerry Falwell, Jesse Helms, and John O’Connor. These people changed policy making by “reawaking beliefs that had held power for thousands of years” stemming from their religious beliefs that AIDS was God’s punishment for homosexuality [2].

Our inquiries into the earlier decades of Emory publications had previously yielded a sparse discussion about reproduction, birth control and abortion. This week, however, there were a number of advertisements promoting abortion in the Emory Wheel from 1971. This surprising finding hints that the public discussion of reproductive health changed around this time. A Google search revealed that in 1971 the Supreme Court had its first ruling on abortion. In United States v Vuitch a DC law was upheld allowing abortions to be performed to preserve a woman’s life of health [3]. The term ‘health’ held a broad meaning and allowed many new cases to be covered. The early 1970s was also the time when states began creating abortion laws as well as the famous Roe v Wade case [4]. Although not directly relevant to AIDS, reproductive health is intimately intertwined with the disease.

This interaction between a given disease and popular culture sources is one that is interesting. Public figures such as basketball players and movie stars have the ability to shape both public opinion and political action. This action then determines the demand for what is represented in media outlets such as newspapers and, in our case, the Emory Wheel and Report. As we continue our research it would be beneficial to look at this progression of popular culture to public opinion to advertisements and article topics. 

[1]- Higgins, J. Rethinking Gender, Heterosexual Men, and Women’s Vulnerability to HIV/AIDS. American Journal of Public Health. March 2010, Vol 100, No.3. 435-445. 
[2]- Allen, P.L. AIDS in the USA. The Wages of Sin: Sex and Disease, Past and Present. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. 119-155
[3]- http://www.nrlc.org/abortion/facts/abortiontimeline.html
[4]- http://www.prochoice.org/about_abortion/history_abortion.html

Regan, Religon, AIDS

HIV changed view of sex, diseases and other parts of life. Society links HIV with certain things such as sex and sin because of religious, government, and social influences. AIDS has also been associated with minorities and gay men. Out of all the people effected, AIDS is the worst for people who are not able take care of themselves.

There are many who view this as an act of God, ‘”…the stroke of God’s wrath for the sins of mankind,”’. Reverend Jerry Falwell even stated on TV, “Do it and die”. In the past, rhetoric behind HIV was very morally based. Many individuals, mostly religious people and conservatives, viewed having HIV or AIDS as God’s holly punishment for sinners. Religion’s inability to accept homosexuality has caused people who sufferer from AIDS to become targeted. But not all of those who are religious condemn homosexuality. An article in a 2005 issue of the Emory Report an article caught my attention. Note Nov 11, 2012 (2) This article is about gay rights, as applied through religion. One of the best points made in this article was “..that whatever governments do about same-sex marriage or same-sex unions, Christian churches still have a question before them. The legal solution will not solve the religious question.” The same process can be applied to those with AIDS. The author also claims that scriptures are not always against homosexuality, there are churches such as the Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ that do not condemn homosexuality. So therefore, these churches do not see HIV and AIDS as God’s wrath against the gays. The article compares homosexual marriages and heterosexual marriages to what a biblical marriage.

Government and religion’s influence were two major points in this weeks reading, and this made me think about the fact that those two are the most influential things in our country, pop culture and media not included.  If religion and government both are portraying negativity on the subject then the public will be unaware and uneducated as to the real problems occurring. On page 124, paragraph 3 of the Lewis article, surveys showed some disturbing things about America’s perception of AIDS and HIV. 60% showed no sympathy towards HIV victims, 30% wished them quarantined, and 25% favored discrimination towards HIV and AIDS victims. Four years after the initial survey, 27% still felt that people with AIDS should not get any compassion. Even if Koop did release a book outlining the dangers of HIV and AIDS, present Regan was not vocal about it and still there is a misunderstanding of what is actually going on.

 

This is why Alicia Lurry’s article in a 2004 edition of the Emory Wheel stood out to me Note Nov 11, 2012 (1). She states that woman over the age of 50 are living longer and having more sex, therefore their chance of getting and transmitting AIDS is higher than they were before. What seemed in earlier years to be non-threatened demographic, white middle-aged women are now in danger too. In a survey, none of the women answered all 9 questions correctly. Most of the time these women received information about AIDS through television and friends. Less then half claimed they got information from healthcare providers. There is one quote that I believe is crucial in comparing our readings to this article, “The misconception is that older people don’t have sex anymore and that they are really are not engaging in risky activity.” This is the same misconception that labeled AIDS as a gay disease. This is the same misconception that leads to religion to condemn individuals with the disease. This is the same misconception that lead the government to tip-toe around the AIDS issue.

Our societies misconceptions about sex and who is having it are a detriment to how we as a country handles HIV and AIDS. If the interpretation of a problem is wrong, how can we as a society fix our misconception, and how long does it take to fix this misconception? If Ronald Regan, the President considered to be the greatest conservative ever, had been more publicly supportive of the plight of AIDS victims maybe in the present we would have been better off as a country, but as stated before, regardless of what government does to try and fix the issue, religion will still have its issues with sex and STDs. This is a issue with problems coming at it from all sides.

One World One Hope

Talks with S

11/10/2012

AIDS is a sexually transmitted disease that has been visible in official records since the 1980’s.This disease has provided a constant threat to mitigate the existence of mankind ever since the establishment of its fatal consequences, thereby creating a national epidemic. Researchers, scientists, doctors, and the like, have put in constructive efforts over the years to find a solution to put an end to this epidemic. Having been unsuccessful to find a cure, the next steps they attempted include finding ways to “control” or dampen the spread of this disease. Various constructive efforts have been put in by several international humanitarian organizations, such as UNAIDS, World Health Organization, International AIDS Society, etc. to find ways to control the spread of this disease.

Questions such as- how the disease continues to spread despite complete and transparent information available to the public about reasons for its occurrence, what groups of individuals (caste/race/religion etc.) are mostly impacted by this disease, and who (gender) is the active agent in spreading this disease- have been under constant debate all over the world. In the 1980’s, when the first cases of AIDS were reported, this disease was assumed to affect the male bodies, particularly that of gay men (Richardson 127). It was associated to appear among individuals who chose the “homosexual lifestyle.” At that time, women were almost invisible in the identification of AIDS as a deadly disease. AIDS is now seen as a disease prevalent even among those who lead the “heterosexual lifestyle,” and thereby impacting those who are “straight” as well. Over the years, the face of women in this active struggle against AIDS has changed, from invisibility to “stigmatized vectors” of the virus (Dworkin, Higgins & Hoffman 435). Dworkin, Higgins and Hoffman, in Rethinking Gender, Heterosexual Men, and Women’s Vulnerability to HIV/AIDS state, “the primary face of AIDS is a woman” (435). Furthermore, Richardson states, “Although AIDS has been firmly constructed as a ‘male disease’, at least in the west, the heterosexual male is largely the invisible in AIDS discourse” (138). This discourse of AIDS in the world has greatly been based upon the paradigm that women are the “disadvantaged victims” of society, while the men are the active agents that have caused this epidemic.

It is believed that men are the prime carriers of the HIV infection, who have imparted this deadly virus on the women they have had sexual intercourse with. The vulnerability model that blames men is based upon the theory that, “the socially disadvantaged, monogamous, and unsuspecting woman is infected not through her own behaviors but as a consequence of her partner’s wrongdoing” (Dworkin, Higgins &.Hoffman 436). Men are blamed for widespread dispersion of this disease, because they are said to have sexual intercourse with multiple partners, believed not to use condoms for the lack of sexual sensation or arousal, and on several occasions are regarded as being unfaithful towards their partners. Despite these conditions, all the attention is focused on ways to educate women, and not men, on combating the AIDS epidemic. Men are giving leeway here under the impression that, “[the] male sex drive is unstoppable”, “boys will be boys”, and “[their] behavior is unchangeable and uncontrollable” (Dworkin, Higgins &.Hoffman 440). Statistics shows that, “for every sex act, an HIV- negative woman is at least twice as likely to become infected by an HIV-positive man, than an HIV-negative man is to become infected from an HIV-positive woman” (Mukherjee 380). It is believed that woman are biologically, epidemiologically, socio-culturally, and structurally more susceptible to contracting HIV than men (Dworkin, Higgins &.Hoffman 441). Thus, it is assumed that women are solely responsible to protect themselves from AIDS, and as a result, ultimately controlling the AIDS epidemic.

Dworkin, Higgins &.Hoffman, in Rethinking Gender, Heterosexual Men, and Women’s Vulnerability to HIV/AIDS, state:

“This paradigm rests upon the following assumptions about gender inequality: (1) women want to prevent HIV when having sexual intercourse with a potentially infected man, but lack the power to do so, and (2) men are more likely than women to bring HIV into the partnership because they engage in more sexual and drug use risk behavior” (438).

This theory takes into account the social concept of “masculinity,” where, women are unable to tell their male sex partner’s to use a condom during sexual intercourse. It also stems from the notion that males do not want to use condoms as they may not get sexual satisfaction with its usage. It does not take into account that, perhaps women may not get the sexual sensation they desire, if their male sex partner does in fact use a condom. Furthermore, it assumes that men are “careless” and “carefree,” while all women are “conscious” of getting inflicted with the HIV infection. This may not always hold true. In some cases, women may indeed be the “carefree” sexual partners, while the men may be the “conscious” and “faithful” partners.

If heterosexual men are the active and prime carriers of the disease because they have multiple sex partners, or are unfaithful towards their partners, then the question that comes to mind is whom did these men contract the disease from? Assuming that these males are heterosexual and not involved in any homosexual activity, then the argument can be stirred the other way around. We can also argue that, in reality “heterosexual females” are the prime carriers of this disease, as these males are having sexual intercourse with “other females.” Dworkin, Higgins & Hoffman, in Rethinking Gender, Heterosexual Men, and Women’s Vulnerability to HIV/AIDS state, “Emerging data show that in many settings women are almost as likely as men to bring HIV into the partnership” (439).

Currently, all the programs and policies aimed towards mitigating the HIV infection focus on female education and empowerment. Inclusion of men is necessary in this movement to combat the AIDS epidemic. Today, women all over the world are recommended to follow the ABC commandments of remaining abstinent until marriage, being faithful to a single partner, and using condoms (Dworkin, Higgins & Hoffman 436). The same can, and should be applied towards education of men. For example, women should continue to be given education or skills on how to speak up and ask their male sex partners about using condoms during intercourse. At the same time, men should also be educated on the benefits of wearing a contraceptive during sexual intercourse, talking to their sexual partners about their “sexual scripts,” and how to react to a sexual partners request to him to wear (or not wear) a condom.

Even though woman are considered more susceptible than men to contract an HIV infection, if certain myths are proven to be true, then men are at equal risk of contracting an HIV infection. These myths include notions that more men have multiple sex partners than women, more men are unfaithful in relationships, all men do not like to wear condoms while all women would want their sexual partners to wear one, and men are “carefree” and enjoy partaking in risky sexual behavior. These myths lead the society to believe that only women deserve protection from AIDS (Dworkin, Higgins & Hoffman 437). While these myths can hold true for some men, they can also be some women who partake in risky sexual behaviors while their male partner may not do so.

Both men and women should be responsible for their own “sexual health”. Men should also have the right to partake in AIDS prevention and treatment programs. While gender inequalities do exist in society, policies and interventions should aim at empowerment of both women and men. Educating men about safe sex practices will not only benefit all these men, but will also benefit women (say the male sex partner now always wears a condom during sexual intercourse), who under other circumstances, may not have been able to tell their partners to wear a condom before sexual intercourse.

 

 

Citations:

Dworkin, Shari L. Higgins, Jenny A. Hoffman, Susie. “Rethinking Gender, Heterosexual Men, and Women’s Vulnerability to HIV/AIDS”

Mukherjee, Joia S. “Structural Violence, Poverty and the AIDS Pandemic”

Richardson, Diane. “In/Visible Women and Dis/Appearing Men”

Evolution of AIDS & HIV

The idea of premarital sexual intercourse became less and less of a rigid standard during the mid 20th century. New cures and antibiotics were being discovered to cure sexually transmitted diseases. A societal transformation encouraged a new view of sex – “the sexual revolution, feminism, and the beginning of the gay and lesbian movement” were calling for a more sexually active America (Allen 121). Contraceptions, birth control, and ideas of safe sex liberated the sexual movement; sex became “fun” rather than just a means of reproduction. With this freedom came consequences: accidental pregnancy, disease, and the deadly virus, HIV.

The emergence of AIDS and HIV became associated with the identification of gay men. This sexually transmitted disease stigmatized the associated groups; outcasting and disgracing those unfortunate enough to get AIDS and HIV. During the mid to late 20th century, AIDS and HIV brought out societies hesitant ability to talk about issues relating to sex. It became the forefront to the other battles associated with sexual identity and health fighting for acceptance in America. Unfortunately, people like Cardinal O’Connor, Reverend Jerry Falwell, and other church associates blamed homosexuality and people’s sins as the reason for the spread of the virus; calling it “God’s cure to homosexuality.” Statements like “Do it and Die” led society to thoughts of guilt, anxiety, and fear concerning sexual activity effecting the entirety of the nation (Allen 122).

The stigma turned to taboo when President Reagan and his administration refused to acknowledge the growing AIDS and HIV epidemic. Rather than finding safer ways of performing sexual activities without transmitting the disease, the administration stayed silent. Silence only aided the spread. The atmosphere regarding AIDS became only more and more hostile. Only in the gay community did AIDS awareness appear in the early 80’s – “In 1981, activist Larry Kramer founded an organization in New York known as the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, now the nation’s largest AIDS organization, and later, a more radical group called ACT-UP (The AID’s coalition to Unleash Power) (Allen 126). These organizations warned people of the dangers of HIV and persuaded them to practice safe ways to enjoy activities virus-free.

Eventually, enough people became to acknowledge the virus as a sexually transmitted disease with the ability to affect any member of the community. The church revoked its statement that AIDS and HIV were God’s punishment among sinners. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop followed Reagan’s policy of silence until October 22, 1986. He published a statement endorsing abstinence “but was not shy about explaining that AIDS could be transmitted by anal, oral, or vaginal sex- and that transmission could be prevented by the proper use of condoms” (Allen 130). Once the message was out in public, the front only gained more movement. Movie stars began to endorse the message of AIDS awareness. Bono began the message of “Red” associating its image with several popular American brands and products. Now the message is taught to every child in a sexual education class or in the real world. Forms silence to total awareness, the AIDS movement has made a total transformation. Now the only thing is to hope that people take in the message, prevent the spread, and cure those who are infected.

Allen, Peter L. The Wages of Sin: Sex and Disease, past and present. Chicago: university of Chicago, 2000. Print.

Never to Come

In the Mukherjee article “Structural Violence, Poverty and the AIDS Pandemic,” she talks about how AIDS is changing the world for the worse. This may seem extremely obvious, but some of the points that she brought up I never thought of in that particular way.

There are many things that she speaks of that I have heard in different ways. Those include prevention strategies that include risk avoidance by abstaining from sex and drug use as well as harm reduction like needle exchanges. My roommate volunteers at a nonprofit in Atlanta that exchanges dirty needles for clean ones as well as provide condoms and showers. These types of tactics are truly helping in communities where some people want to be clean off drugs, but just do not have the strength yet. However, they still want to ensure some accountability for their own health and well being.

A new term that seems to do a great job of marking a key component of the causes and results of the AIDS pandemic is structural violence. She defines this in two different ways. The first, found on page 379, says “the systemic exclusion of a group from the resources needed to develop their full human potential.” She goes on to define it as “physical and psychological harm that results from exploitive and unjust social, political and economic systems” on page 380. When we think about how the world economic system is overall set up, it is easy to agree with Mukherjee. Men are in the position to receive more jobs than women, while women are not paid for all the work that they do to care for their children ad family members as well as up keeping the household. Women are also sold for the use of their bodies and viciously raped in every part of the world. Men have to travel for work, many of them finding several sexual partners along the way. Of course all of these are not the case for everyone, but they do give examples of how the structure of society and the roles that we allow some to play give in to the ongoing pandemic of HIV.

The most interesting aspect of this article to me was the effect of AIDS on the household. When the head of the household dies from AIDS in African countries, the monthly income of the household drastically drops. These families who are at many times solely reliant on one income have lost a family member at the same time of losing their daily living. The families are forced into a quick impoverished situation that they find themselves hard to get out of. I always thought of the worst side of AIDS being the death of the infected individuals, but the fate of those that relied on these individuals are an enormous issue as well.

Money seems to be the biggest issue in this pandemic, in my opinion. If we were to garner enough money for every infected person to take generic antiretroviral therapy, the only thing left would be the focus on prevention. I believe that because the United States was silent for so long (focusing not the Bush and Clinton administration most of all), the disease has gotten to an almost incontrollable point. If it were simple enough to say yes to generic drugs for all and millions of prevention programs across the world, this agonizing disease could have been gone with polio and smallpox.

Of course we will always have those that take advantage of people’s bodies and those  that are irresponsible with contraception and dirty needles, but our position to fight those would so much more focused. It’s time to leave the legislation behind and solely focus on the well being of this world’s people. At this point, I’m sure I will never see the day where that is the ultimate focus.