I previously blogged about this subject matter but I would like to bring it up again given the latest news about the United States under reporting the rate of HIV infection (see here). Cutting down to the basics, it is about the failure to use condoms during sex.
The news report specifies the under reporting of the infection rate among two minority groups – Blacks and Hispanics. I previously volunteered with the local county’s HIV test program. The program includes the services of a mobile unit that goes to at risk (i.e. poorer) neighborhoods to provide tests. So, we usually ended up in a housing project that has a high Afro-American population, and an inner city neighborhood that is predominantly made up of Spanish-speaking immigrants.
From my own experience, I found it quite difficult to give away condoms to young people, let alone convince them to step into the van to take the test. It was much easier with the adult population. Maybe they are older and wiser. Maybe they personally witnessed the ravages of the virus. Whatever the reason, adults were always more receptive.
I really don’t know what the solution to this is. In terms of the young Hispanic population, I know that a lot of them are undocumented immigrants, and are unwilling to meet anyone who is associated with a governmental agency. But they are also at the greater risk, especially among the migrant day laborers. Their living situation and the machismo image that is expected from them discourage safer sex practices. Similarly, some of the young Afro-Americans may have trouble with the practice of safer sex, just because of peer pressure and homophobia.
On a personal level, I know of young acquaintances who have the virus. As I previously said, the common denominator is the failure of using a condom. Fortunately, they are all still living healthy lives, thanks to the new drug cocktails. However, I wish they would not have been infected to start with. So, everyone, please use those condoms. Unlike other countries, you can find them for free in a lot of places here.