AIDS Didn’t Really Concern Me Until I Had A Kid

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I was lucky enough to attend a school with a comprehensive sex education program. Like our Deputy Editor Koa, I learned about AIDS at a pretty young age. The very earliest sex education talk mentioned the disease briefly. Once we got in to high school, we had a much more graphic conversation about STDs in general, AIDS in particular. It was complete with data, safe sex tips and if I remember correctly, an entire lesson on the dangerous myths perpetuated about AIDS and HIV. What I’m saying is, I know it’s out there. I’ve always known that I needed to be safe and get tested regularly.

Once I got into college, I got into what I thought was a pretty average reproductive health routine. Yearly visits to the special lady doctor, birth control and a mandatory STD talk/check before doing the deed. No, I’m not joking. I trusted the MTV commercials. I really thought that everyone made their partners have a test. For my own personal reasons, I don’t enjoy casual sex. It’s not a judgment issue, it’s just not for me. Without divulging too much private information, I’ll say that I’ve never slept with someone outside of a committed relationship.

Basically, I felt like I was taking a textbook approach to safe sex. And because of that, AIDS (or any other sexually transmitted disease) rarely crossed my mind. They were kind of like tragic issues that happened to other people. Not me though, because I was safe. I didn’t sleep around and I made sure that my partners were responsible and got tested before we took that step.

For anyone with a shred of common sense, you might wonder why I never even thought about my partner possibly cheating. Looking back, I wonder that too. I wonder why I didn’t think about these issues more. As an intelligent woman trying to be mature about my sex life, it’s amazing that I basically forgot about all those warnings from school. I just stopped thinking about them. Even though myself and my partners got tested, it was like something to check off my to-do list, not an actual concern.

I have to be honest, diseases like AIDS feel so much more scary now that I have my own child. It seems easy to be careless about my own life, but what if my daughter made the same choices? What if she got tested at the beginning a relationship, never considered that a boyfriend would cheat and then found herself sick with an incurable disease? I would be furious, not just with her soon-to-be-ex. I would be angry at her for not insisting on using condoms. I would be angry with myself for not talking about the issue more.

Looking back, I realize that I never took this disease seriously until I had loved ones to worry about. Now, it feels so much more real and so much more terrifying. Will I be talking to my daughter about AIDS? Definitely. Because it’s not just something that can happen to random people that we’ll never meet. It a disease that infects someone’s daughter or someone’s son, someone’s parent or someone’s sibling. Not just for our safety, but for all of those that we love, we need to be talking about AIDS. We need to thinking about how to stay safe and how to stress the importance or reproductive health to the next generation.

(Photo vio BBC Wales)