AIDS: We're Not There Yet
A big no-no. Despite relentless abstinence campaigns, endless preaching about safe sex, and the condoms delivered with pizza on many a college campus, the National Center for Health Statistics reports that some 14 million Americans flunk Social Disease 101by engaging in sexual practices and drug use that put them at risk for HIV. Chlamydia is a good measure of this. In the United States, there are an estimated 2.8 million new cases annually of this highly infectious sexually transmitted disease (which causes pelvic inflammation that can lead to infertility in women). That's an awful lot of young people who are having unprotected sex.
An added problem is that a quarter of those who contract HIV don't even know it. This dilemma has led to a recent turnaround by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on routine HIV population screening. In the past, this was a big no-no, since a positive test brought only social stigma and a death sentence. The new guidelines, calling for everyone ages 13 to 64 to be screened for the virus, allows for earlier and more effective treatment. And the screening will uncover several hundred thousand silent HIV carriers who account for over half of the nation's new cases each year. The World Health Organization chimed in last week with a similar proposal.
Sure, testing will no doubt scare people, but maybe that's a good thing. Fear might be the best way to counteract complacency, not to mention the risky impulses that often trump the best of promises.