It is not yet the National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day – that will be this Saturday, on September 27th – but there’s so much going on this week I’m jumping ahead of myself, calendar-wise.
The Center for Sex Education doesn’t have a manual about STIs – although I hear rumors of an old one about HIV called Aids About AIDS that is desperately out of print and just dying to be redone – but they do have lesson plans about gender, sexuality, sexual orientation, and STIs. Today, in honor of National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, I’m talking about an activity from Teaching Safer Sex:
Don’t Pass It Along!
By Bill Taverner
By the end of this lesson, participants will be able to:
1. Explain how easily a sexually transmitted infection (STI) can spread with unprotected intercourse.
2. Describe how common STIs are in the United States and explain the differences between bacterial STIs and viralSTIs.
3. Assess their own behavior for risk of sexually transmitted infections.
One of the greatest deterrents to the practice of safer sex is the mindset “it can’t happen to me.” Yet statistics show that, in the United States, there are 19 million new cases of sexually transmitted infections each year and that young people aged 15-24 account for almost half of those new cases. This lesson dramatizes the rapid geometric progression possible in the spread of a sexually transmitted infection and encourages participants to think about the reasons why many people do not protect themselves. It uses incidence and prevalence charts to demonstrate the large number of people who are infectious and emphasizes the importance of honest assessment of one’s own risk.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010). Trends in sexually transmitted diseases in the United States: 2009 national data for gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis. Accessed at http://www.cdc.gov/std/stats09/trends.htm
This lesson gets very much to the heart of what gay men (especially) need to understand about HIV transmission and everyone (generally) needs to know about all STIs. But the issues stands particularly large among the population of men who have sex with men. The CDC put out a report this summer that shows the rate of HIV infection is falling among everyone except for MSM. While it may be cliche to say, some of my best friends are gay men. These statistics should be alarming for anyone who knows and loves a man who has sex with men – and that’s almost everyone. Lesson plans like the one Bill has built here work to create awareness around the possibility of infection – something we all need to be conscious of as we are teaching, working with, talking with, and playing with young men and not-so-men who have sex with men. HIV is no longer the death sentence that it was thirty years ago – but it remains a substantial lifelong health problem that impacts every aspect of life. Be aware, use condoms.