Friday, August 08, 2008

If you throw out the best idea, what you're left with is....

This showed up in my google news health section today:

"Gift cards key to new AIDS prevention strategy
The Associated Press - 37 minutes ago
ATLANTA (AP) - Could the AIDS virus be stopped with gift cards? Desperate for a way to stop the escalating spread of HIV among young gay men, public health officials are looking to novel strategies, such as enlisting local gay opinion leaders to urge their peers to practice safe sex....The idea is to give gift coupons to popular, influential men in the gay community and encourage them to talk up condom use, regular HIV testing and other responsible actions.

It may sound frivolous, but little else has proven effective for the men most affected by the epidemic.

Last week, new figures showed still-rising HIV infections in gay and bisexual men, with about 53 percent of new cases in that group. Meanwhile, HIV rates among injection-drug users and heterosexuals is declining."

Frivolous? The idea is frivolous?

I, actually, am deeply saddened by the HIV epidemic. Thousands of people are suffering , and thousands of children are being left parentless. I am not trying to negate that this is a major problem, and also an immense tragedy.

But it seems to me that the best solution is not gift cards. It's the one they defined out of the equation in the first place: monogamy. Abstinence. Self-control.

More condoms and a few gift cards just won't cut it....

I think the greatest tragedy of all is that we, by our choices, are enabling the crisis to continue because, darn it, we don't want to take the risk of offending anyone.

It reminds me of the section in Nephi where he scolds his rebellious brothers, and they get mad at him for saying "hard things" against them--for offending them. I agree with Nephi--the truth sometimes is hard, especially when it requires you to change not just your behaviour, but the paradigms that make it okay.

Nephi says, "the wicked take the truth to be hard." I hate to say, "the wicked" and "repent" because not all the victims of this plague are in need of repentance or were wicked themselves--the wives whose faithless husbands brought it home, the children, the victims of rape, and, unfortunately, all the people who are caught in the cultural morays that have changed and encourage risky sexual behavior--the ones who ought to know better but have been taught from a young age to experiment and follow their body's natural inclinations (the ones who were taught that bad is good from such a young age--like children whose fathers take them to prostitutes or introduce them to porn when they should be hearing fairytales--that it honestly never occurs to them that it might be wrong).

But repentance is the right concept--not just for people who are wantonly sharing their bodies with others, but also for the entire culture that decided that not offending someone was more important than truth.

What a sad state for our world to be in.

I am reminded of when I said to my mother, "I would do anything to lose this extra weight." And she replied, "Not 'anything'. You know what you could do--you just won't do it, so it must not matter THAT much to you."

Stung, I realized she was right.

The same principle applies here. If they were really 'desperate' for a way to stop the spread of HIV among young gay men, they might consider teaching true principles,like abstinence and monogamy, instead of offering gift cards. It might just work.

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