A few years ago, while I was doing my in-service training, I kept bumping into a photographer who could have been the original model for the Marlboro Man advertisements.
Tall, tanned and blonde, he was ruggedly handsome. While covering an HIV/Aids campaign story one day, he nonchalantly told me that he had the virus. He is the first and only person I know personally who has tested HIV positive and openly discussed it.
On Friday, 1 December we celebrated World Aids Day and almost every newspaper I saw carried Aids-related copy on its front page. Although responsible reporting on the pandemic will go a long way in fighting a scourge which is killing our nation, I was a bit cheesed off by the media and myself because the only time we seem to focus so intensely on Aids is during awareness campaigns.
On the one hand, I understand that people might become desensitised to the issue with constant reports bombarding them from all sides. On the other, I also understand that people are very reluctant to lift the veil of secrecy surrounding the illness. The fact that this week is the first time that I'm writing an article about HIV/Aids since this edition of People's Post's inception in May, makes its own point.
The general feeling is that people know about it but refuse to discuss it, which is why I laud Lovelife's campaign. Their slogan is "love your child enough to talk about it."
I think that sexual education is one of the keys to fighting the disease and ensuring the survival of another generation.
While at school, we received guidance but it was very clinical.
No one really explained that girls and guys will be attracted to each other and that, sometimes, guys will move heaven and earth to sleep with you and a mixture of naivete, ignorance and a sense of adventure will lead to sex. But the operative word is protected sex.
If and only if you are mature enough to handle the consequences. And perhaps people would also be less reluctant to use contraception if the government marketed safer sex by dispensing better condoms than the current oily, smelly and dubious Choice type.
I know that certain churches have advocated not using contraception and abstaining from sex but this, with all due respect, is an ignorant approach. Yes, it would probably be the safest bet, but human beings have the very basic instinct to procreate and no amount of preaching is going to curb it.
Perhaps disciplined parental guidance and a strong spiritual background can delay the inevitable but, eventually, teenagers will "do it".
One of my very close friends said she would remain a virgin until marriage.
I applauded her self restraint but, despite a strong Catholic background and the guidance of a loving family, she lost her virginity two years ago.
She wasn't married until this year.
I guess my point is that parents need to talk openly about sex, no matter how distasteful it may seem.
It also needs to be noted that being HIV positive is not a death sentence; it merely presents an alternative lifestyle.
And if you are HIV negative, be responsible and accountable for your actions. Surely 10 minutes of pleasure is not worth it.