For the next installment in our 80th Anniversary series, we take a look at the Union’s response to the AIDS epidemic. Check out Lara Simpson’s 1997 article for Wessex Scene below.
Wessex Scene, 15/12/1997
Week 10 was supposed to be the Union Safer Sex Week, but it did not really happens raising questions of why people are forgetting the importance of safer sex.
Most people know the score with HIV. How many more times can we be told that condoms can save your life? Why are people still becoming infected everyday in this country?
Recently, I asked two young men on different occasion why they would wear Red Ribbons on World AIDS Day. I assumed it might be to do with the over commercialisation and hence devaluing of the symbol. But no, both stated as part of of their reason that they don’t have much sympathy for those who become infected as they are stupid if they have had unsafe sex. The disgust I felt hearing this, no one deserves to get HIV, yet many people still hold this view, so why can’t they understand the complexities involved?
Sex is often a complex issue, why we do whatever we do whatever we do with whom we do it with is often not under-expected and received.
An ideal way of protecting yourself is to assume that all your partners are HIV positive, therefore you will not do anything that is risky, but if you assumed this, would you do anything at all?? Clearly the answer is to look at the situation realistically. The guidelines are pretty clear. The risk of serious, whether gay or straight, when you have unprotected sex. As simple as that. And protect yourself…yes you know you should wear a condom, but this isn’t always enough.
USE IT PROPERLY.
You need to use a condom properly if it is to be of any use. For sex between two men you will need extra strength condoms and a water based lubricant (lube). These are available from gay pubs and clubs.
It is easy to assume that it is okay to skip using a condom just for one time. A quotation from Union Officer, Patrick Voss, in a previous edition of Wessex Scene is very true,
in the heat of the movement – all that can get pushed aside if there aren’t any condoms to hand. All the leaflets in the world won’t make the blindest bit of difference then.
yet what are these leaflets written for. [sic]. HIV is a real risk. It is up to us to protect ourselves and to realise that we live in a world of consequences.
One of the main reasons that people don’t use condoms is that they don’t feel at risk. Due to the long incubation period of HIV, many of us have not witnessed our friends being affected by the disease yet. If your partner is prepared to have unsafe sex with you then there is a good chance that he or she has had unsafe sex with someone else. Trust isn’t something that comes into it, as you may trust that person now, but how much can you really trust someone?
If you think that you are not at risk, think again. Straight women are in the second highest risk category as dar as transmission through sex is concerned. Men who have sex with men still constitute the highest number of injections, but these men still have sex with women too, and they are not always going to to have told you they have slept with a bloke are they!?!
IF YOU ARE WORRIED
If you have put yourself at risk from HIV it is easier to deny that this has happened, than for example with other sexually transmitted diseases of pregnancy due to long term incubation period. If you are worried you have put yourself at risk it is important to talk your concerns over with someone who you can trust, this can be a counsellor or someone from the national AIDS Helpline. Don’t assume that because you have had unsafe sex once you are infected and you don’t need to protect yourself in future, this is a bit risky. Deciding whether to take an HIV test is a tough decision. Due to the developments in drug treatments more people are being urged to be tested as early diagnosis assists treatment and you can get the information and support you need to stay healthy. Most people feel it is better to find out either way than to keep worrying about it. It is not a food idea to get the test done through your GP as this will then be on your medical records, which may affect your application for insurance etc. even if the result is negative!
GUM Clinics at hospitals are the place to go. Phone the National AIDS Helpline for more info on where to go.
The main point is that AIDS is real, your actions are real, it is easy to live in denial, but get real and protect yourself everytime!!
National AIDS Helpline No: 0800 567123