Two years ago, I was just gearing up for the teen years and the discussions of sex and safety and all the rest. Then, a year ago, things had changed significantly. Boys had officially entered the picture, the possibility of her becoming sexually active had cemented itself, and we were actually talking about it...
So, rather than actually rehash all these thoughts, I thought I'd just share the two articles I wrote for EdenCafe.com to commemorate World AIDS Day from 2009 and 2010. They express the ways in which this disease has touched my life and how it's most present in my life today — much has changed since I wrote these posts, but much of it still seems relevant. I don't, for example, continue to value fear as a motivator for my daughter's behavior — as any parent can tell you, your perspective and stance on certain things tends to evolve with age. I struggle often with balancing the desire to educate my daughter in a sex-positive fashion and the desire to lock her in the closet to keep her safe from the world.
As an editor, I am finding it hard to tweak these and adjust them, improve them, but I won't. I'll leave them as they were originally published and try not to angst too much over the urge to edit.
In the mean time, be sure to visit EdenCafe.com and Edenfantasys.com this week for more thoughts and expressions from EdenFantasys community members during this week's WAD events.
I Remember A Time And Place When AIDS Did Not Exist (from 2009)
My daughter turned 12 last week, on Thanksgiving Day. At times like theses, I often think about what I remember about being her age and given her birthday’s proximity to World Aids Day, this year I was thinking about growing up in a world that just discovered AIDS and HIV.
When I was 12, they were just starting to talking about it, but I didn’t really understand what it was. As a 12 year old girl, it was hardly a concern of mine. I didn’t even know anyone who was gay and back then — we thought you only got it if you were gay (One of many, many things people thought at the time that was utter crap).
But, that year, I met my first gay man. Turns out, I’d known him all along, but it was quite a shock when my best friend’s dad, Bruce, came out of the closet and moved out of the house and out of town. I was more concerned with the fact that this man, who had been essentially an uncle to me, was suddenly gone, than with the fact that he was gay. And I was more concerned that, a short time later, we found out he was going to die. Bruce had AIDS. This terrifying specter that hadn’t even registered on my radar was suddenly invading my life and taking people I cared for.
It was a scary time. There was so much misinformation, so many misconceptions, lies, fear, discrimination, even violence, it was difficult to know anything for certain beyond the fact that Bruce was going to die. Sooner, rather than later. It is a tragic thing to mourn someone who is still alive, but back then it wasn’t a question of if, it was only a question of when and how bad it would be.
Thankfully, my dear friend, Bruce, died peacefully and with very little suffering compared to some people stricken with the disease. We still miss him and I still think of him every World AIDS Day.
Today, things are so different. About 15 years ago, another dear friend of my family was diagnosed with HIV. He was, and remains today, a very healthy person who, while he takes medication every day, shows no signs of being positive for HIV. His experience is what AIDS is today and his experience is what my daughter knows of this disease. For that, I am thankful.
Much of the stigma, the suffering, the misinformation and the certain death sentence that accompany an HIV diagnosis has disappeared in the United States (much, but not all). And there is hope that efforts in other parts of the world will bring about a similar change.
What was once the considered the next plague has evolved into a chronic disease that can be managed if you take care of yourself well and if you have access to the proper medication. This is the world in which I am raising my daughter and I am thankful she didn’t have to experience the terror we all felt when we learned Bruce had HIV.
What I wish is that we can soon live in a world where AIDS has gone the way of smallpox, completely eradicated from the planet. I remember a time and place when AIDS did not exist. My daughter has never known a world without it. We have come so far but we still have so far to go which is why World AIDS Day and all the efforts of so many people who fight against this disease are still so important.
Because maybe, just maybe, if we keep at it, someday my daughter will also know a time and place in which AIDS does not exist.
I Have Hope for a Time and Place When AIDS Does Not Exist (from 2010)
Last year, I wrote an article for World AIDS Day called I Remember a Time and Place When AIDS Did Not Exist and so I went back to read what I wrote before I sat down to write another article in recognition of this day.
I read it and I shed a few tears as I thought of my old family friend, lost to AIDS, about my daughter being a year older and a year closer to being sexually active and the fear that idea inspires in her mother.
Since last year, my daughter, who just turned 13, has not only been learning about AIDS/HIV in school, but has had to endure a discussion with her mother about a host of risks involved in becoming sexually active.
During our discussion I asked her what she thought was the worst thing that could happen from having sexual contact with another person. She said, “getting pregnant.”
Yes, getting pregnant would be tragic at her age and for several years to come, I told her, but death was really the worst thing that could happen. I said there were several infections and viruses that could be passed through unprotected sexual contact and that it was possible to die from HIV/AIDS. She acknowledged that she’d learned about it in school, but obviously it hadn’t the strong impression I would have preferred.
As I said last year, her exposure to HIV/AIDS is so much different than mine. Learning about HIV/AIDS was terrifying in the 80’s. So much was unknown, but what was known was if you got it, you died. The prospect of death got through to many kids who otherwise would have had unprotected sex. Not all, unfortunately, but many.
It’s not that simple anymore, people aren’t automatically sentenced to early death when infected and that’s great. That’s wonderful. I have friends living with the disease today (rather than dying from it) and I wouldn’t have it back the way it used to be.
But fear can be a powerful motivator and for a mom looking to make a strong impression upon her daughter about STI’s—the specter of death is a tempting assistant in convincing her to put off having sex until she’s prepared to handle it, emotionally, and has the wisdom and judgment to make smart choices.
Maybe that’s not the best parenting practice, not the best plan for raising a sex-positive person. But for a parent facing the prospect of severe illness or the death of their child from one incident of poor judgment (something parents know is all to common among teens) it’s a trade-off they can live with. Or, at least I can.
Ultimately, my hope is that recent advances will make having to teach a 13 year old about death as a part of her sexual education a thing of the past.
Today, I read something that made me believe that goal may be achieved sooner than I’d thought. Recent research for a drug called Truvada, shows the pill cut risk of infection by 73% in those who took it daily. It’s ridiculously expensive — of course. So is being treated for HIV/AIDS. For so long, we’ve been waiting and hoping for something that could prevent HIV infection, that elusive vaccine.
This might be a step in the direction toward that vaccine and at the very least, it could stop many people from being infected. It can save lives.
That gives me hope—hope that my daughter won’t even have to talk to her kids about HIV/AIDS — that it will become a part of our history, the way smallpox has… a dark part of our past that we learn about, but don’t have to be concerned with in our daily lives.