Young People Ask . . .
How Can I Avoid Getting AIDS?
“IT MAKES me angry that I allowed this to happen,” says Kaye. “Choices I made have stolen away the choices that I might have had in the future.” (Newsweek magazine, August 3, 1992) At age 18, Kaye contracted the AIDS virus.
Kaye is just one of over a million people in the United States who are infected with deadly HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)—the virus doctors say causes the dreaded disease AIDS.a No one really knows exactly how many youths are infected, but young people are clearly concerned. A survey showed that among British youths, AIDS is their biggest worry. In spite of such concern, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says: “Many adolescents continue to report engaging in HIV-risk behaviors.”
AIDS is always fatal, and it is spreading worldwide at epidemic rates. How can you protect yourself?
AIDS—Separating Myth From Fact
A booklet prepared by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control explains: “HIV infection doesn’t ‘just happen.’ You can’t ‘catch’ it like a cold or flu.” Therefore, casual, everyday contact with AIDS victims does not appear to be risky. You don’t have to be concerned about getting AIDS from an infected classmate simply because you sit near him or her. Since HIV is not an airborne virus, you don’t have to worry if an AIDS victim coughs or sneezes. In fact, families of AIDS sufferers have shared towels, eating utensils, and even toothbrushes without spreading the virus.b
This is because the deadly virus dwells in a person’s blood, semen, or vaginal secretions. In most cases, then, AIDS is transmitted by sexual intercourse—homosexual or heterosexual.c Many victims have also been infected by sharing needles or syringes, often in drug abuse, with someone infected with HIV.d And while doctors claim that the risk “has been practically eliminated” by vigorous screening, AIDS can also be transmitted through blood transfusions.
So anyone who engages in premarital sex or experiments with injected illegal drugs is at high risk for AIDS infection. True, a potential sexual partner may not look sick. But the booklet Voluntary HIV Counseling and Testing: Facts, Issues, and Answers reminds: “You cannot tell by looking at someone whether he or she has HIV infection. Someone can look and feel perfectly healthy and still be infected. For this reason, most people who have HIV infection do not know it.”
Many health workers and educators are therefore promoting the use of condoms.e TV ads, billboards, and school lectures have spread the message that the use of this contraceptive device makes sex “safe”—or at least “safer.” Some schools have even distributed condoms to students. Spurred on by such propaganda, youths in record numbers are using them.
Even so, just how safe is “safe sex”? A brochure by the American Red Cross says: “Condoms can improve your chances of avoiding infection.” But would you feel safe if you merely ‘improved your chances’ of avoiding a disease that always proves fatal? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control admits: “Latex condoms have been shown to help prevent HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases . . . But they are not foolproof.” Indeed, they can break, tear, or come off during intercourse. According to Time, condoms “can have a failure rate of between 10% and 15%”! Would you stake your life on such odds? And to make matters worse, less than half of the sexually active youths in the United States are using condoms.
The advice of Proverbs 22:3 is thus apropos: “Shrewd is the one that has seen the calamity and proceeds to conceal himself, but the inexperienced have passed along and must suffer the penalty.” One of the best ways to avoid getting AIDS is to abstain from drug abuse and immoral sex entirely. Easier said than done? Many feel that way, especially in view of the enormous pressures youths face.
During “the bloom of youth,” sexual desires run strong. (1 Corinthians 7:36) Add, now, the influence of television and movies. According to some studies, teenagers watch over five hours of TV every day—much of which is sexually graphic. But in the fairy-tale world of TV land, sex has no consequences. One study revealed that on U.S. television “unmarried heterosexual couples engage in sexual intercourse from four to eight times more frequently than married men and women. Contraceptives are almost never referred to or used, but women seldom get pregnant; men and women rarely contract sexually transmitted diseases unless they are prostitutes or homosexuals.”—Center for Population Options.
Can large doses of such programming really affect your behavior? Yes, according to the Bible principle at Galatians 6:7, 8: “Do not be misled: God is not one to be mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap; because he who is sowing with a view to his flesh will reap corruption from his flesh.” One study of 400 youths discovered that “those who watched a greater amount of ‘sexy’ television were more likely than light viewers to have become sexually active.”
Another powerful influence is peer pressure. “I was looking for a crowd to fit in with, and that’s hard,” confesses a teenager named David. “I put myself in a really unhealthy situation many times. . . . I was diagnosed with AIDS.” Likewise, youths in Bible times were often subjected to peer pressure. The Bible’s advice? “My son,” said the writer of Proverbs, “if sinners try to seduce you, do not consent.”—Proverbs 1:10.
Promoters of “safe sex” argue that abstinence is unrealistic. But in the long run, does it really help to condone immorality? One teenager admits that this only confuses youths, saying: “They tell us to just say no to sex and it’s okay to be wholesome and pure. At the same time, they hand out [condoms] and tell us how to get away with sex without having to pay the consequences.”
Don’t be a victim of such moral confusion. The Bible—old-fashioned though it may seem—urges you to avoid conduct that could put you at risk for AIDS infection. If you obey the Bible’s command to ‘abstain from blood,’ you won’t contract AIDS through a blood transfusion. (Acts 15:29) Heed the Bible’s prohibition against “druggery” and you needn’t fear infection by a contaminated hypodermic needle. (Galatians 5:20; Revelation 21:8; The Kingdom Interlinear) Especially will the Bible’s code of sexual morality protect you. “Flee from fornication,” the Bible commands. “Every other sin that a man may commit is outside his body, but he that practices fornication is sinning against his own body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18) The AIDS crisis underscores the wisdom of those words.
How can a youth “flee” from immorality? Over the years “Young People Ask . . .” articles have given a number of practical suggestions, such as dating in groups, avoiding compromising circumstances (such as being alone with one of the opposite sex in a room or an apartment or a parked car), setting limits as to expressions of affection, refraining from the use of alcohol (which often impedes good judgment), and firmly saying no if a situation gets romantically charged.f In any event do not let anyone pressure you into behavior that is not only risky physically but destructive spiritually. (Proverbs 5:9-14) “Do you want to put your life in that other person’s hands?” asked a young woman named Amy quoted in a Newsweek article. She contracted HIV from a boyfriend before graduating from high school. She pointedly asks: “Is that boy or girl worth dying for? I doubt it.”
a See the article “Young People Ask . . . AIDS—Am I at Risk?” appearing in the August 22, 1993, issue of Awake!
b Former surgeon general of the United States Dr. C. Everett Koop answered skeptics by saying: “The first cases of AIDS were reported in this country in 1981. We would know by now if AIDS were passed by casual, non-sexual contact.”
c This includes oral and anal intercourse.
d The U.S. Centers for Disease Control further cautions: “If you plan to have your ears pierced . . . , make sure you go to a qualified person who uses brand-new or sterile equipment. Don’t be shy about asking questions.”
e Explains the magazine FDA Consumer: “The condom is a sheath that covers the entire penis. It protects against STDs [sexually transmitted diseases] by acting as a barrier, or wall, to keep semen, blood, and vaginal fluids from passing from one person to another.”
f See, for example, the “Young People Ask . . .” articles in the April 22, 1986; April 22, 1989; and April 22, 1992, issues of Awake!
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Yielding to sexual pressure can lead to AIDS