09 February, 2010

Don't need no AIDucation

Being aware and being wise are two very different things. Wisdom essentially is a quality that comes from values, and values to a large extent stem from our mindset. Time will give you the kind of experience one needs to become wise, but it’s up to you to learn the lessons.

This is especially applicable to the ever-growing problem of AIDS and ways of tackling it. For a long time now, AIDS awareness programs have been considered as one of the most steadfast solutions emphasizing on the core message of ‘indulging in safe-sex’. This solution might be feasible in a western country where the culture is different to the extent that a condom might find home in a cabinet or the pocket of a youth at all times. In a place like India, sex is not pre-planned or expected at all times. It’s that ‘moment- of truth’ that catches you unaware, and without a condom. One wouldn’t want to spoil it due to the absence of it. And so they risk it.

Agreed that there still are many villages in India who consider AIDS as a form of punishment from God, ones for whom the awareness programs were specifically designed, but they constitute a fraction of many. For those who know about the cause of it, factors like timidity and accessibility keep them away from purchasing a condom. Even in a place like Lokhandwala, a developed suburb in Mumbai, one would have to travel more than a kilometer at night to find an open chemist shop.

Maharashtra accounts for the highest number of sex workers or the so-called ‘high-risk groups’ of AIDS in India, majority of who by now know are aware about the necessity of using a condom. But all it takes is shelling out a little more from the pocket of probably an educated someone, and convince them to do it without one. Once again ‘awareness’ fails to make them realize that a fleeting moment of extra pleasure might be costlier in the long run.

One very powerful indicator of the fact that AIDS prevention doesn’t entirely depend on education or its awareness, is that Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra account for the top 2 AIDS affected states in the country, though their literacy level is much above average. On the other hand U.P., Rajasthan or M.P. are states with almost equivalent population, lesser literacy rate, but not as high AIDS affected as against these two.

The point is, AIDS prevention is not only about its awareness anymore. Enough has been said and done. Testing yourself for the lessons learn't with time, boils down to that one tiny moment of extreme pleasure- and risking it would mean pointing and laughing at all those years of education.

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