December 1, was World AIDS Day. This year's theme was “Getting to Zero”, which, in the words of one Caribbean blogger, meant striving “towards achieving 3 targets: Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths. In other words wrap it up, get tested, dismantle the AIDS related stigmas. Get the facts and act on them.”
Her regional peers soon weighed in with their own thoughts about and support for the ongoing battle against HIV and AIDS.
Jamaica's Girl With a Purpose took advantage of the occasion to make a plea for sexual abstinence among youth:
In Jamaica 32,000 people have AIDS but over half of these people don't know it. That's one in every 9 people. (Jamaica has a population of over 2.7 million people).
Although advancement in technology allows those persons living with HIV and full-blown AIDs to live longer, there is still stigma attached to having the virus.
I am appealing to our youth:
Your well-being is important to God.
He knows that sex outside of marriage destroys the human spirit.
Being naive about sex and safe sexual practices could kill you.
Sex isn't running away…Concentrate on developing the total you: your spirit, your mind, your well-being and your body.
AIDS is real and it is up to you to be responsible; use protection, get tested on a regular basis, and only indulge in those that are truly worthy of holding the rest of your life in the palm of their hands, don't be blind to a pretty face and nice smile.
People should begin to pay more attention to this epidemic on a daily basis — not just on this specific day. Highlighting an epidemic on one day followed by silence on the other 364 days is not good enough.
We must try to do a lot more in educating the worlds population about one of the most deadliest diseases out there because it is obvious that people are still being infected at an alarming rate. With little education about how to protect yourself or how to deal with the situation if you are infected, escalation of this problem is inevitable.
A day where we want to spread the awareness, not the disease. AIDS is the MOST destructive epidemic in recorded history. Not talking about it will not make it go away. The only thing that you can do is protect yourself.
Over in St. Lucia, meanwhile, Alien in the Caribbean wondered whether “true lovemaking and a fulfilling intimate sex life between couples is one of the answers to the AIDS epidemic”. The blogger went on to explain why she felt that when it came to sexual intimacy in the region, “the only thing on [people's] minds was vaginal penetration and nothing more”:
This lack of imagination saddened me, especially when there are hundreds of safe and loving things a couple, even a couple where one person might be HIV positive, can do to share intimacy and pleasure. And so, it led me to ask, ‘Could our lack of imagination when it comes to sex be one of the many reasons why AIDS is spreading so rapidly in this region?’
Maybe if we were focusing more on the quality of our sexual experiences instead of the quantity of times we “get a juk” (especially the men), it would be easier to implement safer sex into our sexual routines. The fact is safer sex goes hand in hand with good sex.
She further suggested that:
Good sex comes from a kind of intimacy that allows openness of communication, concern for each other’s pleasure and health, mutual exploration, sharing desires and fantasies and freedom to feel safe within a loving relationship. As a bonus, much of the infidelity that often results in the spread of AIDS would also decrease if both parties were deeply satisfied in their sex lives with each other.
In this day and age of the AIDS epidemic, one would expect our imagination to grow beyond just rudimentary coitus. We have stubbornly held on to their outdated hypocrisy and shame. We are not widely providing sex aids, sex counseling, couples counseling or open and honest education about sex and sexuality. Yet at the same time we continue to nourish the primal sexual drive in our music and culture.
It is no coincidence that the countries with the highest HIV contractions are those that still have deep seated conservative, repressed and hypocritically religious views on sex.
To all those lost to disease and hatred and to the hope for a better tomorrow.
Havana Times ended on a hopeful note:
Zero new HIV infections, zero incidents of discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths are the goals set by UNAIDS initiative.
Though this aim is almost impossible, experts point out that Cuba has developed a comprehensive prevention program that incorporates research activities, assessment, training and counseling to the public at large, according to a PL report.
Remarkable progress has been made on the island in the treatment of HIV/AIDS, which has contributed to improvements in the quality of life of patients, increased their survival rates and has decreased complications.