The Coastal Post - June, 1996

Addiction And HIV Could Be Devastating For Young

BY PAKI S. WRIGHT

These days, almost anyone who is single, sexually active and uses almost any sort of intoxicant is on the proverbial fast-track—straight towards HIV and AIDS.

Since most of us Americans are addicted to something—be it caffeine, sugar (these perennially favored "drug-foods" have no nutritional value whatsoever and are in fact sought out for their mood-altering properties), nicotine, alcohol and/or a whole host of other drugs—it pays to look closely at our collective and individual addictive behavior, since it now threatens to shorten the lives of our children by lowering inhibitions, encouraging unsafe sex, and thus exposing them to the human immune deficiency virus which leads to AIDS.

Firstly, as a digression, I have to take great issue with the phrase 'safe sex." I don't believe there really is such a thing anymore, unless it's with someone you've been sleeping with for 10 or more years who is strictly, rigorously monogamous. The current ad campaigns about "just use condoms" are practically a cruel joke. The levels of denial, ignorance, and misinformation among most people—many of whom consider themselves ultra-cool—is nothing short of nightmarish. This is why the HIV is going to take so many casualties in the coming decades, even if they find a cure tomorrow. The government's abysmal failure to control the influx of cheap and highly-addicting drugs is just one factor among many that is setting this country up for levels of tragedy that I'm afraid will make the Vietnam war look like a picnic.

Back to addiction. HIV professionals and counselors well know the connection between substance abuse and the spread of AIDS. One example. Among college-age heterosexual young people, speed, or methamphetamine, is now one of the main drugs of choice. It's very inexpensive, its "high" lasts a relatively long time, and it's so powerful in its present-day form that after two tries, most people are hooked even if they have no genetic predisposition to addiction. This age group, especially women in their early 20s, is the fastest-growing group of people coming down with HIV.

The obstacles that parents of young children are up against today are staggering. We have a culture so addicted to consumption that it is now turning on itself; many of our societal child-rearing norms actually set children up to become addicts—and now HIV is waiting in the wings for all those who are not awake, aware, and vigilant.

I urge any and all concerned adults to inform and educate themselves NOW. One place to start is with a very helpful book called Parenting for Prevention: How to Raise a Child To Say No to Alcohol and Other Drugs," by David J. Wilmes. Published by the Johnson Institute in Minneapolis, the book is available for free if you order it through the Miller Family Foundation, P.O. Box 831463, Stone Mountain, GA 30083. (If you have the $12.50 to spare, order it from the Johnson Institute at 1-800-231-5165.)

Children are having sex and experimenting with drugs and alcohol earlier and earlier; a nationwide survey points out that kids in the 4th and 5th grades now have to make decisions about these issues, usually totally unprepared. HIV is showing up in younger and younger children. The trend is clear: AIDS is stalking our young. Don't let it get yours.

If you or anyone you know has questions about HIV/AIDS that you don't feel comfortable asking "in public," you may write anonymously to the Coastal Post, P.O. Box 31, Bolinas 94924. (Mark the envelop "HIV.") Answers will be published in the next monthly edition of the paper.