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College Students & HIV/AIDS: "Not I"

I think it’s important to get various viewpoints on HIV/AIDS and the issues around it. One group that is being increasingly affected by it is college students. So I decided to ask someone who could best articulate why college students aren’t taking the threat of HIV/AIDS to heart. Here is her take on it.

College Students & HIV/AIDS: “Not I”

Written by Rolake Balogun, a college sophomore from Chicago, IL

College students are some of the most sexually active people on this planet. We’re placed in the perfect arena for sexual connections, with our raging hormones and parents no where to be found (meaning no curfews….YES!). Sexual healing is our theme song. We live it up, we have fun, we go crazy, we……catch STDs. I go to University of Illinois and sadly, genital herpes is quite rampant among the students, affecting about 32% of the student body, the majority being African American. It’s not only herpes, but Chlamydia (22%), Gonorrhea (35.7 %) , and other STI’s that aren’t too comfortable. If we put this into perspective, 32% of anything isn’t a small portion. Now imagine 32% of 41,000 people. Yeah. Not Cool. We discuss this problem on a daily basis amongst ourselves during class, parties, get-togethers, and random times when we all just happen to congregate. We have to be aware right? Who has what, who gave who what, who shows signs of this STI and that STI. We’re being pretty safe right?

Wrong. Though we discuss STD’s, there is an even more prominent disease out there we refuse to acknowledge. It’s comparable to “ He Who Must Not Be Named”, the Voldermort of our world. We gasp, choke, deny then flee( in that order) at any mention of it. What is so unspeakable that we have mental spasms at the mere mention of it: HIV/AIDS. Its unfathomable to us, we certainly could not have AIDS, there is no reason for us to right? Well, I’m sorry to burst your bubble of ignorance, but we are very wrong. This is a common misconception among most college students, and our gravest mistake: since we cannot fathom it, it does not cross our minds, leaving us vulnerable to it. So now we ask, why do college students proclaim “ NOT I!” when it comes to HIV/AIDs? My curiosity was piqued, so I did what I do best (other than sleep).

I asked a couple people around my campus why they would cringe at the thought of even having AIDS. Why would someone say they could never? Well one particular smartass said “ Because they don’t have it?” Though I thoroughly ignored him, most of the students said the same thing: “Only gay men get AIDS/HIV! I’m not gay!” or “I don’t do drugs yo. Only people who share needles get that shit”, and my favorite “I don’t mess with someone like that.” These are all myths that come up frequently in the discussion of HIV/AIDS. We group AIDS with certain type of people.

Why people believe that sexual orientation correlates with a disease is beyond me. Gay men contract AIDS through unprotected sex, which is considered more common among homosexuals, and because of their manner of sexual intercourse, where anal sex may produce more blood through the fragile rectum (if you’re squeamish….well life is hard. You will survive). However, that doesn’t rule out the horny experimental college kids. As a matter of fact, we are probably more likely to catch HIV/AIDS, with our continuous reckless behavior, horny virginal freshman, and unlimited alcohol. This also applies to those who share needles, it’s all just a simple transfer of blood. If you are infected with that blood of someone HIV+, well happy birthday to you, you now have a new gift in the form of a dangerous disease ::: throws confetti, pops champagne::: Well then we think, “Its all good..I would never mess with anyone with HIV”. Its extraordinary how we lose all common sense in the face of sex and alcohol, but after doing something incredibly stupid, we come up with reasons to justify it. There is a general assumption that those with HIV/AIDS look like the living dead, which is the most dangerous mentality of all. It isn’t until the very last stages of the disease do people begin to waste away and show extreme signs of illness, and at that point and time, I’m pretty sure sex is the last thing in their minds. Until that point in time, you cannot see the disease. Assuming someone with AIDS will look the part will get us into a whole shitload of trouble.

These myths have been prevalent in the mentality of not only college students, but the general population. Most people believe themselves to be immune to it, and see it as too far fetched simply because of those reasons. It isn’t until a close friend contracts HIV/AIDS, that people begin paying attention. These myths rule our mentality because we refuse to believe something so deadly could affect us. We’re too young, we’re too healthy, we have so much ahead of us. AIDS can’t touch us. However, college students are probably the most vulnerable to AIDS. With the unknown, unprotected, and unlimited sex partners, we have the highest chance of contracting one or the other. Protecting ourselves from it is just as easy as protecting ourselves from an STD. If we practice safe sex, limit the amount of sex partners, and become knowledgeable on the subject, then we will have the right and ability to say “ NOT I!” and mean it.

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