by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 05 September 2007)
It now seems a country’s wealth may somehow correlate with the amount of common sense people in that country use when it comes to sex. In fact, according to this month’s issue of Foreign Policy, those who live in some of the wealthiest countries have the most unprotected sex and the most sexual partners.
How ironic that the developed countries pour money into programs to help developing countries stave off sexually transmitted diseases (STD) while their own people seemed to have missed the public service announcement on practicing safe sex.
The result, according to the Foreign Policy article, is 340 million new cases of STDs each year – not including HIV. Obviously there is a factor beyond education that needs to be addressed on this issue. The apparent question at hand is why would someone who has been educated on the importance of safe sex knowingly engage in risky behaviour.
Other than sheer masochism, one cannot help but test the theory that money gives certain people a false sense of security when it comes to sex. Perhaps those who engage in risky behaviour feel as though modern medicine can cure any ailment (a false assumption) or can at the very least control the outbreak of STDs (also not true).
Modern medicine cannot prevent the spread of STDs either. There is no amount of medication on the market that does the job of one condom at preventing the spread of STDs and HIV. I have read news articles concerning the cost of condoms for some in the poorer nations and how difficult it is for poverty stricken persons to practice safe sex.
Yet we are talking about people who can afford to buy a condom and still practice risky sexual behaviour. Numerous reasons abound – some prefer the sexual experience without the imposition of a condom, some get caught in an unexpected moment without a condom and others just throw caution to the wind and act on impulse instead of common sense.
However, the ever-increasing number of STDs proves that simply pretending as if there were no risk factors involved with every act of unprotected sex is unrealistic. Surprisingly, the Foreign Policy article did not include age brackets for comparison and for that omission the report flawed in my opinion.
However, I wish to touch on this subject because there is a tendency to assign risky behaviour solely to the inexperience of youth. There are two factors to which we must give our attention in this regard. The first factor is that while we may want to blame teens for soaring STD rates, the pace at which the youth of today mature seems to be dramatically slowing.
It is almost as if the 20s is the new teenager, which means the risky behaviour that often includes drugs, alcohol and unprotected sex lasts much longer than just a few short teenage years. Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and Lindsey Lohan, all of whom are in their 20s, are examples of a prolonged teen experience complete with risky behaviour.
The second factor to which we must give consideration is that risky behaviour does not seem to halt even after the 20s either. There are actually quite a few adults who engage in high-risk sexual activity. Regardless of the expectations that by the time a person reaches the 30s or 40s (or even the 50s and 60s) we can expect adults to practice safe sex – there are still some who do not.
There is simply no excuse for any adult to trade his or her health for a sexual encounter – no matter how good the sex. Just picture a businessman who spends his days working diligently to secure his financial future and at night behaves like a teenager by choosing to engage in risky activities.
Or picture a healthy woman of 40 who works out daily to maintain a strong body but meets a guy and has unprotected sex. These examples are far more common than they should be. How is it possible for adults who strive so hard to shape a promising future to behave in such an irresponsible manner? Again, this is the question at hand.
Perhaps it is an incorrect assessment of the capabilities of modern medicine that causes people to behave so foolishly, or maybe it is a false sense of security concerning ones own health or a desire to cast caution to the wind and live in the moment regardless of the consequences.
Whatever the reason, it is clear that developing countries are the ones setting the standard for safe sex now. I know what I would do if I were President – I’d have condom stations throughout the country to pass out free condoms to all. Hey, it’s better to be safe than sorry.