Sex education is working, and that's exactly what is needed around the world to stop the AIDS epidemic.
That's the opinion of Robert Fai (www.bobdanierla.com), an expert who has seen the ravages of AIDS in Africa and around the world, and is encouraged by a new study that shows how increased awareness can result in better personal responsibility. The Indiana University survey of more than 5,000 people -- more than 800 of them under 18 -- discovered that nearly 80 percent of all teens use condoms when they have sex, compared to their adult counterparts aged 25 and up who use condoms fewer than 20 percent of the time.
"As startling as those statistics may be for Americans, it sends a strong message to the global community trying to fight AIDS," said Fai, author of the novel Habiba, My Habiba (written under the pseudo Bob Danierla); a fictional account of life and romance in the AIDS ravaged countries in Africa. "In the U.S., many public entities are driving the message home to teenagers to use condoms regularly, and the outreach is working. In other parts of the world, like Africa, the lack of sex education and the overriding culture have prevented that message from penetrating."
According to the Health Protection Agency, the two groups most affected by HIV include gay and bisexual men and black African heterosexuals. Three-quarters of people diagnosed were among these two groups. Fai believes that education, plus a greater emphasis on family, are the two best weapons in the global fight against the disease.
"Millions of people all over the world are still about to die from this disease, either because of ignorance, poverty or both," Fai said. "Sheer human recklessness, greed, poverty and irresponsibility are taking away lives. I have heard people declare they cannot be affected only to see them die soon afterwards. While all doors must be kept open to unveil the obscene human behavior that is facilitating this societal misfortune, individuals must first and foremost examine themselves as the first step in this direction. This is where the family, as a social unit, becomes an invaluable asset in the worldwide fight against HIV and AIDS."
That's why Fai, who has a Master's Degree in public policy and works for a not-for-profit advocacy group in Virginia, chose to use a novel instead of a non-fiction approach to educate people because he felt the message might sink in better if he told a story instead of reciting statistics.
"Sometimes messages resonate with people when they are told anecdotally instead of empirically," Fai added. "We've all seen the stats, and while that approach may work in much of the industrialized world, I think in other areas of the globe, it's less a matter of data than it is a matter of culture. In some cultures around the world, it's difficult to penetrate through a belief system with a message that flies in the face of that belief system. AIDS hits these countries hard, because many are unwilling to change their beliefs, even in the face of the data. That's why a story might be more effective, and as we continue to lose the fight against AIDS in the developing world, I think we need to use every weapon we have in order to change minds, and yes, maybe even cultures."