Put condoms out of sight to battle AIDS?

By Joelle McGinnis

The world and its inhabitants never cease to amaze me.

Now this fact is not necessarily a bad thing, because it is part of the spice that keeps life flavorful. But sometimes, no matter how hard you try, there is just no getting through to people.

Life can be kind of funny with all the twists and quirks that pop up as we continue along from day to day, and it is interesting how so many incidents interrelate with each other. The latest in interrelated ideas, facts and conversations began over the weekend as I was reading through the paper. Having more leisure time than usual, I wandered through an often unexplored section with feature, self-help and advice columns. One letter to an advice columnist—it evades my memory whether Ann or Abby though—caught my eye in particular.

The author of the letter was distressed over her brother’s recent death resulting from AIDS, an understandable situation. But from that point on it became difficult to take the letter, not the intent, seriously.

The author proceded to explain that additional anguish had been placed on her family because of the media and the publication of the obituary—not because it had contained the cause of death but instead because AIDS was printed A-I-D-S and not a-i-d-s. After all, cancer is not printed as CANCER; why then should AIDS be printed as AIDS, she demanded to know.

The columnist did not respond. Instead, an explanation was printed, defining AIDS as an acronym for acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

I have to wonder, though, if the point was finally understood. If only for the simple fact that people often become so intent on trying to express their point of view or displeasure that they stop listening.

Life continued playing its twisted game, interrelating incidents the very next morning. I took a phone call from a reader who was upset and intent on voicing his opinion that a story about condom vending machines was tasteless and had no place on the front page of The Northern Star.

As our conversation of sorts continued, it became evident that the distaste was not so much for the location of the story in the paper or even for the story itself. Instead, the gentleman was adamant in expressing his objections with “such a public means of dispensing condoms.”

In an attempt to appeal to his sense of rationality, I explained that one intent of the “public” method was not promotion of rampant sex, but instead prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS. The intent was to provide students with education outside as well as inside the classroom.

But I’m afraid my attempts were in vain, for the man apparently operates on the out of sight, out of mind principle. Scary thought.

Unfortunately, the problem of AIDS is not as easily ended as that. If it were, the National Center for Disease Control would not be able to tell us that AIDS has struck more than 82,000 people in this country since 1979 and killed more than 46,000 people.

Putting condom vending machines in bathrooms around campus is just a start to begin combating such startling statistics. It would be nice to think that such attempts will be taken seriously and people will begin to educate as well as protect themselves. The topic of AIDS is still difficult for many people to deal with openly, but ignoring the problem, or even worse, making light of the subject, won’t help matters.

The idea of selling condoms like cans of Coke can be rather humorous, and I’m sure a creative student could think of a million funny things to do with condoms—other than the purpose they are created for.

Hopefully, it is because students are learning and not because the condoms are fun for jokes that the health center has changed the sign on the free condom bowl from “Please take only what you need” to “Please take no more than four at a time.”