International AIDS day

Today is International AIDS Day. AIDS has done a lot for abstinence. Not since the Victorian era has there been as much public discussion of abstinence.

Just what is abstinence?

Seriously! Everyone but Madonna seems to be encouraging abstinence. “Abstinence is the only 100 percent safe behavior,” or “Use of a condom unless you are abstinent.” Yet everyone seems to have a different definition of what constitutes abstinence. Webster’s definition: “n: voluntary refraining, especially from eating certain foods or drinking liquor.”

Noah Webster is not a nineties sort of guy, at least where sex and health are the concern. His definition leaves far too much room for “risk behaviors”.

Voluntary refraining from what? Showering together? Drinking while showering together? Eating meat during Lent AND drinking beer while showering together? French kissing? Oral sex? Anal sex? MTV?

When uncertain about what students think, talk to them. We asked NIU students in five different undergrad classes to anonymously indicate “abstinent” or “not abstinent” from a list of behaviors.

There was no unanimous agreement on any item.2% rated “anal intercourse” = abstinent.

20% rated “oral-anal contact” = abstinent.

35% rated “oral contact with another person’s genitals” = abstinent.

61% rated “bathing or showering together” = abstinent.

This confusion is not limited to students. Health educators, assorted parents, and three members of the clergy, when asked, did not make matters any clearer.

Health experts agree (with the exception of showering together) that these are STD-risk behaviors. Anal intercourse is a high-risk behavior for HIV and Hepatitis B infections. The risk is reduced by a factor of 10 when a condom is used. If they do not use a condom because of their definition of “abstinence”…?

This is important stuff! Carry this message to others on campus: The only abstinence that offers complete protection from HIV is abstinence where there is no contact between my blood and another person’s blood, semen, vaginal fluids, or breast milk.

If you or your friends have comments or questions about abstinence, HIV, condoms, STD, etc. call us at 753-9745 or drop us a note at Health Enhancement, HS 411 in campus mail.