Guest Column: World AIDS Day is Friday |

Guest Column: World AIDS Day is Friday

River Coyote, Nevada County Health Education Specialist

Along with the Tahoe-Truckee area, 191 countries around the world will be observing International World AIDS Day this Friday, Dec. 1.

This year’s theme, “All Men Make a Difference,” specifically focuses on the roles that men can play in halting this epidemic through awareness and prevention. The importance of men’s roles as fathers, religious and political leaders and providers of care and support in the family and community are keys to stopping the spread of HIV infection worldwide.

The focus on men this year was adopted because men represent the majority of people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. It is no coincidence that in the U.S. and in many cultures, traditional expectations that help shape the conduct of men can also affect men and women negatively. Cultural messages that say men should prove they are physically and emotionally strong, dominant, daring and virile can also encourage men to take risks that endanger both themselves and their sexual partners.

These tendencies result in the fact that, according to the American Association for World Health, worldwide young men die more often than young women from accidents, violence, sexually transmitted diseases and drug use.

Knowing this, what are some ways we can send better messages to young men, change social norms and reverse these harmful trends?

We know that being positive adult role models can change the way boys and men view risk taking, sexuality, violence and “manhood.” As individuals and as parents, mentors, teachers and community leaders we can:

— Encourage men and boys to seek help, acknowledge problems and express emotions.

— Encourage men and boys to support one another, as well as accepting greater responsibilities for being providers of care and support for their families.

— Encouraging men and boys to address their sexuality honestly and responsibly with themselves and their partners.

— Discourage men and boys from viewing and treating women as sexual objects to possess, conquer or exercise authority over.

— Decrease unequal gender relations worldwide by empowering women, economically and socially.

If we make these changes in ourselves and our attitudes, we can promote change in social norms for men, boys and women.

HIV Community Action Network and Nevada and Placer County Community Health Departments will be handing out red ribbons to wear on Dec. 1 to honor the 47 million people worldwide who have been infected with HIV since the beginning of the epidemic and the 15 million who have died of AIDS. At the same time local faith communities are being encouraged to observe this day through prayer, candlelight ceremonies, sermons, and/or newsletters and bulletins.

On Dec 1, the world invites us to join together to remember, acknowledge and communicate in the hopes of stemming the tide on new HIV and AIDS infections.

This year’s theme is “All Men Make a Difference.” We are asking that you think about how you can personally make a difference.

For more information or for FREE HIV testing and counseling, and/or low cost STD testing and treatment contact: Truckee, Nevada County Community Health, 550-2309; Kings Beach, Placer County Public Health, 546-7261

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