Category Archives: HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS Education in the Balance

Dear Readers:

There are currently two messages being directed at our youth in the current HIV/AIDS educational campaign. Today we shall place each of these messages in the balance.

There are certain actions that we know to be intrinsically wrong. We may not understand why, but when we do them, we feel guilt. This feeling of guilt is our conscience reacting to our wrong behaviour and it is an internal restraint against behaviour that may provide temporary pleasure, but that is not beneficial to the individual, their family or community.

If our conscience only reacted to the intent to pursue wrong behaviour, then there would be no need to teach our youth that irresponsible behaviour was wrong. However since the conscience tends to react during and after committing the offence, it is beneficial to warn our youth of the immediate and delayed consequences of such behaviour.

Some influential lobby groups view the conscience as an irritating instrument that restrains certain behaviour that they wish to promote as part of their agenda. They therefore encourage persons to engage in such behaviour that offends the conscience. While practising such behaviour repeatedly can lead to a suppression of the associated guilt, it can also lead to emotional damage.

Some nations have been influenced by such lobby groups to adopt irresponsible behavioural policies. Countries that adopt irresponsible lifestyles produce emotionally damaged individuals who are either left to fend for themselves, or are hidden behind very expensive supporting rehabilitative social services, which smaller economies may not have the capacity to institute.

The irony in this regard is that their successful rehabilitative initiatives are the ones that promote strict adherence to moral behaviour. However despite knowing this, such countries attempt to persuade smaller economies to adopt their behavioural policies. It is unwise to follow another nation’s behavioural policies simply because of their apparent economic status.

The current HIV/AIDS educational strategy is a classic case of directing two conflicting messages at our youth. The first is abstinence, which has been taught in Barbados for centuries. It means to wait to fully enjoy the indescribable and immeasurable heights of sexual pleasures with your wife or husband with no accompanying guilt. Such experiences are physically and emotionally beneficial and tend to result in healthier families and communities. This is an excellent promotional strategy that aids children’s emotional development, since it reinforces and confirms behaviour that supports their conscience.

The second message is “safe sex” and was recently imported to Barbados. It means essentially that when engaging in sex, especially with persons whom you do not know, then wearing a condom is responsible and safe sexual behaviour.

Our children are tempted to engage in sex from entertainment on the TV and movies, negative peer pressure at school and social events, and irresponsible adults. The “safe sex” message essentially redefines the temptation of fornication as a responsible option, with no moral component. It appeals to our adolescent’s newly awakened desire for sex, and supports succumbing to this temptation by minimizing the consequences.

Children can recognize where the emphasis is placed in such educational campaigns, and in this regard, it is placed on having sex, but doing it “safely”. Distributing condoms to teenagers reinforces the message that they can engage in sex provided that one party is wearing a condom. It is obvious that when presented with such a choice, that even children who were taught to live responsibly will find doing so very challenging.

Pre-teenagers need to know what is right and wrong, and teenagers need to know why certain behaviour is right and wrong. It is therefore imperative for our children, especially during adolescence, to receive clear moral direction. Marketing strategies like the “Your Condom or Mine” advertisement do not provide that moral direction.

Suffering in the Balance

Dear Readers:

Why do bad things happen to us? Why do we suffer? These questions if not addressed properly can lead the sufferer to despair and in extreme cases, suicide. Given the number of suicide attempts in Barbados, and the recent (2002) promotion of doctor assisted suicide, I thought that today we should examine suffering.

Some assume that suffering is a result of punishment for wrong doing, while others assert that it is fate or coincidence. But what initiates suffering? By observation, there appear to be three types of suffering and a description of each type may reveal the causes.

The first two types are associated with selfish desires. Selfish desires are natural, but they are not always beneficial. We have a natural desire for food, drink, music, sex, material goods and other pleasures. Knowing when to satisfy these desires is a mark of wisdom.

Temptations are opportunities for us to satisfy these desires either wisely or irresponsibly. If they are satisfied wisely, then complete pleasure can be experienced and the residual physical, mental and emotional benefits will enhance subsequent pleasurable events. If however these desires are satisfied irresponsibly, then there may be a brief experience of pleasure but with the accompanying guilt, followed by negative physical, mental and emotional consequences.

Irresponsible eating includes consuming unhealthy foods especially after the appetite has been satisfied. There may be momentary pleasure while the food is being ingested. However, the host of health related diseases resulting from unhealthy or over-eating should be incentive enough to eat wisely.

Irresponsible sexual behaviour includes sexual intercourse before marriage and being unfaithful to your spouse. There may be momentary pleasure during the act. However, the host of incurable sexually transmitted diseases, not to speak of AIDS, should be reason enough to be responsible in this regard.

Hence two types of suffering are revealed. The first type is experienced by those who resist the temptation to irresponsibly satisfy their natural desire for pleasure. This type is beneficial to personal development and builds character. The second type is experienced by those who must face the consequences of irresponsibly satisfying their desire for pleasure.

It should be noted that temptations are realised when curiosity is aroused, and curiosity is aroused when information on the subject is promoted. Therefore the strategy of promoting sex education in primary schools may not be beneficial. It is irresponsible for either parents or teachers to awaken sexual desires in primary school children, thereby prematurely forcing them to resist these desires. They are not physically, mentally nor emotionally developed enough to bear either the first or second type of suffering in this regard.

As explained in my Co-education column, children’s brains develop differently before the onset of puberty. They mainly learn by participating, and if their curiosity is aroused, they will tend to explore the described behaviour. The recent reports of 7 to 9 year olds engaging in sexual behaviour should inform us that children are having more difficulty in resisting this type of behaviour.

The third type of suffering occurs when persons are doing nothing wrong, but bad things happen. They include: the faithful wife who gets HIV/AIDS from her unfaithful husband, the careful pedestrian who is disabled by a drunk driver, the responsible parent who’s son embraces irresponsible behaviour, the productive employee who is severed, the healthy eater who gets cancer, and the innocent victims of rape, assault and robbery. These people experience a level of suffering that goes beyond that described thus far since there is no apparent cause. We must therefore seek an explanation beyond what we can simply observe.

If we believe Jesus, who said that everyone must be seasoned or prepared with fire to receive greater responsibilities following this life, then this becomes a source of hope for the third type of sufferers. However, those who undergo this type of suffering are highly vulnerable to despair and succumbing to irresponsible behaviour. Therefore those individuals and groups, who support and encourage these suffers to persevere and maintain a positive attitude, deserve our commendation.