HIV Rise Calls for Action

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Published: January 31, 2008

A quite common criticism of Ronald Reagan’s reign as United States President is that The Gipper did not publicly mention the word “AIDS” until 1987, six years after the disease broke out and became a nightmarish epidemic. Whether Reagan’s feigned ignorance was a political or personal move cannot be said with absolute certainty, but one thing is for sure: the U.S. government’s passivity resulted in a major lack in the kind of funding and research that could have saved hundreds, perhaps thousands, of lives.

As reported in this issue, the rate of HIV infections in New York City’s gay men under 30 increased by 57 percent from 2001 to 2006. And what is most shocking is that the same kind of dangerous silence that Reagan chose to practice is being mimicked here at Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC).

It is no secret that FCLC is home to many young, gay males, yet this is a fact that sees little acknowledgement from the administration. It has been well-documented in this publication and elsewhere that our Jesuit university’s stubbornness regarding the unavailability of contraceptives at the school’s health center is one of the average FCLC student’s biggest quality-of-life complaints. The statistics reported in this issue only strengthen the argument that Fordham’s policy on the issue must change with the needs and lifestyles of its student body. With the combined knowledge of FCLC’s sexual makeup, of the troubling statistics mentioned in the article and of the fact that anal sex is especially risky due to the thin lining of the rectum, the administration’s decision to place religious views over the public safety of its students seems increasingly irresponsible.

Of course, responsibility must also fall on the shoulders of individuals. While we would never realistically expect students to maintain total abstinence, we urge every reader to eliminate as much risk from his or her personal life as possible. While this can help be achieved by utilizing the practices we’ve learned since we were in grade school—safe sex and the avoidance of intravenous drugs included—the key to reducing risk may very well lie in open communication.

It must be a duty for each of us to be honest with our sexual partners about our pasts and our health. Only with complete disclosure and full communication can we, as young New Yorkers, reverse the alarming trend that has sprung up in our demographics. Communication must also increase within the Fordham community. For a school so filled with students who are part of the at-risk demographic, it is alarming how little public discussion about the disease occurs on campus.

So then, initiative must be taken on all levels. As students, we must act openly and responsibly and be pro-active in beginning the kind of dialogue that the school has yet to provide on a regular basis. As a supposedly caring institution, Fordham must abandon its stubborn ways and react to the dangers faced by its students. And as the ones who have the power of money and a public platform, both local and national politicians must recognize the crisis that is New York City’s HIV situation, making sure to not let the fact that the rates are highest among Blacks and Latino males act as an unfortunate political deterrent.

Only with this kind of responsibility on all levels can we rest assured that the city’s HIV crisis will be contained and, eventually, corrected. We must believe that this increased dialogue, unlike Reagan’s 41,000-deaths-later acknowledgement, will not come too late to make a difference.