Reports of dramatic decline in sexual risks among black youth is certainly news that brings cheer and deserves universal appreciation. The advances made by a community that has been disproportionately affected by the scourge of HIV/AIDS are certainly encouraging. The data covering 1991 to 2011 was presented by Dr Laura Kann, Ph.D., Chief, Surveillance and Evaluation Research Branch, Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at the XIX International AIDS Conference held on July 25, 2012, at Washington, D.C.
Announcement of this encouraging trend interestingly echoed the quintessential spirit of the conference theme Turning the tide together. President Obamas announcement of lifting the ban on entry of HIV positive people into United States had finally paved the way for the conference to be held in United States after a gap of 22 years.
The data presented by Dr. Kann certainly contained statistical delights of a decline in risky sexual behavior exhibited by black high school students. The data also indicated a decline in the percentage of black students who had multiple (four or more) sexual partners from 43% in 1991 to 25% in 2011, along with increased use of condoms from 46% in 1991 to 63% in 2011. These findings, viewed in the backdrop of the fact that African Americans experience the highest rate of new HIV infections among any racial group in the U.S., deserve a round of applause for the young people who while caught in the waves of passion still swam across to the shores safely by practicing safe sex and restricting the number of sexual partners.
The momentum has to be maintained at all costs. It is time to think of newer strategies to accelerate the progress made so far by African American youth. Should schools step up their efforts in imparting safe sex education? Will it be a correct strategy to introduce compulsory HIV testing among high school students? What are the costs and benefits of such measures? It is time to seize the moment! In the context of impressive strides made by black youth the following lines penned by Shakespeare in the classic Julius Caesar sound so relevant and inspiring:
There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.