December 17, 2007

Taking a Stand Against AIDS

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

Roughly 2,500 Milwaukeeans live with AIDS each and every day.  That works out to about 4.5 people out of every 100,000 in our community.  If you are like me, this number seems shocking. However the reality is that these numbers only speak to REPORTED cases. If all known cases were known, this number could skyrocket! 

AIDS IS a problem in Milwaukee.  Amongst neighbors and friends, we may not be talking about it much.  In our families and close circles, some of us know all too well about the devastating effects of this disease. We also know that, currently, there is no cure for AIDS. We must acknowledge that education and better choices is the only way to prevent its spread.

December is National AIDS Awareness Month and is an appropriate time, as we reflect on the importance of family and priorities for the new year, to earnestly deal with this issue as a community.  Regardless of our religious, political, or individual beliefs, there must be a consensus that we must better inform, prepare, and respond to the issue of AIDS in Milwaukee.

Educating our children is job one.  Children, who understand the risks inherent in sexual activity, as well as the various means of reducing those risks, are less likely to expose themselves to the ravages of sexually transmitted diseases, like AIDS.  More than ever, it behooves us to promote scholastic programming detailing the variety of preventive measures available to our young people as they seek to protect themselves from AIDS.

Contrary to some assertions, abstinence-only education isn’t necessarily the right way to teach our kids when it comes to this disease.  Although there’s a lot to be said on behalf of abstinence as a preventative measure, it’s not the cure all that some people make it out to be.  Right or wrong, there will be some children who engage in premature sexual activity.  In response, it’s best for all of us if they are equipped with the knowledge and understanding needed to be responsible and, most of all safe.

Abstinence-only education withholds potentially lifesaving information, teaching one method of prevention to the exclusion of all others.  It leaves our children uninformed and unprepared to completely protect themselves.  We have an obligation to arm our community, especially our young, with resources to prevent the contraction of AIDS.

To that end, I am introducing legislation requiring school districts that teach abstinence-only sexual education programs to inform parents that their children are not being given all that they need to shield them from diseases like AIDS.  I am hopeful that this legislation will encourage parents to take a more active role in the sexual education of their children, fostering a more comprehensive dialogue in our schools when it comes to prevention.

While we work toward a cure, the spread of AIDS can be stopped.