With all of the election hoopla in the news and talk about "Obama's America" and "Romney's America" and the types of worlds these men would like to live in if THEY were in charge, I started to think of what my fantasy world would be. Knowing I couldn't create a whole world, I asked myself what one change I could make in this world to make it a better world to live in. No surprise, I'd make sex safer.
Many moms and dads around my age may smile when they remember reading their kids Judith Viorst and Lynne Cherry's If I Were in Charge of the World and Other Worries: Poems for Children and Their Parents. Most of us have some belief of how the world would be a better place if only we were in charge. Certainly, I do.
Several years ago, a religious right-wing radio station interviewed me about the alarming rise in STDs and AIDS diagnoses in America's nursing home senior residents. I give the interviewer credit for daring to bring up the subject, but, somehow I don't think she was too pleased with my answer. I remembered the wonderful children's book and started by explaining (perhaps somewhat grandiosely) that if I were in charge of the nursing home world (and even those younger), I would have condoms available in every home and "Do Not Disturb" signs available for every room.
It makes no sense that we give our college age kids more freedom than our world wise parents and grandparents. We live longer than ever before, why not live healthily and well? Those over the age of 50 in nursing homes or out and about remain the fastest rising ratio and at risk of these diseases. Studies show that good sex keeps the body running and humming and is good for your physical and mental well being. As I recall, the interviewer was shocked at my response and to this day I'm still not sure the interview was ever aired publicly.
Now, hope is in the air. We are moving towards a more humane and realistic view of senior sexuality. No fuss, no muss, and all alone with a simple mouth swab you find out, to an over 90% certainty, if you are HIV positive or negative. With recent FDA approval of tests for HIV in the privacy of your own home, simply go online, to your local pharmacy or grocery store, and by this fall we have moved one step closer to taking charge of our own sexual health.
Dating or in a relationship? Your partner or partners can do the same. This does not mean becoming condom free, but it does point the way to a clean start. Lack of education and shame are the biggest barriers to helping those over 50 stay sexually healthy. And, we all know kids of all ages don't have that necessary "talk" with their parents or grandparents. Even grown adults revert to mindlessness over matter of fact. We envision our family seniors as virginal as we thought of them when we were kids.
About 20 percent of the 1.2 million infected Americans do not know they have the disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates, and about 50,000 more get infected each year. Just think; if we know we are disease free and can learn to ask our partners to check too, we can be in charge of ourselves, remain sexual forever, and we can really change the world.