I’m dying to have sex, she said to me. I just finished my weekly class on AIDS and addiction at a local treatment facility. It was 11:00 in the morning and outside it was raining sideways. As we stood in the concrete hallway with little light, she disclosed that she had been in rehab for 5 months and was craving physical contact.
Over the course of two decades, part of my position as a crisis counselor was to provide prevention and education about HIV/AIDS. And during my 20 years working with the HIV community, I can only count a handful of clients that did not have an addiction diagnosis along side of the HIV. And since both have an effect on the immune system, my job was to get the word out.
So I responded to her “You may be dying to have sex. But, you don’t want to die because you have sex.” This is something that we saw all too often. Many of my clients were referred to me via the local Health Department. The numbers continued to climb for those living with addiction and HIV/AIDS. When we are under the influence of drugs and alcohol, the tendency to engage in “high risk” behaviors increases. And while we have come a long way since the 80’s in terms of treatment options, we still need to be mindful of our sexual practices.
I recall one evening many years ago, I awoke to a call in the middle of the night. A coworker of mine in a non related field, said he just met a woman and she disclosed that she has an STD. He wanted to know if it was okay to engage in sex with her? Without going into specifics, I told him if he had to ask, he may want to use protection.
I get it. Sex can be a powerful force. And in a day in age where so much is available to us instantly due to the internet, temptation can overwhelming for some. So I go back to “You maybe dying to have sex. But, you don’t want to die because you have sex.”
I am not a big fan of motivation by fear. But the fact still remains that fear often will get our attention. All we need to do is look to politics or religion to see just how successful fear can be. And as I get older, my style of teaching remains facts over fear. Why? I think if we can get people to be curious and not fearful, the will make well informed decisions.
Back to the young lady in the hallway. I gave her the facts, and we talked about the fear. Addicts who are HIV positive see significant disease progression. And being in active addiction takes away treatment options. I told her that it is understandable to crave intimacy. But at 5 months clean, her focus should be on her recovery. There is a responsibility that comes with sex. Not only for you, but the person or persons you engage with.
Sex should be safe, consensual and free from manipulation. If it is, by all means let your freak flag fly. But if it’s not safe, consensual or free of manipulation, there could be and in many cases there are long-term issues. From health, emotional to sometimes even legal problems. A sexual experience can carry a lifetime consequence with it.
In the 20 years that I worked in the HIV community, I saw far too many people die because of “high risk” sexual behavior. That is just fact. Today however, that should not be happening. Education is the answer. And with the internet, you are always one Google search away from the answer. Facts over fear.
There is nothing wrong if you’re dying to have sex. Just be sure that it is safe, consensual and free from manipulation. Because no one should have to die because they have had sex.