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The Best Tool in Your Tool Box
By By Tony R. Wafford
Published June 9, 2016

 

OP - tony wafford

I don’t know about you guys but I always wonder, whenever I hear new buzz words being used; where did they come from and who coined the phrase and for what purpose? My mind goes to; what are they trying to sell me and it always feels like a bait and switch? You see, I believe that words are very important, they speak to the urgency of a situation or they can anesthetize you to what’s really going on. Now that we live in this so-called politically correct society, words don’t always speak to the critical needs of our time, that is until the dominant society feels the need to chastise the oppressed…hello Trump; but I digress.

In my world of HIV/AIDS, buzz words rule. Words like ‘Treatment as Prevention, Biomedical Sciences, Truvada or as it’s best known Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)’ and the newest buzz words are, ‘just another tool in the tool box to fight HIV/AIDS’. Before all you, “Got ‘cha” readers start whining, please don’t. I know that there are many other buzz words like homophobia, stigma and the list goes on. In this conversation, I’m only talking about treatment as prevention, biomedical sciences, Truvada (PrEP) and just another tool in the tool box, okay.

When using buzz words like treatment as prevention, the goal is to change or broaden the thinking and strategies of public health workers and prevention advocates to put a greater emphasis on the role of HIV treatment as a method of HIV prevention; so who can argue with that? I believe that every person who test positive for HIV should be in treatment and care which makes for both a healthier individual as well as a healthy community. Another buzz word is, biomedical science which simply put, is a set of applied sciences applying portions of natural science or formal science, or both, to develop knowledge, interventions, or technology of use in healthcare or public health. Okay here are the hottest new buzz words in HIV today; Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis or PrEP and ‘just another tool in the tool box’. These buzz words, PrEP and just another tool, are almost always used synonymously in most HIV conversations. The only thing is that when we talk about PrEP, we seem to always forget the other words that make PrEP, Treatment as Prevention and Biomedical Sciences most effective; and that is condom use and principled behavior!

For the past six months, I Choose Life Health and Wellness Center has been working with the young people at John Hope Continuation High School in South Central Los Angeles promoting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) “Doing It” campaign. The campaign is a new national HIV testing and prevention campaign designed to motivate adults and young people to get tested for HIV and to know their HIV status. For me, I must admit that the greatest component to the Doing It campaign is education as prevention. As we go into schools and communities all over the country, we teach adults and young people that they do not have to become HIV positive because HIV is 100% avoidable; and let’s not think and act irresponsible because of all the wonderful advances in science.

During our work with the students at John Hope Continuation High School, we teach them about HIV/AIDS and STDs, sexual identity and the many ways HIV and other STDs are transmitted. We deal with issues of treatment as prevention, biomedical sciences and Truvada, best known as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). One of the richest conversations we had with the students was when I introduced my buzz words, Personal and Collective Responsibility. As much as we all celebrate all the advances in medical science, it’s only when we begin to exercise personal and collective responsibility will we turn the tide on the HIV/STD crisis in America. Think I’m wrong? Did you know that Americans account for only 7% of the world’s population, yet we consume 75% of the prescription drugs in the world? There are no short cuts to health and building a healthy community.

So you see, when we talk with underserved communities you must always stress personal and collective responsibility. Most, if not all of these young people that attend John Hope Continuation High School live on the lowest rung on the socioeconomic ladder. These young people like many of those on the lower socioeconomic scale don’t have discretionary income for things like PrEP, hell many of them don’t have the transportation to go and get free condoms. So the tools we gave them for their tool box was first personal as well as collective responsibility and condoms. I can’t begin to tell you how much I loved the way those young people responded to the challenge to be their best selves when faced with sexual decisions. We also addressed the importance of always having a back-up plan (condoms) if they didn’t have the mental or moral maturity to be personally responsible.

Dr. Maulana Karenga said it best in the principle of Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) calling for the active engagement of African people in liberating themselves and building the good world and community we all want and struggle to live in. I’m Doing It, how about you?

Categories: Op-Ed | Opinion
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