As a member of the ELCA’s HIV/AIDS strategy team, I have become familiar with a lot of life-saving information. I encourage every member of the ELCA to read this report.
As a Lutheran church lady over 50 and a staff person for the women’s organization, I gravitated to the parts of the report that address women (and girls).
Here’s something alarming: “In the United States in 2006, individuals age 50 and older accounted for 10 percent of new cases of HIV among men and 11 percent of new cases of HIV among women. Furthermore, individuals 50 and old are one-sixth as likely to use a condom as compared to their younger 20-something peers.”
I think I understand this mindset. My generation, and older, learned that condoms are for birth control, and since most women 50 or older are not childbearing, we can tend to think there is no reason to use one. Also, most of us that return to dating due to life changes never did learn how to bring up the use of condoms and certainly see no reason to learn how to do that now.
I think far too many of us still see HIV/AIDS as about gays, too. This simply is not the case. The truth is that this deadly virus does not review our sexual resume prior to infection. Exposure to the HIV virus happens to heterosexuals, and heterosexuals are as susceptible to infection upon exposure as are the “usual suspects”: homosexuals, sex workers, or intravenous drug users.
The assumption of monogamy among women of my generation might be another piece. The very idea that a woman of my age would talk to a new, potential sexual partner about getting tested or using a condom is akin to a woman of my age seeking to be a surrogate mother–sure, it happens, but not often!
Thankfully, the ELCA’s HIV/AIDS Strategy promises to provide “appropriate prevention messages” to the 50 and older crowd–which is a huge part of the ELCA! I pray that God will bless the ELCA in the implementation of this strategy. Please pray with me!
Inez Torres Davis is director for justice, Women of the ELCA.