We hand out rubbers here at the Main Street Museum because "I have known honor students who were HIV positive. It’s a virus. It doesn't care about your GPA or your resume."
A little while ago, we rented out the museum here for a private party. Always fun. An enthusiastic couple of parents hosted a party here for a graduation party. It’s a lot of work to set up a party, and there was the requisite amount of parental, OCD hovering, but that’s to be expected. Parents hover nowadays. Helicopter-parenting. I wasn't too troubled by this, after all, worse things can happen to a lucky kid than to have their lives micro-managed by a well-intentioned elder.
However, I was blindsided when the mother demanded a conference with me and told me flat out, that the free condoms that we always put out, for free, in a discrete bowl in the bathroom, along public health pamphlets, Had To Go!
I was speechless. Rare for me. I finally managed to stammer something to the effect of, that demystifying condoms, testing for STDs and public sexual health in general, were all very important personal issues for me. All the materials are donations from our neighbors at the HIV/HCV Resource Center in Lebanon and the Good Neighbor Health Clinic.
The mother in question, now yelling, then told me that the kids in question were honor students. They were therefor—in her mind at least—not going to get HIV. Ever!
The logic, or lack of it, behind her convictions need not be discussed. But it did motivate me. You see I had always thought that our public health outreach wasn’t terribly needed. That condoms weren't controversial anymore. Now I know that that bowl of little rubber thingies has to be at every single event we host, in plain sight, so that all of us get used to seeing them, and—if we need—to use them!
You see, I have known honor students who were HIV positive. I’ve known Eagle Scouts who were positive. It’s a virus. It doesn't care about your GPA or your resume.
The parents in question told me that they felt that the school infirmary was the easy and proper place for their kids to pick up condoms. I, innocently, believed them. But I later find out that they were either misinformed, or they lied to me. No condoms were being handed out by the school nurses of the Upper Valley at the time. The headmaster of Hanover High School was even quoted by the press, saying that students' health needs might be best served by purchasing condoms at the self-check-out at the local drugstore. In my opinion, telling local teens, over half of whom are having sex, to buy their condoms at a drugstore is a criminal act.
And so, I’m proud that we host free, confidential HIV testing here at the Main Street Museum from time to time. It's a great initiative to make testing more comfy, social and, yes, to demystify it. Shaming people has never kept them healthy. The people administering the tests are really friendly, and professional. And I'm still really confused, and a little concerned that at this late date, there is still controversy over a little, tiny, disease and pregnancy precautionary device, invented by an Italian physician, who was born in 1523.
And, even though I’m not at all worried about my own risk level, I get tested too. And I encourage you to do the same. You see, if more people do get tested, and if those who are positive take measures to decrease the presence of the virus in their systems, we really can wipe out this virus. And that's reason enough to test everyone, and to hand out condoms—especially to honors students.
Gabriele Fallopio. He advocated condoms back in the 1500s. That was a long, long time ago.