For some unimaginable reason, Barbadians no longer fear contracting HIV/AIDS or any other sexually transmitted disease (STD) for that matter.
It is mind-boggling, to say the least, how people could care so little about their lives and the lives of their loved ones that they would be so nonchalant about their sexual practices.
According to UNAIDS statistics for 2018, 3,000 Barbadians were living with HIV/AIDS.
Director of the HIV/AIDS Commission Dr Jacqueline Wiltshire recently revealed that STDs in Barbados are on the rise.
Granted, huge leaps and bounds have been made in the last 40 years in controlling the spread of HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS.
Dr Wiltshire said while the harsh economic climate is having a negative impact on Bajans’ sex habits, many people are also engaged in questionable behaviour that is of high concern to the HIV/AIDS Commission.
She said: “There are some issues we find worrisome, such as the statistics as it relates to the increase of multi-partnering and the age at which people make their sexual debut.
“The reasons behind these behaviours are multifaceted. Some of them are cultural practices and some are linked to the recession. During a recession, you have more transactional sex and inter-generational sex.”
And hours after the HIV/AIDS Commission chief made those revelations, Minister of Culture John King contended that AIDS no longer had the shock value it had years ago.
He also suggested that because of the fact people now could live comfortable lives with HIV/AIDS, the disease “wasn’t a big deal anymore”, leading to a rise in infections in both Barbados and the region.
But if Barbadians choose to adapt this mindset it could result in disastrous consequences.
While it is widely believed that HIV originated in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1920s, it wasn’t until the 1980s that the first case of HIV/AIDS was reported.
A staggering 74.9 million people have become infected with the disease since the start of the epidemic and an estimated 32 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses.
As of last year, 37.9 million people across the globe were said to be infected with HIV/AIDS.
An estimated 1.7 million people were estimated to have been infected in 2018.
With jaw-dropping statistics such as these, it is ill-advised to disregard the fact that HIV/AIDS is still very much a worldwide issue.
Now is not the time for Barbadians to drop their guard.
As an island that Prime Minister Mia Mottley has argued is underpopulated, Barbados can ill afford to lose its young people to an avoidable disease.
With figures having shown that the country is dominated by an ageing population, growth and productivity depend on our youth.
While in these times it might be more difficult than ever to convince our young people to abstain from sex until marriage, the use of condoms must continue to be promoted across all platforms.
And while teenage girls often fear pregnancy, there are many more lurking dangers from having unprotected sex.
While the advancement of technology might make living with HIV/AIDS much more feasible, it should not prevent us from doing the right thing.
And beyond HIV/AIDS, there are several other fatal and debilitating STDs.
These include, but are not limited to, human papillomavirus (HPV) and syphilis which can both be fatal; herpes, gonorrhoea, chlamydia and Hepatitis B.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 65 million Americans have an incurable STD. Each year, 20 million new cases are reported; half of these infections are among people ages 15 to 24 and they can have long-term consequences.
Sobering statistics that should give us pause – time enough to do the right thing.