Death of the Dental Dam
Thank you for your contribution to HIV disclosure to sex partners.
I know this is politically incorrect, but I am going on the dental dam rant. The rant is not directed towards any particular organization, but rather a general rant I go on now and then. In any HIV 101 course the dental dam is described as a patch of rubber to place over the genitals, usually those of a women, as a protective measure during oral sex. Dental dams are promoted by every establishment involved in HIV prevention, as they prevent many sexually transmitted infections. But the dental dam is a hard sell.
As our work at times involves street kids, how can we, in reality, expect them to use dental dams, when this message to young, middle class kids and adults, is not penetrating? We know from experience that the more restrictions given to young people, the more likely they are to reject them all and rebel by way of engaging in risky behaviours.
Compound the stress of being a street kid, fighting for basic survival including a bed to sleep in, a meal, inconsistent health care and little family support as they fight off advances from sexual predators on a daily basis on the streets.How does a dental dam fit into this scheme? They do not use condoms and they use injection drugs.Why are we discussing dental dams with them?
We need to work harder to disseminate information which is relevant to our audiences. We can do this by going to the source on the street – those at high risk for HIV- and work from there, as we connect to learn how to address what is actually taking place. We cannot come with our own agenda as kids smell this a mile away and in turn they do not engage or withdraw, making change impossible.
Besides, with more than twenty years of experience and having met many people living with HIV, not one person has ever mentioned – “I know how I contracted HIV. It was that one time I forgot to use a dental dam.” Perhaps we need to seriously consider the importance as well of reporting with accuracy on surveys and in research studies, how we contracted HIV. If researchers are being given inaccurate information, their job is to record it, not dispute it. Once the information is recorded, it becomes part of statistics and valuable information to work with in HIV prevention. This is one of many possible reasons why educators continue to place emphasis on the dental dam.