Remember Ryan White?
Diagnosed with hemophilia as a newborn in December 1971, Ryan underwent blood transfusions to stay alive and 13 years later learned he had contracted HIV from contaminated blood.
A valiant warrior, Ryan died in 1990 — but not before he made us think, rethink and then think again about what was mistakenly dubbed the "gay men's" disease.
We could not save Ryan but we can and must save the children.
With children like Ryan being infected with the HIV virus because of ignorance and promiscuity, it's high time we re-educate ourselves and sit down with our young children and young adults to have "the talk" — about the birds, bees and abstinence.
We've handed off "the talk" to public schools, and they have muddied the message.
While schools pump up the volume on teaching gender identity, making condoms easily accessible and continuing to bow to special interests' pressure to teach "safe sex," our young people are teetering in the shadow of death.
According to a report released a year ago, just before World AIDS Day, 13- to 24-year olds in the U.S. make up more than a quarter of new HIV infections annually.
And more than half of those youth are unaware they are HIV-positive, the report by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
To know a child is ill, as was the case with baby Ryan, is one thing. You take action, and do what you can to make your child healthier and keep risky behavior at bay.
What are we doing?
We are shirking our responsibility.
Instead of having the conversations with our children, we are allowing our children to learn about sex, sexual behavior and sexual identity in a school house, which is risky in and of itself because we should be our children's primary messengers and the messages rest in our hearts and hands.
And yet again, after cutting out health education during Ryan's lifetime and replacing it with sex education, we are being encouraged to turn our backs on our children.
An annual report released last week by D.C. Appleseed on HIV/AIDS practices and policies in the District gave the city an A in condom distribution; for education, traditional public schools got a B+ while public charter schools got a C.
Well, here we go, pressing against another World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, when reports and studies inevitably proclaim that we are making measurable progress "but "
There's always a "but" because we are afraid to talk to and with our own doggone children.
That fear of flying endangers yet another generation of young people, youths who are being told that boys and girls are the same when we know they are not, and that having sex at a very young age OK because we and they can deal with the consequences at the foot of the bridge.
Well, Ryan had no choice, and he had no choice because we waited too late.
Think about that.
We must save our children.
Every single time you are asked to consider to sex education reform instead of health education reform think about Ryan and the HIV/AIDS rates.
And remember: HIV/AIDS is not a "gay men's" disease; if it were, Ryan would not have died from the consequences of its infection and our children would not be contracting it at alarming rates
If all of the above sounds like I'm preaching, it is because I am — and you should be, too.
• Deborah Simmons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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