AIDS, No Longer Your Friendly Neighborhood Appetite Suppressant

There used to be an appetite suppressant called Ayds.

If you are over a certain age, you remember those commercials. They were happy, upbeat commercials and they were all over radio and TV, promising to painlessly slim your body.

I'd hear the commercials for Ayds while riding in my father's silver Mercury Monarch, my legs sweating against the red leather seats as I absorbed the sounds of WGN radio. I wondered if I'd need to take Ayds when I grew up because it seemed like the secret to staying slim.

And then one day as we were pulling into our driveway, one of the WGN reporters began a story about a different kind of AIDS. They made sure to spell it so we wouldn't get it confused with the appetite suppressant, Ayds.

The difference in spelling didn't help the company that made Ayds. They went under, a victim of a coincidental name.

Then an Indiana hemophiliac named Ryan White contracted AIDS. National debates ensued when he was barred from going to school. Ryan's case meant that AIDS was no longer just a "gay disease". Suddenly, anyone who'd ever been to a hospital was afraid they might have been exposed.

People were really scared and believed all kinds of things. I heard my mom and my aunts talking about how maybe you could get AIDS from mosquitos, hot tubs or a dirty door handle. There was so much fear and lack of information about AIDS that folks in Kokomo, Indiana, Ryan White's hometown, refused to touch newspapers that paperboy Ryan delivered.

Although that sort of extreme ignorance and fear is mostly gone now in this country, sometimes I wonder if it wouldn't hurt us to get a little bit of it back.

No, maybe I don't mean that. We don't need that crazy mob mentality fear. I just mean that there sometimes seems to be such a lasseiz faire attitude about contracting AIDS. No one thinks it's going to happen to them. Everyone's encouraged to get tested, but how many people actually do so? How many people stop sleeping around? How many people actually use a condom every single time they have sex?

Everyone's bed hopping on TV and in movies, but have you heard any character say, "You know, I shouldn't sleep with you because I don't want to get HIV."

Or, "You know, I'm not sleeping with you unless you use a condom."

What about, "Since we're talking about having sex, here's the status of my HIV test."

Nope. I don't think I've ever seen any of those on TV or in a movie. Instead, everyone just falls into bed with wild abandon, caught up in the passion of the moment.

Come to think of it, we haven't had a celebrity reveal their HIV positive status in a while. I'm sure they're out there though. I'm always puzzled about how we watch celebrities father children left and right and we don't publicly rake them over the coals for not practicing safer sex.

There's a whole generation that doesn't remember Rock Hudson or Eazy E. There's a whole generation that thinks that HIV isn't so bad because after all, look how healthy Magic Johnson looks. There's a whole lot of folks who lie to themselves and say, "Such and such didn't look like he had HIV."

That first time I heard about AIDS, I never in a million years would have thought it would spread beyond being a small news story on WGN to being the killer of millions worldwide. I wouldn't have thought we'd be having a World AIDS Day on December 1st. I never thought it would impact black people around the world in the way it has.

The face of AIDS is no longer Tom Hanks playing a gay lawyer who contracts HIV in "Philadelphia". No, sadly enough, black woman are today's face of HIV.

Days like today, I wish AIDS, was still just an appetite suppressant.


Jameil said…
we are sooooo here on the condom use. it'd fit right in on grey's. they're doctors and they share each other like toys. they need to go ahead and take the leap. i get so annoyed when i'm reading a book and they get right to the sex sans condom mention. i'm like WTH?!!? b/c there aren't enough diseases and abused and unwanted children in the world?! let's perpetuate the trend.
I forgot about Ayds. I remember watching a woman eat an entire package of those chocolate wonders. Yikes!

I think it's unconscionable that there is no real safe sex conversation in this country. All sex has been taken over by the weirdo church nuts who think that the answer is just not to have any and that gay people are going to hell.

In my novels, I try to put in condom use and safe sex as if it's a matter of course. Normal. Which it is.

Great post!
Mes Deux Cents said…

I remember my mom having those appetite suppressants when I was a kid. I didn't really know what they where and ate some. I think my mom hid them after that.

This is a great post. I think that because people are now assuming that AIDS is a "Black thing" there is not much interest in the larger society.

Also hip hop culture promotes promiscuity. That is a huge problem.

Liz Dwyer said…
On some of these shows, it seems like everybody's pretty much slept with everyone else at some point or another. And if they haven't yet, you know it's coming. I'll admit I've never seen Grey's but it sure seems like they're just playing sexual musical chairs over there. Yawn.

And if they don't have HIV, what about herpes, gonorhea, chlamidiya, syphilis, crabs...ugh, I hate to go there but condoms will not save someone from crabs! AAGH! Okay, why did I have to think about that? I'm so grossed out now...being taken back to stuff that I know happened to folks down the hall in college.

I always wondered how Ayds tasted. I'll bet they were really gross.

I actually believe there's too much emphasis on sex in our culture and I think abstinence can be a good thing. On a practical level, aside from the diseases folks get, people have a hard time knowing what to do with the spiritual connection that's fostered when you have sex with someone. There's a lot of emotional and spiritual agony caused by having sex for the wrong reasons.

That said, I firmly believe that if someone is going to make the decision to have sex, they need to protect themselves and I think there should be more practical, realistic, level headed discussion about it that takes into account the physical, emotional and spiritual implications. I remember the health aides in my dorm who would just flat out say to people, "Here's the diseases you could get in exchange for that five minutes of fun." That definitely made people think twice about the precautions they needed to take...but other folks did not, and they'd get gross stuff like gonorrhea of the throat. Eww, right? Anyway, sorry for such a long comment, but you really got me thinking. ;0

MDC,br/>Did they taste gross? Do you remember?

Gosh, there's SO much in our culture that promotes promiscuity. Hip hop culture is just the tip of the iceberg with that one. I think I saw some statistic recently that with teens, like 7-8,000 of them a week come down with some sort of VD. That's the kind of thing that scares me, especially when I have sons and I know there's so much cultural pressure for them to be the oversexed Black man.
nick said…
Yes TV's the same in the UK - never any mention of condoms or sexual infections (or pregnancy for that matter). People just glide in and out of bed as if infections are a fairy story. Perhaps if condom companies sponsored the programmes, they might feature more strongly?
In my novel they def. use a condom.

You are so right, regarding the other dieases. I saw on the news certain VDs are making a comeback and the strains are drug resistant.

I'm single now but trust I will not sleep with any future bf without a condom.
Yeah, not to mention the toll it's taken on Africa. Someone told me that many men in some African countries believe that if they have sex with a virgin, it will cure HIV or AIDS and that this has contributed to the increased incidences of child rape.

I don't know if this is true or not. Maybe someone who has more knowledge than I do can elaborate!
nick said…
dmb, I can't believe they really think that. They're probably just using it as a pretext to get some sex....
Anonymous said…
You remember how there was never any sugar in the house when we we're growing up. So when I was about five years old I was home waiting for the bus and found Mom's Ayd's. The looked like little chocolate squares. I think I must have ate 1/2 the box and put the other 1/2 in my pockets. When I got to school I gladly shared my "candy" with friends. I had to be picked up from school because I had a severe stomach ache and diharra. Needless to say when I got home I got something besides my tummy ended up hurting!!!LOL
West said…
At least one episode of Sex and the City involved the most promiscuous main character trying to get with a guy who was essentially her male equivalent, but being turned-down because she didn't share his strong feelings about getting tested regularly and sharing the results.

She changed her mind, though, and they did the dirty deed.
Lola Gets said…
Ok, I have never heard of Ayds before, lol. Seems like a good thing, though. I have too much to say about AIDS: Im probably going to post about it this week, so come check it out!
Anonymous said…
Good post. I work in the field of public health so on a daily basis i'm forced to consider the behaviors behind the spread of some of our sexually transmitted diseases. Fear can cripple a person. Fear can/will/and has prevented individuals from getting regular HIV tests. The fear of "knowing" the fear of being stigmatized. It's a powerful thing. Therefore, many HIV positive individuals are walking around not knowing that they are...and possibly spreading the disease. I think we as a society need to WAKE UP...bigtime. HIV is now being classified among chronic diseases because individuals are not DYING from HIV/AIDS so much as they are LIVING with it. I think once society starts to change our attitudes concerning the disease, folks might start taking an active role in knowing their status. That's a small step towards lowering the rates of contraction, especially in our community.

And like you, i'm the FIRST to wonder about the HIV status or STD status of some of these celebrities out here who think it's cool to bed down any man or woman groupie they come across. Or the celebrities that think it's cute to sleep with this one one week and then get married and come up pregnant with the new man's child a week later. Makes me wonder what their standards are for condom use and protection. Probably none.
Sorry this post was so long!!
Liz Dwyer said…
Can you imagine? Would folks complain about, "Hotel Babylon, brought to you by Trojans!" Or how about "Tonight's rerun of "Keeping Up Appearances", brought to you by..." Um, I just realized I don't know of another brand of condoms other than Trojan (or is it Trojans?) LOL!

There you go! A responsible author! Yeah, folks just think most of these diseases are no big deal, that you can just go to a clinic and get hooked up if you catch something. I just saw something on the history channel the other day about prostitution in the wild west and it was SO gross because they showed pics of folks who'd been overrun with syphilis. They said back then a prostitute could expect to service 70 men in ONE day so it was a given that she'd have something! EEK!

Absolutely true that people believe this. But folks in African countries aren't alone in thinking this. This sleep with a virgin cure has been around for centuries, in every culture, for every venereal disease under the sun. In Europe, lower class girls back in the day were regularly sacrificed to the gentry for that sort of thing. In this country, slaves were also used in this way.

I wish folks didn't think that, but there's a definite belief by some that virgin blood can cure you. When people are not educated about what's actual scientific fact, and are living based on superstition, then this sort of thinking is just the tip of the iceberg. It's absolutely horrible.

NO WAY!!! Oh wowzer, mom did eat those things!!! That is ridiculously funny. You must have been like, "Jackpot!" and then when you got the stomach ache...busted! That's really darned funny. Well, you getting a spanking for it isn't funny, but you know what I mean!

I've only seen SATC a couple of times but are you talking about Kim Cattrall's character? What's her name...I can't remember. Anyway, that's good that she finally got tested, but someone would have to get tested like once a week for me to feel comfortable and believe they're negative. And even with that, they'd better wear TWO condoms. Okay, just kidding, but still, smart folks can make a "you're negative" form on their laptop these days.

Yes, I fully admit I have germ phobia issues in general. ;0

Will definitely come over and check out what you write. It's funny how that moment I heard about AIDS for the first time forever stuck in my mind. I suppose because it became such a culturally altering thing.
Liz Dwyer said…
So glad you shared your thoughts. So interesting that it's being classified as a chronic disease. I know I never would have thought Magic Johnson would still be around when he first announced he was positive. It's got to be hard though and I'm sure some people think it's not so bad as long as you take your medication.

Fear can cripple a person, for sure. The stigma about it is no joke. And then there's the people who KNOW they have it but still go around sleeping with whomever.

And seriously, make your comments as long as you want! You have good things to share!
the last noel said…
It's amazing that millions of people have died of AIDS and it's still the elephant in the room no one is talking about.
Liz Dwyer said…
It's really sad. I can only imagine how many lives could be saved if we had proper education about AIDS.

Oh yes, if you bring it up, you're seen as being a killjoy. I guess people want to believe if they don't talk about it, it'll go away.

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