‘Culture of Politeness’ Contributes to Spread of HIV/AIDS in the South, Sex Columnist Says in NPR Commentary
The Southern United States' "culture of politeness and indirectness" contributes to the spread of HIV in that region, Michael Alvear, a nationally syndicated sex advice columnist, said yesterday in a commentary on NPR's "All Things Considered" (Alvear, "All Things Considered," NPR, 1/13). According to CDC figures cited in the "Southern States Manifesto," written by HIV/AIDS directors from various states and presented at a two-day conference in Tampa, Fla., in December, more than 130,000 people in the South have AIDS, compared to about 100,000 in the Northeast, 36,000 in the Midwest and some 62,000 in the West (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/5/02). In addition, the officials said that the South has a bigger HIV/AIDS problem than elsewhere in the United States because of its racial and economic demographics and "a cultural conservatism that interferes with attempts to arrest the disease" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/15/02). According to Alvear, Southerners' "sideways, indirect way of speaking may be a charming way to interact socially, but it's becoming a deadly way to interact sexually." Alvear adds, " If asking someone to open up a window in a hot room is seen as too forward, imagine what Southerners think of asking [potential sex partners about their] HIV status." Southerners are "indirect because they place great value on kindness," do not "believe in offending" others and find "explicit" discussion "offensive," according to Alvear, who said his readers were "unanimous" that residents of the Southern states are the "least likely" to ask about the HIV status of their sex partner ("All Things Considered," NPR, 1/13). The full segment is available online in RealPlayer.This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.