On December 1, 2012, people from all walks of life recognized World AIDS day. There were several events that took place in Memphis, TN in observance of the day. One of the most notable sites was a large balloon which flew over Tom Lee Park in downtown Memphis, to help citizens remember those who are living with the illness and those who have succumbed to it. In addition, statistics have been published by the Memphis and Shelby County area with relation to HIV/AIDS. While overall, the statistics showed a decrease in males and females contracting the illness overall, there is still reason to be alarmed for those individuals who fall into the 20-24 age group. This is especially the case among African American males, living in the city. According to the Shelby County Health Department’s numbers, the number of newly reported HIV/AIDS cases for African American males in the aforementioned age group grew by more than 10% from 2010 to 2011. In addition, the most newly reported cases were found to be in citizens living in the 38116 zip code in Memphis. There are more people living with the illness in the 38105 zip code than anywhere else in the city or county.
The National Abstinence Education Foundation reports that 1 in 4 girls in high school is now infected with a sexually transmitted disease. The alarming numbers for newly reported HIV/AIDS cases in Memphis, Tennessee and Shelby County, clearly attest to the fact that abstinence education is necessary in order for the area to avert a continued rise in the number of teens and young adults who could put themselves at risk for contracting the virus. The foundation also reports that states which accept abstinence education funding also have lower teen abortion rates than states who don’t. Also, studies and polls conducted by the National Abstinence Education Foundation show that the majority of parents surveyed actually want abstinence education programs to be available in school systems. It appears that the state of Tennessee listened to parents desire to have abstinence programs be available for their students, as the state passed a law earlier this year, allowing abstinence education to be taught in schools. While the bill was passed with opposition to some of its components, it has opened the door for allowing educators to have conversations with students about why abstinence is important. While the number of newly reported HIV/AIDS cases were up among African American males, aged 20-24 living in Memphis, they were down across every other age group. Maybe this is a sign that abstinence education really does work.