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More than five million people were infected with HIV this year. Worldwide, 36 million people are living with the virus, including one out of every 300 in the United States. With new -- but expensive -- pharmaceutical advances, the life expectancy of those living with the virus has increased drastically. Sadly, in the United States these facts have contributed to a growing complacency toward HIV and AIDS, especially among college students. This World AIDS Day, we ask that you be aware of your risks and the steps you can take for a safer, healthier life. In 1998, the World AIDS Conference in Geneva was aptly titled "Combating Complacency." Two years later, this is still an appropriate call to action. Despite outreach efforts, increased education and greater availability of low-cost safer-sex supplies, many people continue to live under the idea of invincibility. This attitude is not limited solely to HIV and AIDS: Complacency is growing toward all sexually transmitted diseases. Earlier this year, The Daily Pennsylvanian examined students' sex lives across Penn's campus.("A peak under the covers," 2/15/00). Through surveys, the DP showed that, although over half the campus had been sexually active in the past year, only about 30 percent had been tested for a sexually transmitted infection. Only 56 percent used a condom every time during vaginal sex, and 14 percent never used a condom. A mere 2 percent used condoms during oral sex. These statistics show the apathetic attitude that surrounds sexual health at Penn. HIV and other STDs are legitimate threats to the health of the Penn student population. Not only are they passed during intercourse, but several STDs -- such as herpes and genital warts -- are transmitted during oral sex. Despite this knowledge, many students are not taking the necessary steps to protect themselves from these infections. Facilitating Learning About Sexual Health is working to help people take responsibility for their sexual health. We hold workshops to help students understand their risks for STDs and pregnancy, as well as provide free safer-sex supplies. Like many students, the University administration is also guilty of complacency. This year, the mandatory requirement that all resident advisors host a FLASH workshop for freshmen has been dropped. It is no longer required that first-year students be exposed to healthy sexual behavior and sex-positive attitudes, nor is it considered necessary for every freshman to learn how to put on a condom. Apparently, the administration is operating under the attitude that by not teaching about safer sex, students will not be having sex at all. This is obviously a mistake, given that college students have notoriously high rates of sexually transmitted infections; two thirds of new infections are in people between the ages of 15 and 24. The goal of FLASH is to ensure a healthier student population. Free condoms and pamphlets are always available at the Office of Health Education on the third floor of 3609 Locust Walk. Soon, the new FLASH Points program will be in place in many college houses, making pamphlets and inexpensive condoms available in your dorm, as well as Van Pelt Library. We offer fun, informative and free workshops to any group or organization that requests our services. Student Health in the basement of the Penn Tower Hotel also offers very inexpensive birth control supplies, such as the birth control pill and condoms, as well as testing for STDs that can be charged to your bursar bill. Please show your support in helping FLASH combat complacency against HIV and all STDs. Today at 4:00 p.m., several Penn groups are hosting Mark Doty, a renowned poet, who will give a speech in observance of World AIDS Day on the second floor of the ARCH at 3601 Locust Walk. World AIDS Day is the perfect time to get informed on your sexual health status. Make an appointment at Student Health or get checked anonymously at Health Center One at 1400 Lombard Street in Center City. The spread of HIV and STDs can be stopped through knowledge and safer lifestyles. Please take care of yourself and those around you this World AIDS Day.

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