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Chapter 3: Others and me

Love, sex, no sex… you discover a lot of new aspects to life when you’re a teenager. It’s not all roses and moonshine though. Other people don’t always act the way you hoped they would. And then of course there’s HIV and AIDS…

i. This is where your life-management skills really come in: relationships that are healthy (both emotionally and physically) are only possible if you stick to certain basic values such as self-respect, mutual respect, tolerance, knowing where tolerance stops... The hitch often being, that your values and other person’s might not necessarily be the same.

Like a lot of us, you probably ask yourself questions such as:

• Should I have sex?
• Is it OK to say “no” to sex with my boyfriend or girlfriend?
• What if I’m ready for sex and my partner’s not?
• Can we be intimate without having sex?
• What do I do if I’m under sexual pressure from someone with authority like a teacher or other adult?
• What is date rape?

Loads of websites deal with questions like these, often answering real questions sent in by people your own age. Here are some we found useful:

www.iwannaknow.org/brain2/peerpressure.html: (What is peer pressure and how does it affect me? Ways to avoid Peer and Date pressure (including date rape...))
www.tarsc.org/auntiestella/index.html (Real questions: Should I have sex with my boyfriend? What can I do when my teacher wants sex with me? Is it possible to kiss and hug but not have sex?)
www.lovelife.org.za/kids/index.html (Relationships and how to manage them... “What’s outercourse?”)
www.goaskalice.columbia.edu/Cat8.html (Relationships, including gay and lesbian)
www.itsyoursexlife.com (“Your guide to safe and responsible sex”)
www.iwannaknow.org/brain2/index.html (“Sex on the brain...”)
www.scarleteen.com/sexuality.index.html (Ready or not...)
www.sxetc.org (advice on love and relationships, including questions like “am I too young to have sex?”, decisions, intimacy, communication, dating someone older...; plus gender issues like gay/lesbian, etc. There are also personal accounts, e.g. from a 14-year-old girl who tells: “My boyfriend’s ready, but I’m not...”)
www.teenadviceonline.org/dating.html (Dating, saying “no”, etc.)
www.teenwire.com (“Friends and feelings”)
www.youthhiv.org/health/safersex/index.cfm, and www.youthhiv.org/health/safersex/communication.cfm (having sex and communicating when you or your partner is HIV-positive)
http://www.youthresource.com (Gives list of peer educators you can contact and ask your questions to.)

The important thing always is that you should feel comfortable in any situation involving sex and emotions. If you’re not, then there’s probably something wrong, and you’d be right to follow your instincts. Remember, when in doubt, don’t. It’s your safety that counts, it’s your life.

And remember: I may love sex, but I won’t die for it…

• a prickly situation between two people who each expect something different from the relationship
• how you’d say “no” to someone without hurting their feelings
• how you’d react if you want to have sex, and the other person doesn’t.

ii. Then there are those people that surround us every day, people our own age, friends or not... The ones adults call our “peers” and who have a huge influence on how we think and act. That’s why they can either be a great help (when they share useful information or motivate you in a positive direction) or a massive drawback (when they influence you to do negative things you yourself, deep down, wouldn’t have done without this thing called “peer pressure”...)

So think about it: How do you deal with peer pressure? And how do you make it work for you and others in a positive way? Because when it’s the right kind, support, advice and a sympathetic ear from people your own age and with similar experiences to yours count more than what any expert or scientist could say...

(See www.iwannaknow.org/brain2/peerpressure.html: (What is peer pressure and how does it affect me? Ways to avoid Peer and Date pressure (including date rape...))

One of the most effective ways in which you, as a teenager, could help fight HIV and AIDS, is for instance becoming a peer educator. This could mean anything from taking part in a formal programme where you support and counsel others your age, to simply chatting to friends and spreading information to those around you (See the site www.staying-alive.org/en/take_action_2.jhtml on how this works: “you don’t have to take over the world to help prevent HIV & AIDS – just talk to your friends, others your age and anyone who will listen…”)

Read how two high-school girls became AIDS hotline volunteers at http://www.hostos.cuny.edu/homepages/lesnick/aids/page23.htm: "Some nights," Rara (14) says, "the phones just don’t stop ringing." Most of the calls come from people in their 20s. "Most of the callers are people who think they have AIDS," Meredith (15) says. A lot of the teenagers who call ask if you can get it from kissing. [Scientists consider this highly unlikely.]

The saddest phone calls come from people who have just discovered that they have AIDS. "The first time it happened, I was shocked," Meredith recalls. "The person was really upset and he needed somebody to talk to. He was angry too." Hotline volunteers usually refer these callers to a counseling service."

If you yourself feel in need of some advice from peers, or are wondering how to deal with peer and date pressure, check out the following links:

www.youthhiv.org/resources/peereducators/peereds.cfm (information, support and personal accounts from HIV-positive youth and peer educators)
www.sxetc.org (a website on sex-related issues produced by teens, for teens)
www.teenadviceonline.org/dating (advice from teenage counsellors)
www.iwannaknow.org/brain2/peerpressure.html(What is peer pressure and how does it affect me? Ways to avoid Peer and Date pressure (including date rape...))

a message you want to give to your peers – something you’d like to tell them about HIV, sex, a personal experience… put it in words, in a picture or even in music…

Available resources for this topic (some samples):

Explore different topics on HIV/AIDS

 Who am I?
 What is HIV/AIDS?
 Others and me
 How am I at risk?
 Living with HIV/AIDS

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