Regan Hofmann on Sex and Secrets at TEDxAmRing (Full Transcript)

Sex is something that we all are going to have eventually, and I know that it makes people uncomfortable talk about young children having sex but why not arm them with information before the fact. Why not tell them what they can do to do this well and do this safely? We don’t put kids in cars and say, not teach them where the breaks are or the seatbelt, or the turn signal and say good luck with that. We teach them how to drive a car. So, we can teach them about their bodies, how they work, and how to put themselves and keep themselves in positive situations, that would be great.

In fact, I was probably, I am guessing – probably same five years ago I had my first really good sex ed class in that building. That’s the White House. It sounds a little weird, not in the white house. But we had a meeting about women and HIV associated with a White House event. And it was at that meeting, for the first time when I saw an OB/GYN, stand up in a group of 150 powerful women, Congress women, diplomats, very very intelligent people, and say, “Okay, who in this room knows the angle of a woman vagina when she is standing at the vertical?” And we’re all like I don’t know and like leaning back and forth trying to figure out.

And she finally said 45 degrees to the vertical and the back. But, I thought here it is — one of the most important, one of the most central issues in people’s lives, and we haven’t found a way to put comfortable talking about it. We don’t talk about HIV because it is linked to it. So I don’t know that the solution is making everyone comfortable about sex or talking about sex but it’s a good place to start. And I have, in the work that I’ve done, come to realize that almost anyone can talk about sex comfortably if they just are given license to, and they practice it in the bed.

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My mom and I had never talked about sex until I got HIV. And I would sit in the doctor’s office just with her and think, here is the woman who had sex and had me and knows that I have had sex, but we never had this conversation. The fact that we’ve been able to talk about the things that we have, has brought us so much closer together. So I’m hopeful that if my mom and I can have easy conversations about sex now that anybody can have comfortable conversations about sex.

I think that where we are in the world right now with HIV and AIDS is that we have a solution, that’s the easiest one we’ve ever faced. We have an opportunity before us that’s remarkable. We have two-thirds of the people on the road not on treatment. But we have the treatment that works. We have prevention that works, we have political will, we still have a great deal of capital being applied. We’re further along in the science that we ever have been on the cure and vaccine front. We’re talking literally about ending this epidemic in our lifetime. It will not be easy, it will not be cheap, it will not be overnight, [it is servable]. But the one thing that will help us do that and allow us to apply the tools that we have in a very broad and even ended way is to take the hysteria out of this topic.

When you think about it, everybody deserves access to healthcare, everybody deserves a shot at surviving some viral and then that comes into their body. And when you look at what happened with breast cancer back in the early days, they couldn’t even talk about the first lady’s breast cancer when Betty Ford announces she had it because they couldn’t say breast and they couldn’t say cancer on the evening news. And the reporters were like how are you going to talk about the story.

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So I think now, you can get on an airplane in October and you can have a half price pink margarita because we’re going to give only the breast cancer and celebrate it. We’ve come so far. I don’t see why we cannot come to the place in the world where we can be on an airplane and get a half price Bloody Mary for AIDS. I mean I just feel like we can get there. And what all it takes is opening up our minds, rethinking the way that we thought about this and realizing that people who are living with HIV like myself are not bad people, but they’re pretty good people with a really bad disease. And that we will do better, we will do much better in our personal health, and therefore public health, because when we’re on medication, we’re less infectious, we will improve. And all we need is the support of people like you all around the world who just rethink why we think HIV is so terrible and have the courage to talk about it with your friends, with your family members, with your kids, with each other and take the hysteria out of it.

And that is the path to the end of the AIDS. And I am grateful for all the people who came before me who had the courage to speak about this. It still takes the spit from my mouth when I think about coming to a group of people and having to say “I have HIV.” But I do it so that someone else doesn’t have to sit in a doctor’s office some day and have that door bang open and have five people in a lab clothe walking and say “I have something to tell you, you have HIV. You’re going to die of AIDS” That doesn’t have to happen. And speaking about it is the key to ending it.

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