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Polite to a Fault?

Polite to a Fault?


Southerners are renowned for their warm hospitality and genteel charm. But can those seemingly positive traits be contributing to rising HIV infection rates throughout the region? Absolutely, says syndicated sex-advice columnist Michael Alvear, who believes that the South's 'culture of politeness and indirectness' is a major factor in the Southern AIDS epidemic. In a January 13 commentary on National Public Radio's All Things Considered, Alvear noted that Southerners' 'sideways, indirect way of speaking may be a charming way to interact socially, but it's becoming a deadly way to interact sexually. 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.' Cultural taboos against discussing topics deemed too explicit or offensive'such as drug use, sex, and homosexuality'are preventing Southerners from having necessary conversations about safer sex in their homes, schools, and even between people who are having sex, says Kim Anderson, executive director of AID Atlanta. 'That's why we haven't seen the same decreases in the numbers of people reported infected with the virus as some other parts of the country.'

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