Changing the culture is key.

I’ve been an atheist since my teen years and my non-belief forced me to truly evaluate and create my own sense of morality and values to live by. One of the values most important to me is the right of all people to engage in sexual expression in a healthy way, free from the shame religious belief has brought. Judeo-christian attitudes about sex and sexuality have worked to create a culture where women and men are shamed by their bodies and their desires, especially if they identify as LGBT. These toxic values pervade our culture and have resulted in misinformation in the classroom (abstinence only sex education) and hateful legislation (DOMA).

While these things may not seem to be directly related to HIV/AIDs I believe they are. People who are HIV positive feel shame and experience stigma in large part because they have a disease that is commonly communicated via sexual activity. And, we continue to have new cases of HIV/AIDs because, even when people have access to condoms, they don’t always use them due to the cultural shaming (and misinformation) around sex they have experienced their whole lives.

I believe the way to change this is to have more information- not less, to have more services, and more dialog on HIV/AIDs. Changing the culture is key, and one of the most effective ways to do that is through education (and treatment and support programs for those living with HIV/AIDs).

That’s why I’m riding in the SMART ride this year. The SMART ride is a 165 mile ride for HIV/AIDs in South Florida and they give 100% of all their donations to Floridian charities that do prevention and services work around HIV/AIDs. Florida, in particular, is in need of these services as we are one of the states with largest population infected with HIV/AIDs.

As a rider, my goal is to raise at least $1,250. I can’t do it without my friends, my family, and all of you in the secular community. So often religious people believe that if you don’t believe in god then you don’t have morals anymore. Together we can show them how wrong they are. Donate to rider 508 to help eliminate HIV/AIDs and show the world that secular women and men care!

Elsa Roberts- Vice Chair of Outreach, Secular Woman

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