A Sign of Hope

From today's New York Times comes an article on the results of a study that showed that daily use of a certain HIV anti-viral drug lowered the risk of HIV infection by about 90%. (You can find the article here.) A welcome sign of hope in a long struggle that has enabled those with access to healthcare to live full and productive lives but that, unfortunately, has made little progress in the realm of prevention.

What most caught my eye, however, was this short blurb:

Another concern was that the participants would become so fearless that they would stop using condoms, but the opposite effect was seen — they used condoms more often and had fewer sex partners.

This seemingly small observation about human behavior says so much about human nature and how it is that we change.

Many of our health-oriented education campaigns -- think "quit-smoking" campaigns, diet campaigns, most HIV-related initiatives, etc. -- use fear as a motivational tool to scare people into changing. In my experience, to the extent that actually works, it is always a superficial and short-lived result.

Fear is like poison ground. Because it is ground, you can plant seeds in it. And those seeds may even germinate. But they will never be able to grow and flourish.

When we empower people in ways that make them feel truly and fundamentally good about themselves, we are nourishing them and reminding them of their basic goodness. The result is that they start taking better care of themselves, and they grow and flourish.

When we invest in love, we always get love back.