Clutch is partnering with b condoms, the world’s only minority-owned, socially responsible condom company, to begin publishing a series of articles addressing sexually transmitted infections (STIs), sexual health, and relationships. We look forward to your comments and engaging with you in this much-needed subject. For more information about b condoms or HIV/AIDS, please check out @bcondoms on Twitter or online at www.bcondoms.com.
March 10th, 2012 is National Women & Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, a national observance day focusing on taking action in raising awareness on how HIV is transmitted, how you can prevent HIV transmission, how to combat stigma associated with HIV, and how all of these factors are especially important in decreasing the HIV rates among women and girls.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women account for 51% of the United States population, yet comprised of 23% of new HIV infections. Of the total number of new HIV infections among women in 2009, 57% were among black women, 21% were in white women, and 18% were in Latina women. Also, the rate of new HIV infections among black women in 2009 was 15 times as high as that of white women and over 3 times as high as that of Latina women.
Young girls, and young Black girls in particular, are up against many challenging factors that seek to derail their health and lives. National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is a great day to open up the lines of communication with the young girls in our lives, get the discussion going, and find ways to connect with each other. While it’s difficult to think of young people having to make decisions regarding their sexual and reproductive health, it’s important to acknowledge that having the courage to make a healthy decision is more important that continuing to perpetuate stigma surrounding HIV. Additionally, it’s very important, especially in the Black community, to educate ourselves about HIV. Outside of race and ethnicity, other factors that are connected to higher HIV rates and sexually transmitted infection (STI) rates in our communities are access to health care, fear and stigma, economics, and discrimination (all prevalent factors in the Black community). Additionally, one of the biggest factors of higher HIV rates in the Black community includes lack of knowledge about HIV and other STIs. The first reported case of HIV occurred in 1981, yet we still find many in the Black community who are either uninformed or misinformed about how HIV is transmitted, how HIV can be prevented, and the impact of the disease on Black women and girls.
So, how can you start the conversation on HIV with the young women and girls in your life? Start with these tips:
Know the facts- It’s important to know how HIV is transmitted and how to prevent the spread of HIV. Get connected to websites like The Black AIDS Institute, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Planned Parenthood, and Scarleteen.
Become “askable”- Contrary to popular belief, many teens and young people would rather get information on sex, pregnancy, STIs, and HIV from the trusted adults in their lives, rather than from their peers. Find more tips on becoming comfortable with discussion HIV and sex on Black Women’s Health Imperative’s national campaign called Elevate as well as Advocates for Youth’s series Are You an Askable Parent?
Meet young girls and teens where they are- Make sure that the conversations you’re having about HIV and sex are age appropriate.
Discuss all aspects of sexual health, in addition to HIV- Make sure you talk about pregnancy prevention, birth control, abortion, STIs, abstinence, and sexual orientation, as well as HIV. Make sure that the information you’re providing is relevant, fact-based, and age appropriate.
Share your story- A great way to connect with young people is to share your own story about sex education, any misinformation you’re gotten when you were younger, and how you were able to continue to educate yourself on learning more about your health and how to keep yourself healthy. This can lead to opening the lines of communication in other areas in your young people’s life, not just sexual health.
Advocate for sex education in your young person’s school or community- If all else fails and you’re still not comfortable discussing HIV, reach out to organization and programs in your community that teach comprehensive sex education.
How have you been able to discuss HIV and sexual health matters with the young women in your life?