One of the worst tragedies within the African-American community is our failure to properly educate our youth in regards to sex and instill in them a strong sense of sexual responsibility. Even within many of our churches, the topic of sex is all too often “swept under a rug” and danced over. While charismatic ministers continue to preach holiness and abstinence (until after marriage), they oftentimes fail to acknowledge the reality that not everyone will wait until they’re married to have sex. In fact, many of these same ministers didn’t wait until they were married to have sex. However, that’s a completely different topic of discussion and not the focal point of this article.
Nonetheless, our failure to take a realistic approach to the matter and provide our youth with accurate knowledge in regards to sex is evidenced by the alarming proportion of our youth who engage in risky sexual behaviors. Recent studies indicate that approximately fifty percent of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and of these, approximately forty-three percent end in abortion.
That being said, it’s imperative here to note that this data isn’t being provided to be utilized as an instrument to assault the character of those who’ve experienced unplanned pregnancies, or the women who have had and/or may choose to have abortions. Rather, this data is being provided for the sole purpose of generating much-needed REALISTIC dialogue pertaining to sexual responsibility. Whether you choose to acknowledge it or not sex is all around us, and times have changed so much so that our youth are now being introduced to sex at much younger ages than when we were adolescents. For this reason, it’s our responsibility as adults as we owe it to our youth to see that we equip them with the knowledge necessary to make judicious decisions when it comes to sex.
Let’s talk contraception. Contraception is defined as “the deliberate use of artificial methods or other techniques to prevent pregnancy as a consequence of sexual intercourse.”
According to www.shriverreport.org, about ninety percent of sexually active women utilize some form of contraception. The decision as to which form of contraception they choose to utilize is oftentimes based on such variables as efficacy, side effects, convenience, availability, loved one’s experiences, etc. Besides condoms the two most common forms of contraception women tend to choose are oral contraceptives (birth-control pills) or medroxyprogesterone injections (such as Depo-Provera). However, the use of long-acting reversible contraception (LARCs) such as intrauterine devices continues to rise as many women are desiring a more convenient contraceptive method that doesn’t compromise effectiveness. It’s said that LARCs may even be more effective at preventing pregnancy than a tubal ligation.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends LARCs as the first-line contraceptive choice for women. However, it’s good practice for women to consult with their personal gynecologist prior to choosing any form of contraception in order to achieve ideal results. Also, be mindful that the use of contraception is not solely a woman’s responsibility. The responsibility to prevent unplanned pregnancy rests equally on the shoulders of both men and women alike. While men don’t have near as many options as women when it comes to contraception, their most reliable method is to utilize condoms every time.
Unlike other contraceptive methods utilized by men or women condoms also provide protection against the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). However, be mindful that it’s best to utilize latex condoms for such protection. In the event that either your partner or yourself has allergies related to latex, it’s then best to consult with your doctor to learn more about the pros and cons of substitutions such as polyurethane and polyisoprene condoms. Also, be certain to always read all labels on the packaging of condoms.
In the United States if the packaging doesn’t explicitly state that the condoms are made to prevent the transmission of disease then they haven’t been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for that purpose. BEWARE OF LAMBSKIN CONDOMS AS THEY SHOULD NOT BE USED AS PROTECTION AGAINST THE TRANSMISSION OF STIs!!!!! While they are good for preventing pregnancy, lambskin condoms have tiny pores which aren’t large enough for sperm to pass through, but they DO NOT prevent the passage of various STIs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) an American has a 1 in 99 chance of being diagnosed with HIV at some point in their lifetime, but that risk is said to be greater for Americans residing in the South than in other regions. While the lifetime risk of HIV diagnosis is believed to be highest in the District of Columbia, the CDC reports that Southern states (though only comprising approximately thirty-seven percent of the national population) account for approximately forty-four percent of all people living with an HIV diagnosis. This is said to be due in part to the lack of some key HIV prevention and care indicators in the South. Even more disturbing is the fact that African-Americans have the highest percentage of HIV diagnoses not only in the South but in the Northeast and Midwest as well.
Another contagious disease to be mindful of is the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV). HCV attacks the liver and has two distinct phases:
1) Acute (short-term)
2) Chronic (long-term)
While acute cases of HCV can oftentimes be resolved in a few months without any major symptoms or issues, chronic cases can lead to liver damage, liver cancer, and/or liver failure. Like some other viruses or infections HCV may not cause symptoms for several weeks after exposure. The CDC reports that approximately 3.2 million people in the United States have HCV, but the majority of them are unaware since they aren’t symptomatic. Typically HCV is contracted by either coming into direct contact with an infected person’s blood or from mother to child during birth. However, HCV can also be transmitted sexually!!!!!
According to the CDC, the prevention and control of STIs is dependent upon the consistent implementation of these five key strategies:
Visit www.cdc.gov to learn more about safe-sex practices, the use of contraceptives and the prevention or treatment of STIs. Also, if you or a loved one is in need of information pertaining to STI testing or treatment, contact the CDC at 1-800-CDC-INFO or TTY: 1-888-232-6438
If you reside in the Tri-County region of South Carolina (Berkeley, Charleston, or Dorchester counties) you may also seek information by contacting Lowcountry AIDS Services at 843-747-2273 or at 3547 Meeting Street Rd. N. Charleston, SC, 29405 or www.aids-services.com. In the event that you or a loved one is experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, you may contact Florence Crittenton of South Carolina at 19 Saint Margaret Street Charleston, SC, 29403 or 843-722-7526 or www.florencecrittentonsc.org You may also contact Planned Parenthood Federation of America at 1-800-230-PLAN to find the Planned Parenthood health center nearest you.
The aforementioned information is provided for the sole purpose of generating dialogue regarding sexual responsibility and education. In no way is any of this information intended to replace the counsel of a licensed physician. If you or a loved one is already or are considering becoming sexually active, CONSULT WITH A PHYSICIAN IMMEDIATELY!!!!! If you choose to have sex, choose only ONE partner whom you KNOW WELL and TRUST and whom you’re certain only has sex WITH YOU!!!!! Also, be mindful to consider their sexual history as your chances of contracting an STI are dramatically increased by the number of previous sexual partners they’ve had. ASK QUESTIONS AND DEMAND ANSWERS BEFORE HAVING SEX!!!!!