Gosh I love this group. My girl-crush, the BEAUTIFUL and sweet Andromeda Oatis, an HIV Health Educator in Atlanta, wrote this piece because she cares about you. But before you read, take a look at this “Goddess”
I could sugar coat things but since we all know each other on hereâ€¦I wonâ€™t! What I will say is that I think that we, as black women, have an inauspicious task of teaching others when we know that they arenâ€™t listeningâ€¦ Thatâ€™s why Iâ€™m initiating this train the trainer. As a health education specialist, it is my duty to give you all of the information I have bottled up in this very average sized head of mine so that you can spread the word about safety against STIs.
Most sexually transmitted infections affect the African American community at unacceptably alarming rates. Moreover, they are increasing in women (particularly Black women) and we must act now to stop them. On our journey toward protecting ourselves here are some things you need to know about a few major STIs.
HIV/AIDS (I talk a lot about this one because itâ€™s my passion shrugs)— We have to stop living in fear of this disease. The fear is what is paralyzing rational thinking where testing and safe sex are concerned. What will curb the fear and decrease the number of new cases is education and communication in conjunction with correct and consistent condom use!
What we know about HIV is that it is a virus that uses your immune system to thrive. It attaches to your CD4 T-cell (a type of white blood cell) and goes through a process that tricks your body into believing it belongs. HIV is passed through four types of body fluids: semen, vaginal fluid, blood, and breast milk. It cannot jump off the toilet and into your body. It cannot jump off a fork and into your mouth. You canâ€™t get it from a hug or kiss. However, You CAN get it from unprotected vaginal, anal, AND oral sex or contact with infected blood (think injection drug use).
If you think you may have been exposed you can go to a public health clinic with 72 hours and, if they offer it, they can give you post exposure prophylaxis. Itâ€™s like the morning after pill for HIV. Keep in mind, you may have to call around to find a clinic, but this has been proven to reduce a personâ€™s chances of contracting HIV. Since symptoms of HIV can take months or years to show up it is IMPERATIVE to get tested! Twenty percent of infected individuals donâ€™t know they are HIV positive.
Find a testing location near you at: https://www.hivtest.org/
Herpes— Is another viral STI. Its symptoms can show up 1 to 30 days after exposure. It causes painful blisters on sex organs and the mouth. Herpes is spread in ways similar to HIV. Unlike HIV, however, mere genital touching can also pass it. The conditions have to be right for this to happen (sores present or lots of viral replication, but itâ€™s possible). The key to not spreading this one is to communicate with your partner and to use protection; although there is a possibility that even with correct and consistent condom you can get or pass herpes the chances decrease lately.
It is important to know that as time goes on the blisters heal but herpes does not go away. Also, 1 in 6 women will contract herpes in their lifetime. These stats are higher for black women, as the CDC reports that of all new cases in women 51% will be black. Testing for herpes can be done at any regular gynecology or routine physical appointment.
Trichomoniasis (â€œtrichâ€ sounds like trick)—this one I chose because it tricks women. It has similar symptoms to common female problems: Bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections. Symptoms include thick yellow, greenish, or gray discharge, terrible incessant itching or burning, and unpleasant odor. It is spread through sexual contact and it is 100% preventable and treatable. It is preventable by using condoms and treatable with a few pills. You have to really know your body, because for men symptoms are rarely present. This means pay attention to what itâ€™s telling you because it will never tell you a lie.
As we all are aware, abstinence is the only surefire way to know that you wonâ€™t get an STI. However, Iâ€™m a realist and I know that people have sex. Our parents did it, we do, and unfortunately our children are doing it too. So rather than go all â€œSarah Palinâ€ on you, I will instead insist that you to use condoms and communicate with your partners. If you are comfortable enough to have sex with someone, please be comfortable enough to talk to them about their sexual history. Itâ€™s about self-preservation. Leaving any STI untreated can leave you sick and/or infertile; not to mention you can pass things on to others. So from sister to sister let me say with all sincerity: If you donâ€™t put yourself first how can you expect someone else to!