03 September 2012

When Sex Gets Serious

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, in 2009 African Americans accounted for 44% of all new HIV infections, an estimated 16,741 cases reported. Black men accounted for 70% and black women for 30% of this number. The estimated rate of new HIV infection for black men was more than six and a half times as high as that of white men, and two and a half times as high as that of Latino men or black women. A shocking 85% of black women with HIV acquired HIV through heterosexual sex. The estimated rate of new HIV infections for black women was more than 15 times as high as the rate for white women, and more than three times as high as that of Latina women.

In this day and age, where there are so many songs on urban radio stations promoting sex with random people, it is no wonder why HIV rates in the black community are on the rise. Though music should not play a role in this spike, it does. Whether they like it or not, musicians play a huge role in how people—especially young people—think. Also, what do you expect when actual commitment and relationships are nearly extinct? In 2009, 41% of children born in the United States were born to unmarried parents, the result of unsafe sex. Having a clear and detailed agreement and being responsible are vital steps in reducing the spread of disease.

Discuss what you want out of the relationship with your partner prior to having sex. This is especially important for couples who are not monogamous. If, for example, the relationship is purely sexual and both parties plan on sleeping with other people, this should be discussed. When there is confusion, and one party is monogamous while the other is not, not only is it heartbreaking, it is dangerous to the health and well-being of both parties. When the expectation is clear, there are options. When one person makes it clear that they are not looking for a committed relationship, and only want to have fun, the other person has the option to continue with the agreement or move on. This allows them to consider and make their own decision about the health risks and being a willing participant. Not talking about the arrangement deprives each party of this right.

Using protection is one of the most important features of a sexually-responsible person. Recently, I have noticed a trend with men in the19-25 age group who publicly denounce condom usage on social networks and forums. It is unknown how or why this trend is getting more popular, but it is just as dangerous and risky as sleeping with random people. It is equally as important for women to make their partners use a condom because they are equally susceptible to disease Though condoms are not 100% effective against disease and pregnancy, they reduce the risk of receiving and spreading a sexually transmitted disease.

The most important factor in reducing the spread of HIV is getting checked for STDs. There are many reasons people use to avoid getting tested—from not being able to afford the test, to being too scared to take the test. Money should not be an issue when it comes to your health, and there are various free clinics that offer STD testing for free. The test may cause anxiety, but knowing your status will always be more reassuring than not knowing what you have and your health deteriorating because you’re too scared to find out the truth. Getting tested frequently helps cut down on the stress of figuring out who passed it to you, and it helps doctors treat you in case you are diagnosed.

There are many options in testing for HIV. Doctors are able to test for HIV antibodies through the saliva or blood. Some tests can take days, but there are tests that can give you results within 15 minutes. However, all positive HIV tests must be followed up by a confirmation test, which may take up to a few weeks.

Discussing the terms of the relationship, using condoms and getting tested for STDs are all huge steps in reducing the spread of HIV. Whether doing each action makes you nervous or scared, imagine how scary and stressful actually contracting a disease can be. Despite how glamorous and free-spirited sleeping with random people is portrayed in music, not being responsible is simply foolish. Do not become another statistic. Discuss, wrap it up and get tested.


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