All Articles Tagged "safe sex"
Today (Feb. 7) marks the 17th annual observance of National Black HIV & AIDS Awareness Day, an opportunity to focus on the impact that HIV and AIDS has had and continues to have on the black and African American communities of the United States.
This year’s theme is “I Am My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper. Fight HIV/AIDS!” and many are doing their part from churches holding commemorative events to free, private on-site AIDS testing. Just last month, President Barack Obama gave his final State of the Union address, saying that the U.S. is on track to eliminate new HIV/AIDS transmissions by 2020.
Nevertheless, African Americans are dying at an alarming rate from the disease, with an estimated 500,000 plus individuals in our community living with HIV. Therefore, spreading the word and educating our people on the taboo topic is key as there is no vaccine to prevent HIV infection and no cure for AIDS that is readily available to the masses.
So, in honor of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, we’ve curated a list of the basic keys to prevention. Continue clicking and share this with someone you love.
When I was in high school I participated in this abstinence only program called The Peers Project. Basically, we went around to middle schools and summer camps extolling the virtues of abstinence, explaining why we had made this choice for our lives and encouraging our audience to do the same. If you can’t tell from my tone, I look back on that point of my life and shudder. Not because I think abstinence is wack or unrealistic, I shudder because I think about the ways in which the program fell short.
Though they never mentioned that it was abstinence-only, when one of my fellow presenters said, “And if you do have sex, make sure you use protection,” she was scolded. They likened her telling the kids to use condoms to telling them to “safely use drugs.”
That was wack and unrealistic.
By the time my sister was speaking in the program, just a year after I’d graduated, she told me she and her co-presenters were talking to a girl who had, in eighth grade, not only had sex but had given birth to a child. We clearly needed and still need to be talking about abstaining and protection because some people weren’t going to make the same choices we did.
I was reminded of all this when I heard that Le’Andria Johnson, Grammy-award-winning gospel singer and new cast member on “The Preachers of Atlanta” was handing out condoms and cigarettes as a way to attract people to the church so she could minister to them. There was one point where she even “dressed as a prostitute” to minister to sex workers.
In an interview with The Grio, she said specifically:
“Now condoms, I’m not going to pass them out to no 12-year-old child or no 10-year-old girl or boy. But I mean there are transgender men and women and then you have prostitutes, here is a condom. I know what you’re doing. You know what you’re doing, at least be safe. How can the world practice safe sex and the church can’t?”
But that’s not it. Le’Andria also spoke about her decision to give out cigarettes.
“There are times when God told me to pass out cigarettes… I said listen, there were 20 cigarettes in a box, I lit it up, walked down the street ‘Aye, let me get a cig.’ ‘You want this cig? You come talk to me about Christ.’ So here we are, he’s smoking, I’m talking to him about Christ. The whole motive is, this is the beginning process. But the ending process will be great for him. I’m giving him what he wants now but later on, I’m definitely giving him what he’s going to need. So it’s a process. 20 cigarettes, 20 people smoking them, they all came to church, they’re still coming to church. So it works, the method works. I haven’t done it since then but if I have to do it again, I will do it.”
I consider myself to be a nice liberal/conservative hybrid. I’m liberal when it comes to public policy and allowing people to live and love as they see fit. But I also grew up in the church and have a respect for both rules and relationship. I understand that often times, following certain rules helps to strengthen our relationship with God, which is, at the end of the day, the most important thing.
Still, this discussion put my mind in a bit of a tilt-a-whirl. I don’t feel comfortable speaking on what God may or may not have told Le’Andria. (After all, God told Abraham to kill his own son.) You never know how he speaks to certain people. But I know personally, I could never hand out cigarettes to people. Having seen someone succumb to lung cancer from cigarettes, I can’t even stand to look at them. Knowing my aversion, it’s unlikely that God would tell me to not only buy them but then hand them out. Plus, I don’t know if cigarettes were necessary to get people’s attention. There are other things people need and want that she could have provided that would have earned their attention and trust but wouldn’t have compromised their health.
Then, I wonder, if and when they do get their lives together, whether or not they’ll remember that they were introduced or reunited with Christ through a cigarette. Will it be hard for them to kick the habit that brought them to God?
The cigarettes I can’t get down with or condone.
But the condoms…I have to admit I feel a bit differently about those. God created us, human beings with the biological need to have sex, for reproduction and for pleasure. Unlike the desire for cigarettes, which is learned, our desire for sex is natural. And as much preaching and teaching that goes on in the church about the right way to enjoy sex (within the confines of marriage), there are tons of people, Christian and non-Christian alike who will never live up to that standard. And while God, according to the Bible, doesn’t like it, I believe He understands it. God understands and is certainly more forgiving than we are. He knows that our lives are a journey. He knows we’re going to fall short, whether it’s with sex, a poor attitude, mean spiritedness, a nasty tongue. We’re just not perfect.
And since many of us are not there yet, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with protecting ourselves until we get there. This is especially the case for sex workers who are engaged in dangerous lifestyles for reasons that are far deeper and psychological than just taking pleasure from it, or even making money. Many of these women are and continue to be abused, many are being held captive in the lifestyle by force. And then others don’t believe they have any other option when it comes to supporting themselves and their families. It’s obvious that they’re going to be having sex. Should they not protect themselves? Is it wrong for a preacher to meet these women and some of us where we are, in the hopes that they can one day be in a different, better place, without children or a life-threatening sexually transmitted disease?
Personally, I get it.
But I know there are those who have grown up and still attend church who absolutely cannot rock with this. In fact, Le’Andria’s own “Preachers of Atlanta” co-star, Pastor Kimberly Jones-Pothier, said that while she admires and respects Le’Andria, she is not about that condom life. Instead, she has a different approach.
“I’m not going to be sending nobody to hell. I’m not going to have nobody get crabs. We’re not going to be doing that. I believe, I preach, no sex before marriage, period. I preach what the Bible says. If the Bible says it’s a sin, it’s a sin. That’s how I live. Now, I’m going to love you. I love her, in her unorthodox ways. But I’m not going to go hand condoms out because it would almost be like me saying ‘Here, go kill yourself. Go get AIDS…” I want to love them so much that it convicts them to want to get in church and want to get passionate about Jesus.”
It’s certainly a point of discussion.
Just after having unprotected sex with somebody, a million thoughts run through your head. You assume the worst. You try to bargain with the devil. You tell yourself you’re being crazy. You tell yourself you were crazy to do that. Here are just some of the scary thoughts we all have after unprotected sex.
Writer Taryn Hillin has an interesting article on Fusion about the often neglected face of HIV in America: straight Black men.
Yes, while all of pop culture and even various health departments and agencies have long targeted initiatives on the down-low Black men and straight Black women, we have forgotten about all the straight men out here infecting themselves and everybody else. As the article notes, Black men represented 68 percent of all heterosexuals who acquired HIV cases in 2011 alone.
In Hillin’s article, she mentions a new study from Healthy Psychology that studied the sexual lives of heterosexual Black men surveyed in Philadelphia. The study found that making safe sex and HIV/AIDS prevention a gender and a sexual orientation issue is one of the major reasons why heterosexual Black men are contracting the disease at such alarming rates.
As Hillin writes about the study’s results, condom use is mostly contingent upon how men perceive the women that they are intimate with, rather than the focus being on protecting their health. More specifically she writes:
Rather than viewing condoms as a way to prevent STDs/HIV, the men largely viewed condoms as way to tell whether or not a woman wanted to trap them. Specifically, if a woman wanted to use a condom, that meant she wasn’t trying to trick her partner into pregnancy—and was thus deemed safe.
At the same, if the woman provided the condom herself, then her status reverted back to unsafe. The logic? A woman could poke a hole in the condom or otherwise tamper with it.
As Hillin writes, the straight Black men surveyed not only see sex safe as primarily the responsibility of the women but they also viewed us as the main carriers and reason for how the disease is spread. But even within that perception, many of the men surveyed still take a cavalier approach to condom use; opting to forgo condoms with their “main” female partners and occasionally practicing safe sex with their women on the side – because, apparently, being in a committed relationship and having another woman on the side is normal.
Likewise, some men surveyed treat a woman’s insistence on condom use as a game or even a challenge meant to be conquered or won. As one “man” said in the survey, “I have had some women who have insisted upon it [wearing a condom], but all the time I’m thinking of a way to get it off, you know?”
The article, which you can read here in its entirety, is a must-read. It is also very nauseating. As Hillin notes, at no point in the study do any of these men consider what part they play in the spread of the disease. And truthfully, why should they? No one holds straight men, regardless of color, accountable and responsible for the decisions they personally make in their lives and the harm they cause to other people. Not their mothers or fathers. Not the church and other religious institutions. Not even government agencies and various health departments. This is a (straight) man’s world and everybody else is considered a barrier to overcome or just here on this planet to serve them and their own agendas. Honestly, I’m actually shocked that none of the men surveyed mentioned how HIV is a conspiracy by the White man to turn them all into emasculated gay men in dresses. Don’t laugh: I have actually heard Black men say this before…
To me, this survey illustrates why the down-low narrative is so dangerous. And I wish folks like Lee Daniels, who has gone on public record many times to make the same erroneous connection between bisexual brothers and the spread of the disease, would stop promoting it. Not only does this narrative falsely paint gay men as bogeymen out here to dupe women, but it totally glosses over the jacked-up mentality of straight men, which we should be most concerned about.
If I sound jaded that is because I’m tired of catering to the ego of straight men who think it is the world’s responsibility to take care of them, and ourselves at the same time. What this study should reveal to us all is that misogyny and homophobia are at the root of why HIV continues to plague the community. And it’s time that the menfolk in our lives be held responsible. Just as there are anti-rape campaigns out now, which seek to take the burden of sexual assault prevention off the backs of women by teaching men not to rape, there also needs to be a social paradigm shift to teach men the importance of taking care of their own sexual health and well-being. For the sake of us all…
Today is World Aids Day and who better to discuss this disease which is disproportionately affecting the African American community than the diva herself, Sheryl Lee Ralph? In 1990, the actress started the D.I.V.A. (Divinely Inspired Victoriously AIDS Aware) Foundation to create awareness of HIV/AIDs after seeing many of her Broadway fans fall victim to the disease, and 24 years later she's just as passionate about eradicating the deadly virus as she was in the '90s.
When we talked to Ralph she dished out some stern words for mothers who refuse to acknowledge that their daughters might not wait to have sex and also encouraged moms to be just as strict with their sons as they are with their little girls when it comes to preventing HIV/AIDs, herpes, and even HPV. Listen to her advice in the video above and tell us what you think.
With June 27 being National HIV Testing Day, last weekend I had the pleasure of viewing a movie so good I had to watch it twice. “The Normal Heart” is an HBO original movie based on a 1985 play of the same name. It recalls the life of Larry Kramer and focuses on the rise of the initial HIV/AIDS disease in New York City in the gay community. As a response, a group of men form the Gay Men’s Health Alliance to raise awareness about the disease which at the time is referred to as “Gay Men’s Cancer”. At first gay men are encouraged by the few medical professionals investigating the disease to stop having sex, which much of the gay community feels is a direct insult to the sexual revolution in which their open sexuality is just beginning to be accepted among society. In the meantime many of them are witnessing their friends, partners and families helplessly succumbing to the disease.
A few days later I tuned into one of my favorite series “Our America with Lisa Ling” and this time the episode focused on the stigma and shame still associated with HIV in the African-American community namely in the South where half of all new diagnoses in the country are located. In Washington D.C. 3% of the population are infected with HIV or AIDS, a rate that is higher than some African countries.
In the beginning of the episode, Ling interviews Daphne who contracted HIV from an encounter with a man she has just began dating. Daphne says when she learned she was infected, one of her first thoughts was, “God, why me? I never prostituted. I never was in the street. I never did anything. Why is this happening to me?” And I believe that’s the root of the problem that African-American community experiences specifically. We still associate STDs and HIV with immoral or deviant behavior. We still believe marriage will protect our sexual health which another woman, Kimberly, proves is completely untrue after she was infected with the virus from an unfaithful husband.
We also continue to believe HIV is a death sentence. With awareness and treatment, I know many people that are living healthier and longer than those who are HIV negative. HIV is not synonymous with death, promiscuity, drug use or homosexuality. It’s like associating asthma with a life of weed or crack use: the two don’t necessarily go hand in hand.
In many ways, our community is much like the gay men of the early eighties in “The Normal Heart”. We’re so entertained and defined by our open sexuality that we foolishly believe we’re open-minded to the consequences of our behavior as well. We’re talking about sex, but we’re not really taking about sex. We still find it challenging to acknowledge homosexuality that we aren’t having conversations about the alarming rate of men who contract HIV by having sex with other men in prison. Our values and discussions are growing more and more distant from our actual behavior, which is leaving room in the gap for a whole lot of ignorance and rising rates of unplanned pregnancy, HIV and STD infections and high risk behavior.
I’ve worked in sex education for a little over 5 years and what often happens is that the more educated you become and the more comfortable you become with conversations on topics like the sexual behavior of teenagers and the commonality of HPV infections, the more you take for granted that the community as a whole is just as educated and comfortable as you are. When I talk about HPV infection like the common cold, I have clients and students who are either clueless about the virus or instantly become terrified over the myth that those infected with HPV will inevitably develop cervical cancer. People often ask me how I can talk so openly about masturbation, anal sex and herpes. It’s because those things are as much a part of our sexuality as Mimi’s moves on the shower rod or Raven Symone’s sexual preference.
We have to normalize conversations about sexual behavior and make conversations about gonorrhea and herpes as common as conversations about Kanye and Kim K. or the new Nicki Minaj single. Because of the shame and stigma associated with the disease, I’ve met people who are infected but not disclosing to their partners whom they are sexually active with. What always alarms me the most are the numbers of people who do not want to get tested or know their status because they feel like if they are positive, the knowledge of that will kill them quicker. What? That’s like saying knowing you have diabetes or blood pressure will somehow make you die faster
Some of us fear what we don’t understand. Some of us pretend to not care about things that we feel don’t affect us. I believe most of the success the LGBTQ community had with spreading HIV/AIDS awareness was that is was EVERYONE’S problem, not just those affected. Whatever the case may be we need to be honest about the fact that ignoring something won’t make it go away and that some of those most important conversations are the ones we aren’t having. I think educating ourselves about HIV and certain things about sexuality make us uncomfortable because we’re hesitant to be honest with ourselves about our own sexuality. Before we can find any cures or answers, we have to educate ourselves and stop treating the less favorable aspects of our culture and communities like such a big damn secret.
Check out a clip of “Our America: Black America’s Silent Epidemic” below:
Toya Sharee is a community health educator and parenting education coordinator who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.
Today, we know enough to understand it isn’t just reckless, irresponsible, ignorant individuals who pick up STD’s—we can all be at risk sometimes, even when we take precautions. Many STD’s can still be passed even when there is a condom present, and the most evil ones show no symptoms for a long time—if ever—leaving the carrier to believe he or she is perfectly clean.
It’s very likely that in your life you’ll date, fall in love with, or even marry someone with a permanent STD like HPV or Herpes. Here’s how to navigate it so that you can increase your chances of staying STD-free, and minimize your chances of offending your partner.
I’ve always been a fan of muscle cars, and after Dodge rolled out a redesigned version of the iconic Charger in 2011—and after a very influential viewing of Fast Five—I decided to buy one.
It the two years since, I have no complaints. It took a little while to get used to the engine, but I’ve happily embraced the full doucheness of using all 400 of the horses in my engine to speed to Trader Joe’s.
Actually, I misspoke. I do have one minor complaint. I have to take it back to the dealership to get tuned up quite often. The last time occurred a little over a month ago. I think I needed new shocks or something, I don’t even remember.
What I do remember, though, is that while I was in the garage, waiting for my car, I heard something that sounded like a locomotive was revving up 20 feet away from me. I quickly turned around and saw the source of that noise: A Dodge Viper. A $120,000, 700hp Dodge Viper. Damn.
One of the guys at the garage saw me admiring it, and asked me if I wanted to test drive it. It apparently was brand new, and needed a couple tune ups before going on the dealer floor. As tempting as it was, I had to decline.
Now, you’re probably wondering why I’d start a piece about the pull-out method with three paragraphs worth of words about horsepower, engines, and a bunch of other stuff I’m sure you didn’t come to MadameNoire to read about. Stay with me, though. There is a method to my madness.
As the title suggests, I am a huge proponent of interruptus aka “the pull out method.” When done properly, it has been scientifically proven to be just as effective as condoms in preventing pregnancy. (Seriously, look it up.) All of the stuff you learned in middle school and high school sex ed about how ineffective pulling out is was false. It is, for people who wish to have unprotected sex and not have to worry about pregnancy, literally the best of both worlds. And, while birth control pills, patches, and injections can have side effects (and can be quite expensive) pulling out is easy and free!
That said, I do understand why it’s not exactly touted as the best thing to do. It doesn’t prevent STD transmission. And, well, it leaves a bit too much up to chance. All a guy has to do is pull out a half second too late and, well, it’s splash time. Also, I understand why teachers and parents tell young adults that it’s ineffective, because it’s not something you should even attempt to do unless you’re a grown up who knows exactly what they’re doing in the sack (and has taken every safety precaution)…which brings us back to the car point.
A super powerful (and super expensive) car like a Viper is not supposed to be driven by an inexperienced driver. You need to have years of experience driving a stick and dealing with powerful cars before you even think about getting behind the wheel of something like that. And, while I do have experience with cars with big engines, I declined driving it because I’m not that comfortable driving a stick, and knew better than to take something like that on the road while relatively inexperienced.
So, would I recommend it to anyone? Definitely! It’s a great freaking car. One of the best you can possibly buy. You’d be hard pressed to beat that driving experience.But…only if you know exactly what you are doing.
My new favorite show on ABC is called Mistresses. I know…sounds scandalous – and it is – and like most guilty pleasures, it involves sex. Lots of it. You have women who get too much of it, not enough of it or who get it from the wrong person, ie: NOT their husbands or someone else’s husband. While it may seem to some that sex is sex and getting it can never be a bad thing, there can be a such thing as the wrong kind of sex. Think you know the difference between healthy and unhealthy sex? See if you’ve ever participated in any of the following…and if it was good or bad for you.
Welcome to the debut of “The Hustle” where we profile African-American women who are turning their passion into a little something on the side, and turning that little something into a big business. Know someone who should be in “The Hustle”? Email email@example.com.
“No Glove, No Love.”
When boxing fan and Carla Ja put this familiar slogan on t-shirts to sell at the Mayweather vs. Cotto match last May, it became the unofficial launch of her business. “Within a couple of hours,” she says, “I sold out of the shirts.”
The sales drove more than usual traffic to her website, and led to even more sales—but soon after, Ja admits, interest faded. “All of the momentum and everything just, you know, kind of went away.”
For Ja (pronounced “Jay”) who juggles raising five children with a full-time position as a manager in the medical field, the t-shirts were not about making a few extra dollars on the side. Instead, it was the beginning of the realization of an idea she had had more than 16 years ago.
At the time, Ja’s eldest daughter was three and she had been feeling more responsibility for the world her children would inherit. “I wanted to do something to be a positive contribution to society, and a big part of it is, you know, safe sex and abstinence,” Ja explains. “But I didn’t want to be preachy,” she clarifies.
Biding her time as her family and career grew, and weathering a divorce in the process, Ja finally had the shirts made. But their debut taught her a cardinal rule of business: It’s not about whatever product, service, or even message you’re selling. It’s about building a brand that authentically connects with a community of supporters that can help you make your concept a movement.
Ja had found the seeds of that support in the boxing fans that had patronized her shirts. Now she had to build her brand. As she explained to MadameNoire, it has not been a predictable or straightforward course.
Madame Noire: How did you go about beginning to create your brand?
Carla Ja: I started doing entertainment reporting for Humormill.com and interviewing a lot of the comedians that were doing improv here in Houston, Texas; interviewing the guys from Shaq’s All-Star Comedy Tour. A lot of those interviews really started circulating on the Internet, and shortly thereafter some gentlemen approached me and said “You know what? We see that you’re into boxing. We see all of your pictures. We see that you’re at every boxing event. We see that you’re also doing the entertainment reporting. How would you like to do boxing interviews for us?”
From there, Jeff Mayweather’s Pro Boxing Insider asked me, would I be a contributor for their website. Then Boxing Socialist asked me if I would be a contributor.
MN: How did the interviews evolve into managing boxers?
CJ: A lot of the up-and-coming prospects started asking me, “Miss Carla, can you get us sponsorships?” “Miss Carla, can you hook us up with someone that can help us out with, you know, endorsements and the patches for our trunks?” I said, “You know what? I should just go on and launch my own company.” So that was already something that was in the back of my mind.
From that I interviewed Juan “the Baby Bull” Diaz and [he] said “You know what? I’d like for you to be an athlete representative for my company.”
God opens doors and kind of puts the perfect people in front of you. It just kind of evolved from me launching the t-shirt company and wanting to have a larger platform; to now having a sports and entertainment company [Carla Ja Sports & Entertainment] with a number of potential athletes who are slated to sign here in the next couple of weeks, to the ones that I’m currently managing.