Know Your Risks


    Sexual health can dramatically impact your overall health. According to the World Health Organization, it is defined as a state of physical, emotional, mental, and social well-being in relation to sexuality. Part of that includes safe sexual experiences.

    Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that African Americans accounted for 47% of HIV diagnoses from 2008-2011. Of all ethnic groups, African Americans are actually the most affected by the majority of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including gonorrhea and syphilis.

    In addition, according to the CDC, in 2010 African Americans made up 69% of all reported gonorrhea cases. The rate of chlamydia among black women was more than 7 times that of Caucasian women. Also, more than 47% of all reported syphilis cases were African Americans. Poverty, large gaps between the rich and the poor, few jobs, and low education levels may play a role in these rates.

    The Mayo Clinic list the following factors as contributing to an increased risk of contracting an STD:

    • Having unprotected sex
    • Having sexual contact with multiple partners
    • Having a history of sexually transmitted infections
    • Anyone forced to have sexual intercourse or sexual activity
    • Abusing alcohol or using recreational drugs
    • Injecting drugs
    • Being an adolescent female
    • Men who request prescriptions for drugs to treat erectile dysfunction

    It is important to seek treatment early if you believe you have an STD, as they can cause serious complications. This can include pelvic pain, hair loss, pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and certain cancers. In addition, you may spread the infection to someone else. Treatment for STDs usually consist of antibiotics or antiviral drugs.

    STDs have a range of signs and symptoms. You may have an STD if you are experiencing painful and burning urination, sores or bumps, penis discharge, unusual smelling vaginal discharge or bleeding, and painful sex. Symptoms however may not appear for years after infection. That’s why it is very important to get tested. You can help protect yourself from STDs.

    The CDC has these recommendations:

    • Practicing abstinence
    • Mutual monogamy
    • Getting vaccinations
    • Reducing your number of sexual partners
    • Using condoms

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