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Archive for the ‘Sex Education’ Category

nwghaad-webbadge-125xEach year on March 10th people across the country come together to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS and its impact on women and girls on National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD). For too long, HIV/AIDS was classified as a disease that only affected gay men – a dangerous and inaccurate myth that left many women out of the conversation. However, in the 33 years since the epidemic started we have seen that  HIV can affect anyone, regardless of race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or gender. NWGHAAD was established to bring awareness to a specific population – women and girls – that is affected by HIV/AIDS, but is too often forgotten.

HIV/AIDS is a serious public health issue for women and girls. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV. Of those people, one in four (25%) is a woman 13 or older. Furthermore, an estimated 27,000 women have HIV but don’t know their status. Because of the misinformation surrounding the disease, many heterosexual women may not be aware of their own risk factors.

While HIV/AIDS has a serious impact on all mujeres y niñas, Latin@s are disproportionately impacted by the disease. In 2010 Latin@s represented eight percent of new HIV infections, which was more than four times the rate of new HIV infections for non-Hispanic white women. Additionally, the areas of the U.S. where HIV/AIDS is most prevalent – including California, Florida, Texas, and New York – are also the areas with the highest Latino populations and fastest growing Latino populations.

Why are our herman@s at such high risk for contracting HIV? According to the CDC, there are several complex factors that increase Latin@s’ risk of catching the virus, including:

  • Socioeconomic factors: Factors such as poverty, discrimination, and lack of access to affordable and quality healthcare are major contributors.
  • Stigma: The stigma associated with HIV/AIDS, including how it was contracted, may prevent Latin@s from seeking prevention services, testing, and treatment.
  • Cultural factors: Latinos in the U.S. are diverse and trace their roots to many countries. Studies show that country-specific cultural factors may impact behavioral risk factors, including how HIV is contracted. Additionally, traditional gender roles and cultural norms, which perpetuate harmful mandates about Latinas’ sexuality, may increase prevention challenges.
  • High rates of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs): Latin@s have higher rates of STIs than non-Hispanic white women. Pre-existing STIs can increase an individual’s risk for HIV infection once exposed to the virus.
  • Immigration status: Immigrant women and families may be hesitant to seek preventive, testing, and treatment services due to fear of having to disclose their status and being deported.

Although the statistics paint a somber picture, NWGHAAD provides an ideal opportunity start changing them for the better. The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health encourages everyone to use NWGHAAD to take action and take control by getting the facts, getting tested, and starting a conversation about HIV/AIDS and Latin@s.

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Say it with me, hymen!

The hymen is a covering that surrounds the vaginal opening. Female babies are born with. Most hymens are donut-shaped and have a small opening in the middle. They’re thick when we’re babies and with time wear away, thin out or no longer exist because of exercise, masturbation, washing etc. That’s right. Hymens are NOT a covering on top of the whole vagina. If it were, we wouldn’t be able to get our periods while virgins.

Why am I even talking about this?

Because I’m sooo tired of the discourse around virginity and our bodies; why is it so violent?! (What else is new). No, our virginity is not a cherry one has to “pop”, “pierce”, “rip”, “puncture”, “tear” etc. This idea that we need to bleed to know for sure we’re no longer virgins or that our partner needs to make us bleed, needs to stop. If we’re bleeding, that means tissue was torn, we’re in pain and that’s not okay!

First off, virginity is more than just going into a vagina. It’s also a state of mind. And it isn’t something that someone takes away or steals. It’s like we’re connecting our body, mind and/or soul. No one is a virginity collector. Stop it.

I found some really awesome tips on how to decrease the pain during your first sexual encounters:

1. TAKE YOUR TIMEEEEEEEEE

Many times partners who have consented to sex may be scared someone will change their mind so proceed with sex right away that can cause pain. Hymens can be stretched out before using an object and/or penis and it’ll be less painful. Days, maybe even weeks, before objects and/or penises enter the vagina, the hymen should be stimulated with fingers or smaller objects to stretch it out. If it hurts, stop, and try again later. Also keep in mind your partner may have some trauma they’re dealing with and need time to be there mentally, spiritually etc.

2. FOREPLAY AND EXPLORATION. DO IT.

It’ll lubricate stuff down there. And if you have trouble lubricating, they sell stuff in the store. Buy it! And of course, get to know your body.

3. IT’S NOT PORN Y’ALL

Don’t attack the holy vagina. Praise it.

4. REPEAT REPEAT

If you haven’t had sex in a while and start again, you might want to start off slow again. Our hymen will reduce back to its original size and there may be discomfort again.

5. COMMUNICATE

The most important of all. Communicate. Everyone is allowed to change their minds prior, during and post sex. Respect and practice that.

hymen

Any other tips or things folks can try to do to have less painful sexual encounters?

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photoValentina Forte-Hernandez is a Berkeley California born Immigrant/Reproductive rights activist. She is interning at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health this summer before returning to her second year at Hampshire college where she studies film production. During her first year of college she worked for Civil Liberties and Public Policy and wrote for the online political blog, The Black Sheep Journal. She is a 19 year old, biracial Latina who writes about topics that speak to her personally. She has voiced her opposition to the shaming of teen moms, Texas’ anti-abortion legislation, immigration reform that hurts the lives and rights of immigrants and now she writes about the need for comprehensive sexual education for teenagers:

Post By Valentina Forte-Hernandez

Teenagers are having sex and will continue to do so whether you like it or not. It’s nothing new, but people are still acting as if it were a shocking discovery. Whether you like it or not, the fact of the matter is that many teenagers are sexually active, not liking it does nothing to prevent teenagers from having sex and it certainly does nothing to protect them. Instead of frowning and wagging your finger, why don’t we put more effort into making sure teenagers are physically and emotionally safe when they do make the decision to have sex? We need sex ed that actually teaches teenagers how to be smart and safe about sex. We do not need education that shames us and our bodies, we don’t need to be taught that we shouldn’t talk about sex. Sex will be a part of our lives whether we choose to be sexually active or not, so we need to know about it and be prepared for it.

999613696749556760   Opponents of comprehensive sex ed may claim that it puts dirty ideas in teenagers’ heads and encourages them to be sexually active. If that’s true, then could somebody explain to me why the states that take the abstinence only approach to sex ed have higher rates of teen pregnancy than states that require comprehensive sex ed? Abstinence only classes do not deter teenagers from being sexually active. These classes provide students with no resources or information about safety, they teach teenagers to be ashamed of their bodies and sexuality. Shaming teenagers about sex does nothing to protect them. Teaching abstinence only classes not only puts teenagers in danger of spreading disease and unwanted pregnancy, it also increases the chance that they will be in emotionally unsafe situations. If your teacher is saying that you are wrong for having sex, you’re not going to feel comfortable asking your teacher any questions if you are considering having sex. If a teenager already feels ashamed for having sex it is so much harder for them to come forward with an incident of sexual assault or rape. They have already been told sex is wrong, so who do they go to when something wrong has happened to them?

   Comprehensive sex ed gives students the information to help them make their own decisions about their bodies and it gives them the confidence to be honest about their desires and experience. Students who have been given the tools to protect themselves have the knowledge and ability to practice safe sex, while students who don’t have any information may not know how to have safe sex. A teenager who has been told that being sexually active is their choice to make is more likely to have the confidence to refuse unwanted sex than one who has learned to be self-conscious and secretive about their sexuality. Teenagers in abstinence only classes are not learning about sex in school but they’re still having it so comprehensive sex ed is clearly not to blame for the fact that teenagers are sexually active.

   Comprehensive sex ed is miles ahead of abstinence only classes when it comes to protecting teenagers, but that’s not to say it’s perfect. I grew up in California, a state that offers comprehensive sex ed and has just seen it’s lowest rate of teen births in 20 years. My first sex ed class happened every other wednesday afternoon. This was the only classes where the boys were separated from the girls. I don’t know what the boys were learning about while we were watching our teacher put tampons in glasses of water because we never talked about it. That was the problem, we didn’t talk to the boys about sex and the segregation of genders was teaching us that we shouldn’t have these discussions with each other. Some might say that these early sex ed classes should be taught separately so students feel comfortable asking embarrassing questions. Sex ed is uncomfortable no matter what, but we should have been going to that comfort and feeling that embarrassment along with the boys. We should be learning from an early age that it is okay to talk about ourselves with anyone, regardless of gender. In my first sex ed class, I was taught about my period, I was taught about contraception but I learned that my body, my experience as a girl was icky to boys and I should never talk to them about it.

   All of my sex ed classes were severely lacking when it came to teaching us about the emotional aspects of sex. The word consent was never uttered, nor was there any discussion about any of the emotional choices that come with being a sexually active person. We never discussed the depiction of sex in popular culture which may not seem like it’s directly related to sexual safety, but considering that we are surrounded and influenced by dramatic, idealized depictions of sex, we probably should have at least one conversation about it. When our movies and advertisements are teaching us things like, girls who have sex are slutty, and if you have sex with him, he’ll stay with you forever it would have been beneficial to talk about the reality of choosing to be sexually active and to debunk some of these artificial depictions. There was no discussion of rape ever. Maybe the topic was avoid in hopes that it was an issue we would never have to deal with, but hoping for the best did nothing to prepare us for the worst, it did nothing to teach us about preventing rape, or what help was out there for us if we had had such an experience. We were given the number to a confidential hotline….Oh, and we watched an episode of Law and order: SVU once, that’s sufficient, right?

   Maybe these conversations weren’t happening in my comprehensive sex ed class because adults didn’t feel like we were mature enough to discuss the emotional impacts of being sexually active but the fact is many of us were already sexually active so these conversations should have been happening. If we were old enough to learn about protection and use it we were old enough to learn about communicating with partners, and we were definitely old enough to learn that sex in the movies is miles different from sex in real life. We knew there were physical consequences to having unsafe sex, we saw the pictures. When it came to the emotional impact of having sex, we were left to figure it out on our own through trial and error and in sometimes the error did a lot of damage.

   Sex ed needs to improve across the board. The abstinence only approach to sex ed needs to be thrown out the window because it doesn’t work. Any class that fails to discuss why being a safe and responsible sexually active person requires more than just using condoms needs to rethink their curriculum. Teenagers need to learn to be honest and confident in their sexual decisions. They need to know that it is not only okay to talk about sex, but that they should be talking about it! If you can’t have a real discussion about sex, you shouldn’t be having it. Sex ed should be about equipping teenagers with all the knowledge, resources and confidence to make the most best, most informed decisions for themselves. If your sex ed class isn’t rooted in teaching teens about sexual safety, then it is not serving the actual needs of teenagers. Sexual safety means physical protection, it means communication, it means honesty, self-awareness and respect. Stop trying to shame teenagers out of having sex, it won’t work. Protect and respect teenagers’ rights to make their own decisions about their own bodies.

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by Ana Laura Rivera

Soy poderosa porque contando mi historia ayuda a luchar por los derechos de nuestra salud. I am powerful because sharing my story helps fight for women’s health. Because of this, I advocate for the need of sexual health education and resources in public schools. Attending a low-income public school in the Rio Grande Valley region in South Texas, sexual health education was not an available for me or my peers. Students were not allowed to ask questions about sex during our so-called health class. I did not know anything about sex, and I was afraid to go ask any adult about sex, whether a teacher or counselor, and especially my parents. (more…)

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By Paola Martinez, Community Mobilization Intern

As thousands of students all over the world have started to mobilize towards sexual education and reproductive health issues, it becomes evident that these subjects are important for young people in our communities. I would say that the earlier we start to talk about it, the better results we are going to have.  Thousands of students around the world are making a call for “10 days of activism” to speak about:  HIV prevention, contraceptive methods and LGBTQ and human rights.

It is important that leaders and policy makers realize that they have to protect funding for programs that provide resources to address the sex education and reproductive health needs of younger people in our communities.

Following this call of “10 days of activism,” a major UN agency youth program has proposed better access to abortion and sexual education as key to fulfilling young people’s reproductive rights ahead of the 2011 UN Youth Conference to be celebrated in New York this month.

“We envision a world where Young People’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights are fully realized and where youth can experience and celebrate their sexuality,” declares the statement. They give special emphasis to the right to choose and call on governments to create a legal system where young people have universal access to safe abortion and comprehensive sexuality education.  Thousands of young people are sharing their experiences and giving testimony about how access to sexual education and reproductive health would have changed their life or would have helped them to make better decisions.

NLIRH agrees, and works to advocate and mobilize the Latino community to gain access to affordable health insurance, sex education, family planning, contraception and many other reproductive health issues.

By Paola Martinez, Community Mobilization Intern

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By Rita Martinez, Development and Communications Intern

Two latina young women at a computer

Post updated after the jump, August 19

While research has shown that abstinence-only sex education programs don’t work, the University of Central Florida has ignored this fact and recently developed a new virtual reality game which delivers one message, loud and clear: say “no” to sex, and win.

This virtual game features avatars that simulate “real-life” scenarios and proclaims to teach young teens how to resist the advances of their peers. It claims to provide girls with a medium to understand the subtleties surrounding the peer pressure to engage in sexual behavior. Noble as it seems, this game is inherently ill-informed as it takes on a very narrow-minded approach to sex education.

According to one of the developers, Professor Anne Norris, the ultimate goal is “to reduce pregnancy and sexually-transmitted disease among the young Latina population.” I wonder how they intend to do that exactly- will they attempt to be culturally relevant? And if that is indeed the goal of this game, why not give young Latinas a multi-faceted perspective that empowers them to explore the full spectrum of options available to them? No, instead this game purports an outdated view of Latinas, drawing faulty conclusions from their higher pregnancy and STI rates. What they should see is that these health disparities are not a result of a young girl’s ineptitude to deflect sexual advances, but a lack of an integrated approach to comprehensive sex education.

(more…)

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Today, at the start of National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, we released Removing Stigma: Towards a Complete Understanding of Young Latinas’ Sexual Health, an up-to-date research analysis of young Latinas’ sexual health and the impact of current policies.

The research is clear: traditional teen pregnancy prevention campaigns that rely on stigma and shame simply don’t work. Latinas and their families need health resources that recognize their unique experiences.

Download the full report here and read the press release here.

The report will be available in spanish shortly.

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On Monday, President Obama delivered the proposed budget for fiscal year 2011 to Congress.

We are grateful that the Administration has expanded federal funds for Title X family planning programs and clinics, which invest in reproductive health and wellness for Latinas and immigrant women and provide reproductive health care to many Latinas.  Latinas have the highest uninsured rate of women of any other racial or ethnic group, at 37%, and it is critical that during our national economic crisis we continue to offer an essential source of reproductive health and preventative services, especially for low-income women.

It is also good news that the President has increased funding for evidence-based sex education and for community health centers, which are an essential source of reproductive and preventive health care for low-income Latinas and immigrant women.

However, we are deeply disappointed with the President’s decision to preserve the harmful provision known as the Hyde Amendment in the FY 2011 budget.  A woman’s ability to access a legal, safe abortion remains under attack, and as evidenced by health care reform debates, the Hyde Amendment only serves as ammunition.  Over a quarter of women on Medicaid are Latinas, and low-income Latina and immigrant women are disproportionately impacted by restrictions to abortion access.  Preserving this provision will enable a politically-motivated barrier to continue and restricts safe, legal abortions for poor women.

While it is important to recognize that the budget includes some victories for reproductive health access, it is also crucial to speak out against provisions that prevent true reproductive justice. Basta! 33 years is enough!

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