What Does Sex Have to Do With It? STDs in Women of Color

Monday, March 10, 2008: 5:30 PM
International Ballroom North
Loretta J. Ross , SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective, Atlanta, GA
Concerns about racial disparities in STD rates have plagued STD prevention strategy discussions for many years. Likewise, social and cultural taboos against discussing sexuality and awkward attempts to overcome them have compounded efforts to address these disparities, particularly among women of color. The prohibition against talking about sex among African American and Latina women, for example, creates a natural barricade against any discussion about safe sex practices (i.e., reducing number of sex partners, using a condom). Traditional STD prevention interventions have often failed to take into account mitigating factors that too often render their impact ineffective, such as the assumed subservient roles women are expected to play in support of their man's ”masculinity”, the historically-based stigma associated with having an STD (i.e., STD–infected women are promiscuous), or the inherent mistrust of health care providers. Long time recognition of contextual issues, such as lack of access to care, poor housing, and poverty, strengthen the barricade against healthy sexuality.
This session will be based on the concept that healthy sexuality is a human right with emphasis on women of color in the United States. The connection between racial disparities and attitudes toward sexuality will be examined to lend insight into challenges in reaching women of color. Involving and listening to affected women to address these issues will be discussed as a critical element for success in overcoming disparities in STDs. The experiences of grass roots organizations serving women of color, especially intentional partnerships established between otherwise atypical partners, will help instruct recommended approaches to better outreach and success.
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