Discussing sex can be difficult between most parents and their emerging adults. If your family is part of a Black community, openly discussing sexual health is nearly impossible. More now than ever, this needs to change.
April is Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) Awareness Month, which provides an opportunity to raise awareness about sexually transmitted infections and their impact on our lives while ensuring everyone has the tools and knowledge for prevention, testing, and treatment.
Transgenerational racial trauma, hyper-sexualized portrayals of Black people, and the devaluation of Black bodies as commodities have led to deep-rooted anxiety for Black parents when discussing sex. Most of our sex talks revolve around warnings “Don’t have (or think about) sex until marriage!” “Don’t come home pregnant!” or “Don’t get anyone pregnant!” Sex is part of life, and not talking about it doesn’t make it suddenly disappear. We do a disservice to youth in Black communities by not providing a safe space for sincere discussions related to sex and sexuality.
In Los Angeles County, data from the Public Health Department for December 2021 to November 2022 shows that those aged 18-29 comprise 30% of reported syphilis cases, 45% of gonorrhea cases, and 33% of HIV cases. Although comprising only 8% of Los Angeles County’s population, Blacks have been disproportionately affected by STIs, including 20% of syphilis cases, 19% of gonorrhea cases, and 17% of HIV cases as of November 2022. Keep in mind that STIs could be transmitted during sex or from skin-to-skin contact.
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More Black youth are getting tested and receiving education, which are great ways to prevent the spread of STIs in our communities. The Black Health Initiative of Planned Parenthood Los Angeles (PPLA) believes in fostering strong family dynamics through fact-based health education programs and classes, reaching nearly 50,000 women, men, and young adults each year. However, as a PPLA educator, I recommend that Black families normalize conversations about sex and sexual health so that our young people know how to protect themselves.
Here are five tips for parents to start these conversations with their families about sex and healthy practices:
- Talk early: Setting the groundwork early to discuss sexual attraction, gender identity, and personal boundaries helps young adults become more open about sex and sexual relationships.
- Talk often: Breaking this topic down into small, frequent discussions can make this conversation easier to facilitate conversations about sex and sexual relationships.
- Keep it together: Don’t be shocked by anything asked or discussed. Empowering young people to talk openly and honestly about sex shouldn’t be taboo.
- Educate yourself. You don’t have to know the answer to every question but use honesty and transparency as guidelines to become their “go-to” to find the correct answers together.
- Listen & validate. Listening without judgment will help youth feel more comfortable coming to their parents with questions. Before offering insights or advice, thank them for sharing with you.
STI Awareness Month is a prime opportunity for all parents to use these tips with the young adults in their lives; not only could it help them delay sex, but it also increases the likelihood of using condoms which decreases STIs.
To learn more about removing the stigma from sexual health conversation by fostering an informed family dynamic and Planned Parenthood Los Angeles’s educational programs, please visit https://www.plannedparenthood.org/planned-parenthood-los-angeles/local-education-training.
Brittinae Phillips is the community education manager for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles’s Black Health Initiative, managing community outreach and education for parents, college students, and youth.