An African American blog of politics, culture, and social activism.
It is time for honesty in our various African American communities about sex and sexual activity. For so long sexual activity has been used as a racist weapon against us–enslavement, Jim Crow and African colonialism. In addition, our religious roots–Evangelical Protestantism to Islam– has given us taboos about sex. Strictures and teachings about marital fidelity from our religious traditions have made us feel guilty and ashamed about our individual desire and behavior instead of aware and joyous about them. The important lessons about ethical mutuality our religious traditions hope to impart is often lost and inflicts more subjugation on women, which silences frank discussion about our sexual desires and needs that are taking place in our communities. This is not healthy theologically, ethically or socially. I hope that religious leaders of all faiths will begin to make space to address the sexual health of those in black communities around the country. This must begin by freeing black women to talk about their own sexual well-being–desires, pleasures, and needs. Black women make-up a majority of our black community. I also hope young activist will take this up more as a cause of our internal well being. The issues of sexual well-being are tied up with poverty, social class, families, public education, sex education, and religion.
By: Sheryl Huggins Salomon is deputy editor of The Root.
Posted: March 9, 2010 at 1:01 PM
Find out why the government thinks this group has been hit so hard by the disease.
The latest news out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is very troubling, to say the least.
A jaw-dropping 48 percent of black women between ages 14 and 49 have the virus which causes genital herpes, says the federal agency. Blacks in general are more than three times as likely as whites to have herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) (39.2 percent vs. 12.3 percent).
Why is it so much higher among black women? It is likely that biological factors make women more susceptible to genital herpes than men, says the CDC. American women in general are nearly twice as likely as men to be infected (21 percent vs. 11 percent). Then add on top of that socioeconomic factors that negatively affect blacks’ general state of health, and it’s no surprise that black women draw the short straw when it comes to getting genital herpes.
What’s worse, most don’t even know they’ve drawn that short straw. Up to 80 percent of genital herpes infections in the United States are undiagnosed. “Many individuals are transmitting herpes to others without even knowing it,” said John M. Douglas Jr., director of CDC’s division of STD prevention. “It is important that persons with symptoms suggestive of herpes-especially recurrent sores in the genital area-seek clinical care to determine if these symptoms may be due to herpes and might benefit from treatment.”
Sores aren’t the only sign you’ve been infected, and many people don’t even experience them. Redness and itching are other symptoms, and the disease can still be transmitted without visible sores.
The high rate of genital herpes infections among blacks may contribute toward the high rate of HIV in the black community by making transmission easier, says the CDC.
So what do we do? If you know you have genital herpes, you definitely should avoid sex when symptoms or sores are present. Remember that genital herpes can still be transmitted when sores are not present. Using condoms consistently and correctly, and limiting the number of people you have sex with are also important to limiting the spread of the disease.
For more information on the disease, check out the CDC’s genital herpes fact sheet.