Risky Business: Why Young Black Women Are Having Unsafe Sex
When it comes to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), Black women still rank at the top with the highest rates of infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Black women between the ages of 15 to 24 have the highest rates of chlamydia and syphilis. With all the information on safe sex and efforts to reduce HIV infection in Black women, why do young Black women still have high rates of STDs? While factors such as poverty and a lack of health education can affect Black women’s engagement in risky sexual behavior, a recent study on sexual health and Black women identified three areas that impact whether Black women at different ages engage in risky sexual behavior — affecting their risk to contract STDs. Those factors are depression, parental relationships, and self-image.
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A recent study showed that Black women ages18-27 who reported higher levels of depression also reported engaging in riskier sexual behavior. For young Black women, depression may manifest itself in risky sexual behavior. Therefore, empowering young Black women through health education and formal and informal social support systems such as social groups, families, and mentor programs may prevent their engagement in risky sexual behavior as a means to deal with depression. This information is also beneficial for physicians and other healthcare professionals when dealing with young Black women who may be depressed to ensure that they are educating them on how to handle stress and the importance of practicing safe sex at all times.
The study also showed that parental relationships played an important role in risky sexual behavior. Interestingly, there were slight differences across age in how parental relationships affect whether Black women engaged in risky sexual behavior. Black women (ages18-27) who reported their parents provided for them were less likely to report engaging in riskier sexual behavior. Black women who do not receive adequate support from their parents might depend on unstable relationships for support which may, in turn, expose them to risky behavior in general.
Additionally, Black women (ages 25-34) who felt they had a close relationship with their mother were less likely to engage in risky sexual behavior, compared to Black women who reported not having a close relationship with their mother. Having a close relationship with one’s mother may imply that they can talk to her about different sexual and/or sensitive issues. Thus, maternal, supportive relationships may cause Black women (ages 25-34) to not engage in risky sexual behavior because they talk with their mother about sex and are able to have their mother answer any questions they may have or offer advice.
Finally, results indicated that Black women ages 18-27 who perceived themselves to be careful engaged in less risky sexual behavior. It is not surprising that someone who believes they are careful would be less likely to engage in risky sexual behavior. If you are a careful person, you will make sure that you’re having safe sex and taking all precautions necessary to protect yourself from STDs and pregnancy.
This article is adapted from research featured in The Journal of Black Sexuality and Relationships. For the full study, “An Explorative Study of Black Women’s Sexual Health Throughout Womanhood,” visit thejbsr.com.
Visit the BlackDoctor.org STDs center for more articles.
Krista Mincey, Xavier University of Louisiana, [email protected], @dockdblue on Twitter
Claire M. Norris, Louisiana Board of Regents, [email protected], @clairenorris on Twitter