It’s the most wonderful time of year (besides Christmas, of course). That is correct, my friends, we just celebrated National Condom Week and you should be just as excited. In celebration of sexual and reproductive health and freedom, one week of each year is nationally dedicated to reducing stigma surrounding sex and enhancing personal and public activism. For, in order to breed a more culturally appropriate and accepting perception of an often times overshadowed or highly stigmatized issue, we must begin by addressing inherent systemic issues. These issues recognizably compromise individual and collective social justice and thus, calls for our attention, especially as advocates of public health.
For this purpose, clinics and grassroots organizations alike come together to spread awareness and accessibility to options promoting safe sex. As, in the U.S., there are roughly 19 million new cases of STI’s (Sexually Transmitted Infections) each year, half of which consist of teens and young adults (CDC, 2009). These ever-increasing rates present an integral variable essential for positive health outcome and behavior: educational intervention. It is the responsibility of health-directed educators and practitioners to promote fact-based sexual health education programs, specifically beginning in early development (McClung and Perfect, 2012).
To address this interventional necessity, National Condom Week works with outreach efforts to educate youth on pregnancy prevention options, such as condoms, and education on safe sex practices more tailored to proven societal sexual behaviors. The week is catered to not only spread awareness on the issue, but to also build advocates to shift the current language surrounding sexual practices. Thus, by increasing transparency and accessibility to sexual health resources, agents can feel more empowered to make positive health choices.
Now, I’m sure you’re wondering how this movement looks on-the-ground? I know, see what I did there? Locally, we have various initiatives, most notably celebrated by Planned Parenthood and Choices: Memphis Center for Reproductive Health. Both clinics are catered to providing reproductive health education/services and aim to instill this critical sense of empowerment in patients to take greater initiative on this issue. During this week, Planned Parenthood campaigns to highlight locations where individuals can access free condoms. Although condoms are available at nearly every drug store, the campaign aims to target both the stigma and monetary factors involved in accessibility and positive health-seeking behavior. Further, Choices works to promote sexual health and reproductive freedom by hosting Condominium,an annual public awareness event and fundraiser. Here, local designers create dresses, made wholly out of condoms, to promote advocacy and again, to reduce stigma surrounding their purchase and use. Choices also aims to advocate for sexual health as a critical component of overall, holistic health and to address the need in creating a more positive and accepting dialogue concerning issues surrounding sexual health.
Each of these movements, among others, work as a cohesive force in addressing the need to break the silence and ignominy universally attributed to issues of sexuality, reproductive health, and social justice. If you weren’t already proud to be a Memphian, I bet you are now.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Sexual Risk Behavior: HIV, STD, & Teen Pregnancy Prevention.” (2009). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/ http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/sexualbehaviors/index.htm.
McClung, A and Perfect, M. (2012). “Sexual Health Education: Social and Scientific Perspectives and How School Psychologists Can Be Involved.” National Association of School Psychologists, 40(6). http://www.nasponline.org/publications/cq/40/6/sexual-health-education.aspx.
Author: Donya Ahmadian