Valentine's Day isn't the only "holiday" today.
Condoms, which are believed to have been around as early as 1000 B.C., are one way to effectively protect yourself against HIV and other STIs (sexually transmitted infections) such as gonorrhea, herpes, syphilis and Chlamydia. And given that African-Americans are disproportionately impacted by these diseases, condoms are crucial in protecting ourselves.
What's interesting to point out is that some past data shows that African-Americans use condoms more often than their white counterparts and get tested more often — which is good news. But because of a lot of factors, such as late testing, poor access to quality health care and systematic poverty, to name a few, our communities have higher rates of HIV, which means we are more likely to come across the virus when having sex with others who live in our communities.
This is why it's extremely important to use condoms consistently — all the time — and get tested regularly.
And look, I know that it's easy to just say, "Well, just use a condom!" But what many people fail to realize is that for many men and women, using condoms isn't that easy, especially when the person's partner is uninformed about STIs, HIV and pregnancies, is stubborn, controlling and/or abusive, or is the one who controls the couple's finances. Sometimes in order to keep a partner or feel loved, we sacrifice our own health.
Cambridge University in Massachusetts offers up some scenarios you might find yourself in and effective responses to use:
Partner: Sex with condoms doesn't feel as good. I can't feel anything with one on.
You: Sex may feel different with a condom, but it doesn't have to be unpleasant. I know if we use condoms I'll feel a lot safer and more relaxed, and that will make sex more enjoyable for both of us.
Partner: Don't you trust me?
You: We may both believe we're disease-free and trust each other, but people can have an STI and not know it. We may not be able to trust our past partners. I trust that using a condom will protect us both.
Partner: My HIV test was negative.
You: HIV is not the only infection I'm worried about. There are several STIs that may not have any visible symptoms even if you are infected. A condom will help protect us both from getting an STI.
Partner: I love you. If you really loved me, you wouldn't ask me to use a condom.
You: Love isn't the issue. Getting a sexually transmitted infection is. I think if you loved me, you would be more concerned about protecting us both from infections.
In the end, in order to protect your health, you have to be able to speak up and advocate for yourself.
To learn more about how to use a condom properly and other information on condoms, go here.
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