To prevent unplanned pregnancies and HIV/STD rates, it is crucial to keep sending messages about the importance for people to use condoms every time they have sex.
But it's also important to recognize that telling people to use condoms doesn't always help, especially for those who have barriers standing in their way of being able to protect themselves in the first place.
One of those barriers is being financially dependent on someone else.
A recent report conducted at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore found African-American teen girls whose financial support mostly comes from their boyfriends are less likely to use condoms. According to ABCNews.com, HIV prevention researchers analyzed data from 715 African-American girls ages 15-22 from the Atlanta area and found the following:
— Twenty-five percent of the participants who receive care from family-planning centers said their major source of spending money comes from boyfriends, as opposed to their parents/guardians or jobs.
— The participants were 10 percent more likely to have sex without condoms in the past 60 days.
— Few girls from the entire study reported using other forms of contraception, including birth control.
— Girls with boyfriends who had cars were 50 percent more likely to have unprotected sex.
These women were also less likely to respond to HIV prevention methods.
The data follows what many HIV/AIDS advocates have said for years: For many reasons, too many women in the U.S. have less power in their relationships, which makes it incredibly difficult for them to insist that their partners use condoms. Researchers also highlight that in some instances teenage girls are trading unsafe sex for material items. In the end, this continues to put more women at risk for contracting HIV, especially Black women.
So what can be done?
Clearly, there should be more conversations around gender inequality and more empowering messages sent to young women about their self-worth. Janet Rosenbaum, the study's lead author, said that doctors and clinic workers need to keep these issues in mind when offering prevention advice.
Rosenbaum told ABCNews.com, “Teens may act unwisely in order to meet their material needs and wants. Interventions and clinicians may need to concentrate not just on safe sex behavior but also on helping teens to evaluate their needs versus wants.”
It is also important to note that young girls cannot do this by themselves. Teenage boys and men must be included in conversations about HIV prevention, sexual health, condom use, interpartner violence and what a healthy relationship is in order for these interventions to be effective.
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