I hear a lot of people say, "Well if people would just use condoms, HIV wouldn't keep spreading." What these people fail to realize is that there are barriers to people using condoms or even asking to use a condom — not everyone has the power. The powerful 2009 documentary The Other City demonstrates this point brilliantly when J'Mia, an HIV-positive mother of three, talked about the impossibility of demanding condom use when in an abusive relationship. She asked, how could she demand her abusive boyfriend and father of her three children to use a condom with her if that that very act of asking meant being beat. Her solution was keep her mouth shut and have sex without one. Unfortunately, in her case, she ended up testing HIV positive later on.
This type of violence plays a factor in women's vulnerability to contracting HIV — especially for Black women.
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania recently released findings from their new study about violence, African-American and HIV transmission risk. Of the 64 African-American girls ages 14–17, 46 percent of them told the researchers they hadn't used condoms during sex with their partners, mostly because their boyfriend threatened them physically/and or sexually or actually abused them in some way. This kind of abuse is called "condom coercion" and usually includes physical or sexual abuse, emotional manipulation and men taking off condoms during sex.
Of the sample, 59 percent of girls experienced partner abuse that was physical, verbal or threatening. Nearly 30 percent reported having unwanted vaginal sex and about nine percent reported having unwanted anal sex. More than half the girls indicated they had experienced vaginal sex without a condom when they wanted their partner to use one.
When faced with partners trying to dissuade them from using condoms, girls may also feel pressures that silence them from even raising the topic of condom use. In the study, 25 percent of participants responded affirmatively to the question: "Have you ever wanted to talk with your sexual partner about using a condom during vaginal sex, but were not able to?"
This comment addresses the issue of "silencing condom negotiation," which the authors define as girls' reluctance to voice an interest in condom use at the risk of losing the relationship or facing other negative consequences.
Head researcher Anne M. Teitelman, assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, believes that strategies to get young girls and women out of these relationships should be regarded as a critical HIV prevention tool. She wrote: "Promoting healthy relationships among youth and preventing partner abuse in adolescent relationships should become a public health priority. This is necessary for primary prevention of the intersecting epidemics of partner abuse and HIV/STIs [sexually transmitted infections]."
To learn more about HIV/AIDS, go to the Centers for Disease Control or TheBody.com's African–American HIV/AIDS Resource Center.
(Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
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