There was an interesting item in the New York Times last week that didn’t get much coverage. As compared to white women, Hispanic women are fifteen times more likely to receive a test for chlamydia, the most common sexually transmitted infection. Black women are three more times likely to receive a test. As reported in the prestigious, peer-reviewed Journal of Duh, the chlamydia rates for Black and Hispanic are off the charts as compared to white women.
Dare I say the racial differences in STI testing is due to doctors’ racial prejudices about the sexual behaviors of Women of Color? Yes, I dare say. And someone who holds the prejudiced belief that People of Color are “promiscuous” (I put it in quotes because it’s a word I would never use) might see the stats and have his or her own biases confirmed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines say every sexually active woman under 25 should receive a test every year. Increased testing will likely reveal less of a racial disparity in STI rates, while at the same time exposing our failure as a nation to give individuals the education, tools, and environment required for healthy, empowered sexuality, regardless of race or socioeconomic status. Unfortunately, our national hang-up about all things having to do with sex is doing a great disservice to white women. According to the Times, “the authors say the stigma attached to a sexually transmitted infection like chlamydia may make clinicians less likely to test white women.” Chlamydia has no symptoms, so untested equals untreated, and untreated chlamydia can cause infertility.
Racism is shameful, but sex isn’t.
Regardless of race, the prescription for healthy sexuality is the same:
- If you are sexually active, get tested for STIs to protect your own health and the health of your partners;
- Educate yourself on preventing STIs with male and female condoms;
- Advocate for comprehensive sexuality education;
- Learn the facts about STIs; and
- Fight repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which will eventually require all insurance plans to cover STI testing at no cost to the patient.