Growing up in a religious Latinx household, my family never talked about sex besides the infamous “don’t do it.” This lack of communication taught me that we aren’t supposed to talk about sex. School presentations were equally traumatizing, sitting in the auditorium among my fellow seventh graders cringing at images of sores and rashes caused by sexually transmitted infections (STIs). At this point, I was convinced sex was awful and I would never participate in something so dangerous.
Now, as an educator, I work to ensure that teens have access to information about their bodies and their sexual health without stigma or scarring images (in fact, the most common symptom of most STIs is no symptom at all). More than half of new STI cases are occurring among young people (ages 15-24), and a few years ago, the CDC reported about a quarter of young women have had an STI. While this is alarming (and certainly preventable with access to comprehensive sex education), it shows us that we should be talking openly about STIs — with our partners, doctors, and peers, without shame, stigma, or embarrassment.
A few weeks ago, I was invited to speak on Radio Latijam, a Spanish language podcast based in the Carrboro/Chapel Hill, NC area as part of their episode on sexual health in the Latinx community. On the air, we spoke frankly about everything from contraceptive methods to sexually transmitted infections to pushing for comprehensive sex education. In a culture where discussions about sex are suppressed and stigmatized, it makes me hopeful to know that young people are finding new and creative outlets to have frank conversations and spreading the word about sexual health.