Let’s Talk About Sex(ual) Health, Baby

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I will never forget the story one of my Nepalese students shared when I was teaching a health course in Bangladesh. The student told the class that in her rural village in Nepal, unintended pregnancies and STIs (sexually transmitted infections) were occurring at an alarming rate.

Health workers came to visit her village and demonstrated the ole ‘condom on the banana’ trick to the villagers in hopes of preventing further unintended pregnancies and to reduce the rate of STIs. Months later, the health workers returned to the village to see if there had been a decrease in pregnancy and new STI contractions. To their surprise, there hadn’t.

The mystery of the failed health intervention was solved when a villager opened the door to a shed and revealed something like a hundred bananas with condoms stretched out over them just lying on the ground.

That’s the thing with STIs, regardless of if you’re in Nepal or Central Scotland, you can only stop them if you’ve got the correct information and the proper tools. As demonstrated by the example above, communication is one, if not thee most important tool.

It has always baffled me that so many of us would rather risk getting – what can be a pretty serious and nasty infection – than to talk about sex. Whether you are having casual sex or are in a committed relationship, it appears to be easier to hop in the sack and do the deed than to ask your partner about their sexual health. Why is that?

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It makes sense, there is still a huge stigma surrounding STIs (especially if you are a girl) and as one of my friends put it, “it’s just plain embarrassing.” Nothing gets people in the mood like being asked if you have an infection or as it was formerly known; a disease (STDs).

So despite all of the snapchatting and sexting that goes around these days, nothing appears quite as embarrassing as having or talking about having an STI. Which is probably why there has been a steady increase in STI diagnosis in 2015 and the reason the Family Planning Association (FPA) is focusing on STIs for sexual health week.

With more information about health and sex available at our fingertips than ever before we seem to still be reluctant about asking our partners about their sexual health. A minute of embarrassment might just save you from a life-long, and in some cases quite serious conditions, which can affect your general and reproductive health.

And if you do not feel comfortable having “a chat” then condoms or dams are your best friends. Just don’t be a banana about it!

[Image source: Nadine Kelly]


Author imageJenn Glinski is MRes and PhD student researching violence against women at the University of Glasgow, and a women’s rights advocate. She has a LL.M. in International Human Rights Law from the University of Essex and has been active in human rights for eight years. She has organised international conferences on maternal mortality, taught human rights at the Asian University for Women in Bangladesh, and co-authored the Harvard Initiative on Violence Against Women report on Scotland. Jenn, originally from Michigan, USA moved to Glasgow in 2011 and lives there with her fiancé and their black lab, Hector. Tweet her @jennski_27.

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