For Sexual Health Awareness Month, Mary’s Center’s LaKeisha Agnew, Community Outreach and Prevention, sat down to answer questions about sexual health she often hears from community members and staff. LaKeisha has experience with education, prevention, treatment, and care coordination, all of which help participants receive the best possible care when it comes to their sexual health.
The American Sexual Health Association (ASHA) stresses the need for comprehensive relationship and sexual health education for all. Can you talk about what that means?
When talking about relationships and sexual health in any capacity, you shouldn’t solely focus on sex and sexuality—focus on the importance of forming healthy relationships. Part of any healthy relationship is communication. Communication is the basis of all relationships and will allow you to build a foundation. When building a foundation, you build trust and honesty. The more honest you are with each other, the more protected you both can be.
Whether you’re in a monogamous relationship or not, having a healthy relationship will allow you to openly talk to your partner(s) about sexual health and keep each other in the loop about sexual networks.
When it comes to sex—both having it and talking about it—you and your partner need to navigate, communicate, and compromise. Sexual health is more than the physical aspect of sex.
Are you supposed to talk to your doctor about sex?
As awkward as it may be, you may need to take the initiative when it comes to discussing your sexual health with your provider. Talking to your healthcare provider can help you understand how to have healthier sex. They’re the best source of information when it comes to learning about how to protect your (and your partner’s) sexual health. Your healthcare provider is there to make sure you’re healthy. Therefore, it is ok to discuss topics such as:
- Who you like to have sex with
- Partners and practices
- Prevention methods
This year, ASHA is stressing that Sexuality Education is important for all people and all ages, even people over 50. Why should sex education include older populations that likely have knowledge of and experience with sex?
Older populations are likely to have knowledge and experience but are less likely to openly discuss sex, especially with the younger population. Sexual education or discussions of sex is often taboo for a lot of older adults. While the frequency of sex often declines with age, many older adults—of course—can and do have sex. Having open communication and sexual education for all people can provide a level of comfort for open discussions where everyone can benefit.
ASHA created the hashtag #YESmeansTest which means that if you say “yes” to sex, you should also say “yes” to getting tested for Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). Why is it so important to get tested when you are sexually active?
The importance of getting tested and knowing your HIV and STI status is critical because once you know where you stand, you’ll be able to decide how to best protect yourself and your partner. Mary’s Center offers walk-in STI testing, access to contraceptives, access to PrEP—medication which reduces the risk of becoming affected by HIV, and HIV 1-minute testing. You can also call our Sexual Health Resource Hotline at (202) 851-3971 or email our HIV Care Navigation team at BeSafeBeSure@marysenter.org. Please know that all of our services are confidential, and we want to help you make positive healthy choices, no matter your age or situation.
To find out more about Mary’s Center’s Sexual Health services, click here.