By: Natalia Angeles
With Sexual Assault Awareness Month coming to an end, Edwin Rojas, a health educator and research assistant, from St. John’s Well Child and Family Center conducted a workshop on Thursday about Sexual Transmitted infections and Human Immunodeficiency Virus prevention. “HIV is something very present, it needs to be addressed and not put in the past,” says Rojas.
“There seems to be many false narratives about the topic of STIs especially in LGBTQ+ communities and communities of color”, said Rojas. “Latinos are a group with high HIV infections, why is it more likely for brown and black folks to test positive for HIV?” said Rojas.
Students from the crowd gave their input to Rojas’ question. Such as student Miguel Rivera who said, “Sex education is not funded in schools.” Another great response came from student Karen Diana, “Misinformation in religion causes students to feel less connected with their parents to speak on the topic.”
These are some key components that may contribute to the infection spreading throughout communities. Rojas’ influence at St. John’s helps shed light on facts that many participants were not aware of.
One of them being U=U which translates to undetectable= untransmittable. Many people are not aware that HIV can present itself as asymptomatic. Some symptoms such as “Irritation, rashes, bumps in the vaginal/testical area.” could be noticed if they had it. Said students from the audience.
Rojas also encourages students to find the nearest clinic or center that offers free testing. “You can start testing autonomously at 12 years old, there is free testing in California at community health clinics such as LGBT Center, St. Johns, AltaMed,” said Rojas.
STIs can take a strong toll on an individual, yet there is also Intimate Partner Violence that equally affects an individual physically and mentally. “35.6% of women in the U.S. have experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime,” Rojas said.. This form of assault can leave an individual with long term mental health issues. This is not far from a topic like STIs, in fact it adds on to methods that community members can take to raise awareness to these issues.
Intimate Partner Violence is also an ongoing problem along with STIs, yet there is a lack of workshops and resources where students can turn to. An example of IPV is sexual coercion and unwanted sexual contact.
However, Rojas was able to presents a few different workshops and support groups offered to black/brown queer males that covers saftey in sexuality. For more information regarding STI/HIV and other resources can be found on their Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/prime_clinic_/