On Thursday, Feb. 13, Maryville College’s Black Student Alliance hosted a sex education panel at 4:00 p.m. in Bartlett 101. The panel was conducted by three of the organization’s members: Allondre Wilson, Mattie Wheeler, and Sydelle Young.
Wilson and Wheeler are a part of the new MC Prevention Education Peers program, also known as PreP, and Young is a senior whose thesis consisted of surveying MC students about their knowledge of sexual health. The three focused on practicing safe sex and facilitated discussions about the reality and prevention of STIs.
The panel started with a crash course on how to put on condoms correctly. Young let the audience attempt to do so on the provided foam appendages before she conducted a demonstration of a safe and effective technique.
Allondre Wilson and Sydelle Young demonstrate the proper use of a condom.
Photo by M. Nance.
Afterward, the three presenters took turns presenting on different forms of STIs, including HIV, Syphilis, and Chlamydia. After explaining what each of the infections were and how to prevent contracting them, each of them then discussed how they affect minority groups. For example, Wilson reported that in 2018, African Americans accounted for 42% of all new HIV diagnoses, and Latinx individuals accounted for 27%. Additionally, 69% of all new diagnoses were from men who have sex with men. Minority groups are at a higher risk of contracting STIs because of the lack of education about safe sex practices.
“Many of my friends have told me that their schools only taught abstinence,” Young said. “And that just doesn’t work.” She also stated that doctors are less likely to initiate conversations about sexual health with women of color.
The panel discussed several ways to practice safe sex and maintain sexual health. They advocate for always wearing a condom even if other forms of birth control are being used because the condom can prevent STIs from spreading from one individual to another.
Another essential point that they made was regular testing for STIs. They encouraged the destigmatization of asking partners if they have been tested and for individuals to get tested themselves.
“If your friend is nervous about getting tested, offer to go with them and get tested yourself,” Young said.
“It’s important that you go to your doctor or clinic to get tested when you’re sexually active because it’s almost impossible to know when you have an STI otherwise,” Wheeler said. “In the meantime, others could contract the STI from you. It’s better to be informed.”
As a part of her section of the presentation, Young reported on the findings from her senior thesis. She said that she found a significant increase in the participants’ knowledge of sexual health from the first survey to the second. These results imply that there is a benefit of discussions about the topic, especially when our current school system is significantly lacking in this educational department.
Before ending the panel with a Q&A where audience members were encouraged to share their knowledge and experience with personal health, the three presenters offered four crucial ways that every individual could help with the lack of understanding of sexual health:
- educate yourself
- normalize conversations about sex
- know and share your resources
- encourage your friends to engage in better sexual behaviors
Allondre Wilson, Mattie Wheeler, and Sydelle Young celebrate a successful panel.
Photo by M. Nance.
The panel presented a safe and sex-positive space for individuals to learn and discuss the topic. Their ability to inform the audience about issues that directly affect them, while also including the detriments that minorities face, was commendable.
For anyone who missed the panel and would like to learn more about sexual health, you will be able to discuss such topics with Wilson and Wheeler at the new PreP office space in Bartlett 103.