Breaking the Silence

Breaking the Silence

Breaking the Silence: Black and Latina Women Discussing Ways to Maintain Sexual Health

Social activist Nellie McClung once said, “Never underestimate the power of a woman.”   Unfortunately, women in sexual partnerships are frequently viewed or view themselves as powerless – victims of men’s greater physical strength or society’s perceptions of what is and is not appropriate for women to say and do.  

One of the most difficult challenges for women is maintaining their own health while addressing a myriad of other demands – as mothers, wives, girlfriends, workers, etc.  Sexual health is an important but rarely talked about aspect of this.  “Sexual health” is a state of physical, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality.  All women are affected by their relationships; however, African-American and Latina women (especially in urban areas) have been identified as being at especially high risk.

Women now account for nearly 25% of new HIV diagnoses, and of female cases, Black and Latina women are, respectively, 20 and 5.4 times more likely to be diagnosed with HIV than white women. Early in the HIV epidemic, most women were infected through injection drug use.  Now, over 70% of new female HIV cases are the result of high-risk heterosexual contact.

The largest group of women with sexually acquired HIV is those who are unaware that their partners were at high-risk for HIV infection.  For example, a partner may be sleeping with both men and women but not disclose his homosexual activity.  Another may have a history of shooting heroin or may have had a girlfriend or mistress with HIV.  Any of these scenarios can lead to HIV transmission to women.  One way of reducing the risk of HIV among all women, especially urban women of color, is to empower women to talk and learn about bisexuality and infidelity.  Breaking the Silence does this by creating an environment that facilitates open and accepting discussions of sexuality, and encouraging women to engage in healthy, honest dialogue regarding their and their partners’ past and present sexual activity.

Breaking the Silence is an annual community conference, designed to raise awareness and identify solutions to the problem of HIV/AIDS and STDs in the African American and Latino community in South LA. The free conference will be held on Saturday, November 5, 2011 at King Drew Magnet High School from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and is unique in that it addresses the health, cultural and social issues that affect women of color who are becoming increasingly marginalized and disenfranchised in the US.

Since 2009, more than 400 women have attended and benefitted from the free, full-day community event. The day features interactive and engaging panel discussions and workshops led both by speakers personally affected by the topics and by healthcare providers and experts in the field. Attendees will have the opportunity to speak to both professionals and each other about the importance of self-empowerment, how to resolve a lack of communication in intimate relationships, where to find solutions to immediate health threats like sexually transmitted diseases, what are gender roles and how they affect decision making, as well as how to build or maintain a positive self-esteem.

Register for Breaking the Silence at www.breakingthesilenceevent.com or call 323-357-3440. 

Though still young, the conference is flying on its own, primarily due to the active engagement of the Planning Committee, partnering community agencies, advocates and consumers. Community demand has also led to the addition of a Youth Track designed particularly for young women ages15-22.  Subtitled, “Taking Charge of Your Own Reality”, the Breaking the Silence Youth Track is built around “reality” TV program themes and addresses issues such as bullying, peer pressure, self-image, dating, and unplanned pregnancy.

All conference participants will be provided free lunch, goodie bags and the opportunity to win raffle prizes.  Free testing for sexually transmitted diseases, HIV, and blood pressure will be provided.  Guest speakers include Mayor Aide Castro from the City of Lynwood, Associate Medical Director -- Dr. Derrick Butler from the T.H.E. Clinic, and Activist and Provider -- Grissel Granados, MSW from Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

To register for Breaking the Silence on Saturday November 5th, 2011,  please call
323-357-3440 or you can register online at www.breakingthesilenceevent.com.

Presentations and panel discussion will include live Spanish translation.