Sexual Health Awareness: Putting it Into Practice
By Fedora Preston Haynes and Tamara Sargus
September is Sexual Health awareness month, the perfect time to highlight innovative community programming implemented by the Bridges to Wellness (B-Well) project. B-Well is an infrastructure and capacity-building project to deliver prevention services to reduce the onset of substance abuse (SA), HIV, and Viral Hepatitis (VH) among system-involved minority youth.
Sexual health means different things to different people. Sexual health can signify using safer sex protection methods to prevent unintended pregnancy or the transmission of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), communicating with partners about sex, participating in a comprehensive sexual education class, or being tested regularly for STIs.
The B-Well project promotes sexual health education that comes from a positive, non-shaming, non-stigmatized respectful approach. This project explores strategies to bring more awareness, education, and access to sexual health. One way is through social media platforms, such as Instagram. The B-Well project created its’ very own Instagram page in 2018. B-Well has been collaborating with a student volunteer, Milena Fera, in creating many sexual health awareness posts using Canva. Click on the here to see Milena’s interview about how she creates posts and what sexual health means to her! There is so much power in making informed and healthy decisions! Follow the B-Well Instagram page at https://www.instagram.com/bridges_to_wellness/ to receive fun messages related to sexual health.
Pictured 1: A sample of Instagram posts
In addition to social media promotion, B-Well explored non-traditional settings for sexual health education. Typically, we see limited sexual health taught in schools and other educational programs. The B-Well project brought this education out of the classroom and into the community in non-traditional settings including behavioral health facilities, shopping malls, and youth drop in centers. SIROW joined forces with the Pima County Health Department to provide free and confidential HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) testing to community members allowing for a “meet me where I am” approach to sexual health promotion.
The response to community testing was overwhelmingly positive. For example, outreach at the Park Place Mall allowed sexual health educators to connect with folks who may not normally seek prevention services. Mall customers as well as employees enthusiastically took advantage of free testing, education, and free condoms and other protection methods. They were afforded a safe space to ask questions and gain resources. Many disclosed they had the desire to receive STI testing and information but did not have the time or resources to access these services.
The B-Well project is proud of the accomplishments in providing much needed education and awareness to our community.
Pictured from left to right Sam Haeger, Geri Clark and Daniel Lugo; Pima County Health Department Staff getting ready to provide testing and counseling services at Park Place Mall.