By Nyesha Stone
How old were you when you got the talk? It was an uncomfortable conversation, but it’s a necessary one. So, why is talking about sex and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such a taboo? It’s an act that most individuals will experience at least once in their life, but we act as if no one’s doing it.
Running Rebels Community Organization did what it has always done: be a platform for the community to have open conversations that will advance the community. On Dec. 1, World AIDS day, Running Rebels held their Don’t Guess It, Get Tested AIDS Awareness Community Talkback at their building located on 225 W. Capitol Dr.
The talkback featured four panelists: Victor Barnett Jr, Milwaukee rapper known as Lil Vic; Donta Holmes, Running Rebels Director of Mentoring & Athletics; Jasmine Blakely, Running Rebels Administrative Assistant; and Shane Woodruff, Running Rebels educational and volunteer coordinator.
The goal of the talkback was to break down barriers and fight past the stigma surrounding AIDS. The crowd was full of Black and Brown youth, who the Running Rebels mainly work with.
Panelist and audience members answered questions asked by the moderator Derrick Shoates, including, why don’t we openly discuss STDs or STIs (sexually transmitted infections)?
“There’s nobody you really want to talk to about it,” Barnett said about why people don’t feel comfortable discussing it. “[But,] you need to find someone to talk to.”
Running Rebels handed out a small flyer that had statistics about STDs to show the youth that they’re not too young to catch something.
According to the flyer, about 47.1 percent of Wisconsin’s 2016 HIV diagnoses came from the Milwaukee County. We also have one of the highest numbers of STI rates in America. These aren’t numbers we should be proud of, but it shows how us how much we don’t discuss what’s going on in our own city.
We have to teach our youth that protection is more than protecting oneself from a child. Shoates said we should be able to know our friend’s status and should be checking in on their health. He also said we have to hold each other accountable because that’s the only way we can begin to bring the rate of catching a STD down.
“It’s important for us to know and not ignore it,” said Shoates.
Youth audience member Antwon Williams was very vocal. He said that the youth are ignorant to the fact that you have to use protection to cut down potential risk. Williams said individuals don’t want to imagine themselves with a STD, so they tend to not talk about it. But we have to talk.
“We always assume ignorance is bliss,” said Woodruff. “Knowing is knowledgeable…to make sure we’re not spreading stuff.”
During the talkback, a video made by Running Rebels displayed a real-life scenario between teens. A young man was planning to have sex with a girl and he discussed it with his friend. His friend encouraged the main character to use protection, but the advice was ignored. After the deed was done, the young woman called the main character and asked him to go get tested since they didn’t use protection. Because of his friend’s advice, he went with the young lady to go get tested.
The video was to showed how discussing sex, and the consequences, with someone can encourage a doctor’s visit down the line.
A coat drive was held after the talkback for any individuals in need of a winter coat.
Make sure you to know your status. Go get tested. For more information on the Running Rebels and their efforts visit their site at https://runningrebels.org/