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Breaking the silence about STDs

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Harold White (left) and Jerome Yates have developed a partnership with the Mecklenburg County Health Department to distribute free condoms in their barbershop, which sits in an area with high rates of sexually transmitted diseases. (Photo: Glenn H. Burkins for Qcitymetro.com)

Sondra E. Z. Hines, AILT, is an adjunct professor of health & wellness and is certified to teach group fitness exercise and Zumba. Wednesday Wellness - Fitness News You Can Use is published weekly. Email: sondraezhines@yahoo.com.

Discussions of sexual health are rare and often uncomfortable. But recent data suggest that we, as a community, need more open and honest dialogue.

According to Mecklenburg County Health Department’s 2011 State of the County Health Report, “racial and ethnic minorities in Mecklenburg are nearly 9 times more likely to be reported with HIV disease and died at a rate that was 11 times higher than that of Whites.”

If you follow Qcitymetro, you also may have read last week that Mecklenburg County has the most syphilis cases in the state, and one of the highest rates per-capita. In fact, North Carolina has one of the highest rates of syphilis in the nation.

“We're #1 and we don't want to be,” says the county’s website.

Also read: County health officials report a rise in syphilis cases

Also read: Trinity Project: A faith-based approach to HIV/Aids education

One way to halt the spread of these diseases is through the use of condoms.

Cynthia Smith, who chairs the Health & Physical Education and Health and Human Services Division at Central Piedmont Community College, has become accustomed to speaking with young people on the subjects of sex and condom use – even when the young person is her own 15-year-old son, Miles.

“Due to my profession, we have always talked openly, honestly and matter-of-factly about any topic,” she says, recalling one particular family discussion about sexual health. “My sister had an inkling her oldest son was ready to take the plunge, and brought him to our house one summer day. As we grilled, Miles began the conversation. It ended with us taking a banana and a condom to show the boys and girls in the family what to do and why. It was funny at first with the banana, but then it lead to serious questions and conversations. At that time Miles was about 10.”

Like Smith, entrepreneur Jerome Yates does his part to raise condom use awareness. His barbershop – Supreme Styles, located in an area with high rates of sexually transmitted disease -- developed a partnership with the health department to distribute free condoms, now five years running. Yates says this is his way of educating the community.

“I personally do this because I was once a young father,” he says. “I know about the high rate of syphilis, and I don’t want young people to have unplanned pregnancies or catch anything.”

Yates and his business partner, Harold White, said they distribute a large number of condoms to neighborhood teens, and occasionally to adults. Thy said young men in the community now come in to get them freely. The barbershop also has a table with free pamphlets and other literature warning of the dangers of HIV/Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases.

In addition to distributing free condoms, Mecklenburg County offers daily HIV/Syphilis testing. No appointment is necessary and testing is free and confidential. Visit the health department's new web page for more information.

Added Smith: “My husband and I have taught Miles the importance of communication. In this day and time, you not only need to put on your hat (condom) but you need to put on gloves and boots, too, if you get my drift.”

THIS WEEK’S FIT TIP: Join me for a FREE Zumba class at this year’s CIAA Tournament, Getting to Healthy: Inside and Out,” Saturday March 3 at 10 a.m., Time Warner Arena practice court!

Until, next time, I wish you good health and wellness!

Editors Note: For more health/fitness-related tales, tips, testimonials and more, visit Qcitymetro's Health page: www.qcitymetro.com/health.

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October 6, 2015
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