Racism and sexual health are closely linked. Discrimination based on race and ethnicity may result in difficulties accessing effective treatment for sexual health conditions among Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). This can result in higher rates of illness or harm.
Sexual health refers to the physical, emotional, mental, and social well-being regarding sexuality.
Sexual health-related issues are wide-ranging and may include sexually transmitted infections, family planning, sexual relationships, unintentional pregnancy, sexuality, and abortion.
Racism plays a role in preventing people from receiving adequate care due to health inequity, or healthcare providers neglecting, disbelieving, or actively discriminating against patients.
This article explores some of the ways racism may affect sexual health and where people may find support.
What is racism?
Racism describes the oppression and unequal distribution of privileges between certain racial groups.
Some people may also refer to racial prejudice, the belief that a particular race is superior to another. However, this differs from racism, which involves one group having the power to carry out discrimination through racist policies and practices.
Racism often entails the marginalization of people of color due to a socially constructed racial hierarchy that privileges people of white populations.
Unfortunately, researchTrusted Source notes that racism exists in healthcare systems, which can have a detrimental effect on a person’s sexual health.
Racism and access to sexual healthcare
Access to, and routine use of, sexual healthcare services is vital for well-being. However, a 2017 report notes that many people in the United States continue to struggle to afford full, routine access to healthcare.
Even when healthcare is available to ethnic minority populations, fear and distrust of healthcare institutions may negatively affect their experience.
Social and cultural discrimination, language barriers, provider bias, or the perception that these exist may discourage people from seeking care.
For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source note that inequities in STI healthcare may result from systemic, societal, and cultural barriers to diagnoses, treatment, and preventative services.
Health equity is the idea that everyone should have the chance to be as healthy as possible. Factors such as discrimination or a lack of resources may prevent health equity.
Health inequities affect all of us differently. Visit our dedicated hub for an in-depth look at social disparities in health and what we can do to correct them.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
The CDCTrusted Source suggest that there are higher rates of STIs among some racial or ethnic minority groups compared to white people.
Research also notes that social, economic, and behavioral factors affect the spread of STIs. They note that these factors can present obstacles in STI prevention due to the influence on:
social normals and stigma regarding sexuality
social and sexual networks
access to care
willingness to seek care
They also state that race and ethnicity in the U.S. correlate with other factors affecting a person’s health. These include:
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