Would you have sex with someone who does not know their sexual health status? What about someone who refuses to get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs)? One of the many barriers to increasing safe sex practices and reducing the spread of STIs is ignorance; that is, many people do not even know that they are at risk for, and possibly have contracted, one STI or more. But, what about those who simply refuse to get tested?
A Cause For (Even More) Concern
STD Express (a commercial site) recently released the results of their survey they conducted about sexual health and testing for STIs. The survey found one-third of their respondents reported that they would have sex with someone who refused to get tested for STIs. It appears, however, that this survey was based on a sample of 100 people who were not randomly selected. Clearly, more research is needed to know whether this admission of what one would do translates into what one actually does, and under whether it is only under circumstances that individuals make exceptions in terms of unknown sexual health of their sexual partners.
To Be (Safe) Or Not To Be (Safe)… Is Not The Question For Everyone
In sociology, and likely in other disciplines, we are often concerned with the relationship between social forces, sometimes called social structures (e.g., politics, religion, capitalism), and individuals’ agency or “free will.” While we grant that all individuals have some degree of free will, some things we do, and even somethings that we are, are influenced by society – to the extent that they are partially out of our own control.
In the case of using safe sex practices and regularly getting tested for STIs, some individuals do not have the same resources and power that others have. For example, as the World Health Organization, among other scholars and advocacy groups, has noted, women may not have equal say in decision-making about using condoms, having or abstaining from sex, among other things; thus, due to gender inequality, they are at greater risk for contracting STIs, HIV and AIDS, and other unintended and unwanted consequences of sexual activity. Further, it is important to note that comprehensive sexuality education that includes accurate information about sexual health, STIs, reproductive health, and safe sex practices is not universally available to all students. It is important, then, for scholars and advocates promoting sexual health to be aware of the relationship between inequality and sexual health (and health in general).