Let’s talk about (Sexual) Health, Baby

Did you know that half of all sexually active young people will get a sexually transmitted infection (STI) before their 25? Or if current HIV rates continue, about 1 in 2 black men who have sex with men (MSM) and 1 in 4 Latino MSM in the United States will be diagnosed with HIV during their lifetime? Ohio is absolutely not immune to these statistics. Since 2013, the number of cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis have continuously increased throughout the state.

At the Ohio HIV/STI Hotline, anyone can call or chat (http://ohiv.org/) with us about general sexual health, HIV, STIs, condoms, birth control, etc. As a fairly easy option to better protect against HIV and STIs, we often recommend using condoms in all sexual activity. Unfortunately, we frequently hear that people are uncomfortable buying condoms or taking them from a health center, don’t know where to get them, or don’t know what size they may need. This of course got us here at the Ohio HIV/STI Hotline thinking… how can we reduce as many barriers to this one safer sex tool as possible?

With much excitement, the Free Condom Project was launched in May 2016! A month’s supply of free condoms will be discreetly mailed to anyone in Ohio (aged 16+) who orders from the Ohio HIV/STI Hotline website. We currently have a great variety of condoms, including flavored, sensitive, colored, thin, and XL. Inside each package will also be information about nearby HIV/STI test sites, how to properly use a condom, and information about the Ohio HIV/STI Hotline and other local resources.

Our theory is that reducing barriers and increasing accessibility to safe sex products like condoms and dental dams will assist in decreasing in the incidence of STI, HIV, and unwanted pregnancy rates throughout Ohio. When other programs like this have been done on a much smaller scale, participants have reported that they were more likely to correctly use contraceptives. We feel confident that if people have easy access to condoms, they will use them. The Free Condom Project is the first to attempt this on a state level, and since its launch has distributed over 25,000 condoms across Ohio.

Since incidence data on HIV, STIs, and unwanted pregnancy won’t be available until next year, we have been measuring our success in community feedback. So far, it has been incredibly positive! Community feedback has highlighted a lot of things that we already knew: there still is a stigma surrounding sex especially for women and members of the LGBTQ community, condoms are expensive, people don’t always know where to go to get tested, etc. And a lot of other barriers came to our attention that our team hadn’t initially even thought of, like, the fear of being “outed” just from the act of buying/picking up condoms. Here at the Ohio HIV/STI Hotline, we feel like we have been succeeding in our main mission – to remove barriers that were preventing people from engaging in safer sex. We are looking forward to serving even more Ohioans and ensuring everyone has access to safer sex products.

If you or a friend are interested in ordering condoms, please visit the Ohio HIV/STI Hotline at www.ohiv.org to fill out the simple order form. A completely free variety pack of condoms will then be shipped to your desired address shortly!

FCP Variety Mix

The Ohio HIV/STI Hotline is a program of Equitas Health and is supported by funding from the Ohio Department of Health.


 

Editor’s Note:  Check out the Ohio HIV/STI Hotline’s calendar of events by clicking here.  If you need to talk to someone regarding HIV, STIs, sexual health, and more, call the Hotline at 800-332-2437.  They are here to help!

Know Your Biases: Behavioral Health across Cultures

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July is recognized as National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month and provides an opportunity to highlight the critical need to ensure diverse populations receive equitable behavioral health services. There is much improvement to be made in Ohio to reduce pervasive health disparities. Social determinants are crucial contributing factors, but an overall lack of cultural competence in the field is also to blame.

With innovative approaches such as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) aimed at improving access to care, the focus has now shifted to ensuring services are cognizant and respectful of cultural beliefs and practices. This is the foundation of providing culturally competent care. The catalyst for this change was the realization that disparities exist beyond socioeconomic status and are directly linked to racial, ethnic, and cultural background. For example, a child born to an African American woman in Ohio with a PhD is less likely to reach their first birthday than a child born to a Caucasian woman with no high school diploma.

Oftentimes it is assumed that a one size fits all approach is the most impartial; research on implicit bias has disproven this as it relates to health. Providers retain biases that impact their delivery of care resulting in disparate outcomes. In behavioral health, many providers have a higher propensity to diagnose diverse consumers as being schizophrenic or bipolar while their counterparts are thought to have a less severe anxiety disorders. Frequent misdiagnoses are also tied to prevalent over-prescribing tendencies that have afflicted minority communities.

Behavioral health services in Ohio must be tailored to meet the needs of all cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Franklin County continues to see significant growth in immigrant communities, namely the Somali and Bhutanese/Nepalese populations. Similarly, the Latino population is increasing in Northeast Ohio. New Americans face unique challenges related to behavioral health; many suffer disproportionately with trauma related disorders. The rapid diversification of the state underscores the urgency needed to implement practices rooted in cultural competence.

What are some actionable next steps? Conducting cultural audits and other self-assessments of systems and agencies must be the first step to improving the delivery of care to diverse communities. Implementation of the National Enhanced CLAS (Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Service) Standards is also essential as they provide much needed framework. Standards listed under Theme II, Communication and Language Assistance, are federally mandated.

The Multiethnic Advocates for Cultural Competence (MACC) remains committed to providing the support necessary for behavioral health providers, agencies and systems to successfully incorporate best practices. Together with our partners and members across the state, MACC remains steadfast in the fruition of our mission- “Enhance the quality of care in Ohio’s health care system and incorporate culturally competent models of practice into the systems and organizations that provide services to Ohio’s diverse populations”.

Editor’s Note:  We encourage our readers to check out MACC’s upcoming 2016 Statewide Training Conference taking place October 6th and October 7th at the Columbus State Community College’s Center for Workforce Development.  For more information, please click here.


Simone Crawley currently serves as the Executive Director for the Multiethnic Advocates for Cultural Competence, Inc. (MACC). Throughout her career at The Ohio State University, Simone served as a Page in the Ohio House of Representatives. She earned her degree in Political Science. Expanding her public policy background, she served as an aide to Assistant Minority Leader Charleta B. Tavares for three years. During her time at the Ohio Senate, Simone was also elected President of the Ohio Young Black Democrats where she aided in the successful campaigns of several legislative candidates. In January 2015, Simone began working to ensure cultural proficiency and improved health outcomes in Ohio as the Program Coordinator for the Multiethnic Advocates for Cultural Competence, Inc (MACC). She has served as the Executive Director since March 2016.