Misconceptions negate safe sex practices

POSTED: 01/29/16 5:30 PM

St. Maarten – The main objective of Qure’s study into sex, sexuality and family planning was to assess the knowledge, attitudes, behavior and perceptions about these issues. The researchers arrive at a rather upbeat conclusion. “The public possesses fairly accurate levels of knowledge about sexually transmitted infections and diseases and HIV/Aids,” the report states. “There was accurate knowledge that condom use can prevent the spread of HIV/aids, but there were also misconceptions.”

Among those misconceptions are the ideas that anal sex does not pose a significantly higher risk of HIV/Aids transmission that the use of non-water based lubricants on condoms does not damage the integrity of the condom and that oral sex is safer if one’s partner does not swallow.

“Such misconceptions can be detrimental to interventions aimed at reducing the spread of HIV/Aids or sexually transmitted infections and diseases. Persons may unwittingly negate the effectiveness of their safer sex practices such as consistent condom use by simultaneously engaging in unsafe practices like using oil-based lubricant on condoms,” the report states.

Qure notes that education is a key element and that an opportunity for the government and other agencies exists because a large percentage of sexually active persons know where to get tested. Many have been tested at least once.

“Another encouraging finding was that sexually active females and males alike were expected to carry condoms with them,” the report states. “This general acceptance of women possessing condoms presents an opportunity for customized campaigns that encourage sexually active persons to be responsible for their sexual health.”

The researchers express some concern about the fact that not everyone seems to know how to use condoms correctly.

Among the older respondents to the survey, the traditional belief that sex is only permissible to married couples was prevalent. There are however also at-risk groups, like those who engage in sexual acts for money or gifts.

That the respondents defined themselves overwhelmingly as “purely heterosexual” gave the researchers some food for thought. “Such a narrowly specific sexual identification seems to mask the underlying intolerance and misunderstanding of homosexuals. The data show that many opined that homosexuality is wrong and that they harbor feelings of anger towards those who are attracted to the same sex. These admissions highlight a lack of knowledge and signal potential for violence, stigma and discrimination, and they contribute to the marginalization of the homosexual community.”

The researchers found that the MSM group (those who engage in sado masochism) “expressed a real fear of violence towards them if their sexual preferences were publicly made known clearly, there is a dire need for the development of sensitization campaigns to address stigma and discrimination and the misconceptions that may be held towards homosexuals,” the report states.

The findings about abortion were interesting. Most respondents said it should not be legalized, but 40 percent said they knew someone who had an abortion in the past.

“Maintaining the law against abortions has serious implications on the health and wellbeing of females in St. Maarten,” the researchers say. “The fact that many persons know someone who has had an abortion indicates that this is being done in St. Maarten, despite it being illegal. The legalization of abortion will therefore allow females to access this service in a safe, medically controlled environment.”

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