Welcome to 2023, friends. We’re here and ready to make it our year, right? Right!
January has long been a month of new beginnings, and this year is no different. But it also marks an essential month for awareness and a call to action — especially on the heels of a holiday season filled for many with gratitude, togetherness, and indulgence.
It’s Poverty Awareness Month — a time to come together to educate ourselves on the ongoing hardships of those living below the poverty line or with severe financial instability, and to recommit to eradicating poverty and uplifting those living with it.
According to the US Census, 2021 had an official poverty rate of 11.6% of the population, or 37.9 million people. Living in poverty impacts all parts of a person’s life: access to food and clean water, reliable housing, job performance and security, personal safety, and overall health, among others. And it can lead quickly to homelessness, nutrition, and violence.
In a country as rich as the United States, there shouldn’t be people experiencing life in poverty. We have the resources but they are often siphoned off or lacking in widespread accessibility — particularly as it relates to sexual health.
Research shows that there are “strong and consistent relationships between sexual [well-being] and economic resources” with those who report more socioeconomic constraints also reporting fewer signs of sexual fulfillment and safety.
When you’re limited financially, every choice matters. Are you going to go with the contraception necessary for safer sex or a meal? Life-saving medications or a place to call home. These are unthinkable, yet very real choices, some are faced with every day that can usher in risk-forward sexual experiences and serious (and wholly avoidable) personal harm.
Here at Sexual+Being, we know what resources are out there and the varied risks a lack of access to them can cause.
- It can bring on unwanted pregnancy that can further cascade someone into poverty, while also introducing a child to its adverse effects starting at birth.
- A lack of sexual health resources can also drastically increase someone’s exposure to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, and hold individuals back financially from receiving the necessary care to treat themselves — further impacting them and the entire sexually active population’s risk of infection.
- In the case of contracting HIV, in particular, those diagnosed and/or exposed must have affordable access to care to manage the virus’s impact on the body. Medical treatments can allow those living with HIV to live a healthy life when managed correctly, while prevention methods like PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) and PeP (post-exposure prophylaxis) work to fight contraction pre- and post- exposure respectively.
But, while the sexual health risks are real for those experiencing poverty, we also know how to access related resources at a low cost or for free. For those without healthcare access, DC offers several free or low-cost testing options from in-office to at-home.
Throughout the District, there are a number of sexual health clinics that you go to receive low-cost STI testing and learn about preventative reproductive care.
Address: 77 P Street NE, Washington, DC 20002
Address: 1225 4th Street NE, Washington, DC 20002 (with other options in Maryland, too!)
Address: 1525 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005
Sexual Being and DC Health both provide resources that can connect you with options, while additional clinics and community-based organizations across the District also provide testing services for free or at a low cost. Check out linku.findhelp.com for more details on their services. (Bonus: Many of these people offer free condoms, so you can stock up when you’re there to protect yourself going forward).
This Poverty Awareness Month, it’s crucial that we all acknowledge the struggles of those experiencing poverty and do our part to uplift, support, and provide resources to those who need them. Together, we can and will make a difference. For more information, check out sexualbeing.org. As always, happy humping!