You know what is just as important as consent? Knowing exactly who and what you are consenting to.

This goes beyond giving someone the OK to engage in sexual activity with you. You have a right to consent to maintaining good health. While African-Americans are more open to discussing a variety of topics that were once—some would argue still—taboo in our community, some staples, like a person’s STD status remain hush hush.

The “talk” is uncomfortable, embarrassing and downright avoidable in just about every way. But it’s also necessary. Here’s why, according to statistics shared by the “YES Means TEST” initiative with EBONY.

  • Black women are 5.4 times more likely to be infected with chlamydia than White women
  • Black men are 6.8 times more likely to have chlamydia that White men
  • African-Americans account for 42 percent of reported gonorrhea cases
  • 1 in 2 sexually active individuals are infected with an STD by the age of 25
  • Less than 12 percent of young people said they’ve been tested for STDs in the past year

The stigma surrounding STDs isn’t just limited to African-Americans, but Blacks account for a significant number of infections likely due to a number of reasons. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, as of 2011, more than 7 million uninsured nonelderly Blacks lived in America. 84 percent were uninsured adults, but the majority had low incomes (below 138% of poverty).

In response to the growing number of infections, the American Sexual Health Association has announced its “YES Means TEST” initiative. The effort seeks to empower those who consent to sexual activity to also say “yes” to getting tested for STDs.

“Getting an STD is human, it”s normal,” the initiative’s website reads. “So why are we still uncomfortable talking about it? Especially when we can do something about it.”

For more on the initiative, visit