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Access to reproductive health services: Concerns of women of color

Toni Bond, African American Women Evolving, Inc., 220 South State Street, #726, Chicago, IL 60604, 312-566-0983, tbond@aaweonline.org

From April, 2000 to April, 2001 African American Women Evolving, Inc. conducted a random survey of the reproductive health status of 300 African American women in the Chicagoland area. The findings from AAWE's survey are cause for serious concern, particularly with respect to douching and contraceptive use. Beyond the immediate connection between douching and reproductive tract infections (RTI's), the sanitization of women's bodies by the feminine hygiene industry brings forth concerns about a number of issues, including toxins in certain products, the unfair economic targeting of women for medically unnecessary products, and misleading advertising designed to make women believe that their bodies are dirty and must be sanitized. There is an immediate need for innovative ways to educate women and girls of color about their bodies and reproductive systems that respects long-held cultural beliefs, yet simultaneously works to dispel similarly long-held myths and stereotypes within society about women of color, their bodies and their sexuality. At the same time, this level of understanding must be placed in a much larger context that helps women understand how various social and economic policies are connected to their everyday lives, the impact of such policies on their reproductive health, and how they can become empowered to effect change. This presentation will discuss ways to increase awareness about various reproductive health issues (i.e., douching, RTI's, emergency contraception, etc.) among women of color and the development of a comprehensive policy response to the feminine hygiene industry in connection with the sanitization of women's bodies.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the session, the participant (learner) in this session will be able to

Related Web page: www.aaweonline.org

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I have a significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.
Relationship: I am President/CEO of African American Women Evolving, the organization that conducted the survey I will discuss in my presentation

Access to Care: Diverse Needs of Diverse Women

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA