When Spokane business owner Marvin Reguindin started dating his male partner seven years ago, the duo faced an issue most heterosexual couples take for granted. His partner wanted to hold hands in public, but Reguindin felt unsafe and uncomfortable doing so in conservative Spokane.
That private issue for the two men has public health implications for the entire community, health experts say. A conservative environment also can result in dangerous sexual choices among heterosexual people if they feel what they are doing is wrong in the eyes of the community, Spokane Regional Health District spokeswoman Julie Graham said.
With statistics showing sexually transmitted diseases on the rise in Eastern Washington, health officials are taking greater interest in risky sexual behavior and looking for ways to curb it. And they already have learned it could be a complex task.
The Internet, for example, is making it easier for people to go underground for sex. Singles Web sites such as Gay. STD outbreaks have been linked to Internet chats in other parts of the country. Meanwhile, he catches a sexually transmitted disease and brings it home to his wife.
Risky-sex scenarios are common in the heterosexual community, too. A young woman raised in a strict family might not carry condoms for fear of being caught with them. When a person believes sexual desires are wrong, they will take risky steps to not get caught acting on those feelings, she said.
Some sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise in Spokane and northern Idaho.
In1, Spokane County residents reported contracting Chlamydia, up from in In the five northern Idaho counties, that disease grew from cases in to cases in Gonorrhea rates have gone up and down in Spokane County, but they saw a six-year peak last year of new cases.
They hit a high in Idaho, too, with 12 new cases in compared with nine or 10 in years.
Very quick. In addition to Internet outreach, Hemphill and others in his field visit the public parks, mall bathrooms, truck stops and bars in the Inland Northwest known to be hot spots for anonymous sex. They hang posters touting disease prevention, distribute condoms and answer questions.
He emphasized, though, that some people will have unsafe sex whether they meet someone in a bar, at a bookstore or in a chat room. Disease-prevention advocates said risky sex would decline in Spokane if people felt less oppressed here. Brewster and other community leaders were discussing the scandal surrounding Mayor Jim West, who is accused of molesting two boys in the s and of abusing his position by offering an internship to a man he thought was a high school student.
West was courting the man in a gay Internet chat room.
In an interview this week, Brewster said he believes that as more people move to Spokane from outside the area and as more young Spokane natives move to more accepting communities and then return, this community will become more open-minded. Until then, the risky behavior will continue, he said. They just feel more pressure to hide their activity. The Spokane City Council recently approved domestic partner benefits, and there are gay-straight alliances in high schools and colleges.
Reguindin thinks the discussion about sexuality that the city is having in response to the West scandal is a ificant move toward acceptance. He compared it with the conversation homosexual people have when they come out to their families. Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below.
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