Class Is In Session!

Class Is In Session!

By: Reenita V September has arrived, lunches are packed and backpacks are filled with new stationary. It is time for us to get our brains in gear for learning. But education doesn’t just revolve around reading, writing and arithmetic there is another incredibly important subject […]

HIV: What do we know?

HIV: What do we know?

By: Saipriya V The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), was first detected in non-human primates in Sub-Saharan Africa and was transferred to humans during the late 19th or early 20th century (1). This transmission was due to the practice of “bushmeat”, were hunters kill the wild […]

Let’s Talk About Sex…Ed!

Let’s Talk About Sex…Ed!

Sex education is rarely without controversy.

As a sexual health educator, working with South Asian communities all over Toronto, I see firsthand how sexual misinformation, stigma, cultural and gender norms can all make sex a hard topic to discuss. Lately, however, it seems to be all everyone wants to talk about.

In case you haven’t been following the story, here are the highlights:

  • The Ontario sex education curriculum developed in 1998 has been criticized by educators around the province for being dated.
  • To better reflect our changing reality, a revised and updated version of the curriculum is set to take effect September 2015.
  • The changes include educating youth at an earlier age about naming their sexual body parts, talking about gender identity, introducing diverse sexual identities, cyber-bullying and sexting.
  • A small but vocal minority has been keen to point out that broaching subjects such as masturbation, dating or sexual and gender diversity may run counter to many family and cultural values.

Parents often hope their children will practise the values and morals that are espoused in the home and distance themselves from conflicting messages. By doing this, we may inadvertently close avenues for meaningful discussions around sexual health. Although this is done with the intent to protect young people, it can expose them to greater risk without the space to ask for guidance. This teaches children that sex is taboo, forcing them to turn to their friends or the internet – which may not be the best source of useful, helpful and accurate information. The taboo also breeds shame, which creates an atmosphere in which sex and sexuality live on the fringes of our communities.

Starting these conversations early teaches youth that sex is a natural part of life. By teaching them about sex, we teach them not to fear it. We teach them that sex can be beautiful and pleasurable. By lifting the taboo, young people can feel safer asking questions, negotiating their relationships and protecting themselves.

Media coverage of this new curriculum and the protests has been quick to pin much of the furor on specific cultural communities, with a focus on South Asians. While it may be tempting to paint such diverse communities with such broad strokes, it ignores the activism and advocacy that happens in these groups. South Asian parentseducatorsand politicians have all rallied behind these changes, working to educate larger communities about the importance of arming children with the knowledge they need to protect their bodies and navigate their own health.

The folks that I talk to on the ground every day recognize that youth are inundated with sexual images and messaging and that it’s crucial to give them the tools to decipher what they see. By providing a comprehensive sexual education, we are helping young people to develop skills so that they can make informed choices about their health.

Parents, teachers and students alike often dread the talk where sexual body parts, methods of contraception and sexually transmitted infections meet awkward giggles and shifting glances. But the discussion – giggles aside – is an important one, especially for young people who may need information and resources but do not have access.


Originally posted: http://blog.catie.ca/?p=293

Who Am I?

Who Am I?

By: Reenita V Connecting with my culture has been a process I have recently just begun. As a first generation Canadian, I grew up with parents who were heavily immersed in the new Western culture which offered new beginnings and opportunities. I grew up with […]

So, like condoms?

So, like condoms?

Whenever I tell someone that I work in HIV education, I’m invariably met with “So like, condoms?” This response is unsurprising since growing up many of us equate safe sex with only condoms, which is great given that condoms do provide effective protection; however, the […]

Paps and Pancakes

Paps and Pancakes

By: Reenita V.


Going to get tested can be super scary, especially if it is your first time. It is hard to predict what is going to happen, what questions you will be asked, if it’s going to hurt, etc. To ease some of your concerns, I’m here to give you a detailed run down of my most recent STI check.


In Toronto, the clinic of my choice is Hassle Free Clinic because as the name suggests, it really is hassle free. You should choose the

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clinic of your or if you have one, your family doctor. I visited the clinic during the drop-in time which means I arrived to a packed lobby and that the wait was going to be a long one. Instead of relying on books or playlist to get through the wait time, I asked a friend to come along (she plays a role in the pancake portion of this story) and having someone with me eased some of the nervousness. This was not my first time getting tested but nonetheless I was nervous. Drop-in times at a clinic means that the chances of running into someone you may know are pretty high . Running into an aunt, boss, or teacher at a clinic can be absolutely horrifying but

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the thing to remember is that they are there for the exact same reason you are.


My number was called, my personal identification form was filled out and it was time to wait for the doctor to call. When my number was called, I followed the doctor into a small room and this is where the nervous butterflies turned to giant owls flapping away in my tummy. I felt slightly awkward as I entered the room. The doctor introduced herself, had me sit at the desk and eased me into the question portion of my check-up. The question portion can feel very intrusive but it is always important to be honest with your doctor. Here are the questions the doctor asked me:


  • Had I been screened for STIs previously?
  • What kind of contraceptives do I use?
  • When was my last period?
  • Do I have regular menstruation cycles?
  • Have I had my regular gynecological exam which screens for cervical cancer?
  • When was the time I engaged in unprotected sex?
  • How many people am I currently having sex with?
  • Have I ever had an STI before?
  • Was there any pain in my pelvic?
  • Any concerns the doctor should know about?


When the question period was over, it was time for the dreaded exam. The doctor left the room so I could undress, which I did quickly and just so you know, I did leave my socks on. I lay on the table with a medical sheet covering my lower half, the doctor re-entered the room. She made casual chit-chat while she retrieved a speculum and sat on the stool located at the end of the table. The exam started with the insertion of the speculum which as usual, the doctor gave me a heads up before this happened. This step was not at all painful however; I felt a slight bit of pressure from the expansion of the speculum. Keep in mind; all bodies are different as are experiences so the insertion and opening from the speculum can feel different for everyone. The doctor exclaimed that my cervix looked great and that she was going to take a couple of swabs. The doctor took two swabs and then the exam was done. While the doctor was turned away, I dressed quickly and let out the nervous breath I was holding for the whole exam.


Back in the desk chair, now fully clothed the doctor sat down allowing for any follow up questions. Having been tested before, I just assumed that I was getting checked for everything but sadly, I had never asked the doctor exactly what was happening during my exam. This time I confirmed with the doctor that I was being checked for bacterial vaginosis, yeast, Trichomoniasis, Gonorrhea, and Chlamydia. I made a later date to check for HIV, Hepatitis C and Syphilis as these tests are done through blood work. The doctor and I discussed how apprehensive someone might be about getting tested but she assured me she has seen it all and at this clinic especially, they are absolutely judgment free. The doctor informed me I would be informed of any positive results in a week and with that I was on my way.


My friend, who was experiencing her first STI screening, met me in the hallway. I gave her a look over and at first glance did not recognize any signs of trauma. In fact, she looked proud. Leaving the clinic, we started chatting about what happened in the room and if our expectations came true. Mid conversation we stumbled across an all you can eat pancake buffet – score! We loaded up our plates and sat and continued our conversation. Now, not everyone may jump at the idea of sharing such a personal experience with someone but, as we wiped syrup off our faces, I realized that sharing this experience created an opportunity to discuss concerns, experiences, and knowledge sharing. We went from scary and unsure to this incredible bonding moment and made an investment in our sexual health.


What Role Should Men Play in Women’s Health?

What Role Should Men Play in Women’s Health?

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Why I’m Obsessed with the Word Intersectionality

Why I’m Obsessed with the Word Intersectionality

I get flak for using the word intersectionality a lot. And I admit, I am guilty as charged. I insert the word into every brainstorming session, allude to it in every article and make reference to it in every workshop. It’s funny, in the way that a preoccupation with a word almost teetering on obsession can be but it’s also more than that.

Intersectionality speaks to the crossroads at which our lives take place. People are composed of multiple identities, and these pieces overlap in ways that affect the confines in which we make our decisions. I am more than a woman OR South Asian. I

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Health is a multidimensional concept, which is heavily influenced by these complex identities. The reality is that we do not all have the same starting points and these differences are important to recognize. The additive effect of our identities allows us certain benefits but then take others away, they change the way in

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