Racism has been embedded in nearly every key system and structure in America, including health. The day-to-day impact of racism on the health, autonomy and overall wellbeing of people of color is painfully evident in the statistics. The numbers clearly reflect human lives in our backyard that are neglected and susceptible to egregious health inequities.
The prevalence of these health disparities, that have existed far too long, led in part to the formation of WeCanStopSTDsLA in 2012. WeCanStopSTDsLA began because of the staggering burden of STDs among young people of color, a direct result of structural racism and inequity. As a leading community coalition, we are working to reduce the STD burden on LA County youth and young adults, particularly among the most vulnerable populations in South LA, East LA and Antelope Valley by striving to give young people the tools they need to be knowledgeable, healthy, advocates and leaders in their communities.
The STD burden is staggering: in 2018, the most recent year for which we have full data, there were nearly 100,000 cases of curable STDs in LA County, of which 42% were in young people ages 15-24. In South LA, African American women ages 15-24 had Gonorrhea rates that were 7.4 times higher and Chlamydia rates that were 3.3 times higher than 15-24 year old white women. For young African American men in South LA, the rates were 3.3 and 3.4 times higher compared to young white men ages 15-24 for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea, respectively.2
Despite the potential risk of contracting coronavirus and the threat of violence, many young people have put their bodies and health on the line by publicly demanding the necessary need for change. We admire their determination of this generation to make our communities safer. As people and organizations that know the impact that racism has had on health outcomes such as STDs, we support their will to fight for equity and justice, assertively responding to the historical inequities and brutality that have been inflicted on black people since the time of enslavement.
We are proud to join the forces of change for racial justice as more than just allies, but as accomplices in the fight for health equity and the reduction of the burden that STDs inflict on communities of color. Moreover, through our partners, we will walk alongside young people as they navigate towards a more just and equitable world by providing necessary tools to help make these changes. These have been our core values from the beginning and we assertively reaffirm them now.
WHAT WE STAND FOR
Justice: Advocating for respect, dignity and fairness in systems, policies, and organizations’ treatment of youth and young adults.
Compassion: Compassion for youth and young adults, without shaming, judging, blaming, or finger pointing.
Prevention: Promoting self-efficacy and the importance of preventing STDs through responsible decision making and behaviors.
Treatment: Assuring up-to-date and youth-friendly approaches to treatment, removing barriers to access, and encouraging testing and treatment.
Open Communication: Factual information and knowledge provided with cultural humility between youth and each other, and among those in the community who can support the health and wellbeing of youth and young adults (parents and family members, health care providers, faith and community leaders and others).
WHAT WE STAND AGAINST
Bias: Bias against any person based on age, race, gender, sexual orientation, beliefs, income, or faith.
High Rates: High rates of STDs among young women and men in South LA, East LA and Antelope Valley.
In the spirit of the time, looking forward in the fight against STDs, the Community Advisory Coalition, which oversees the activities of WeCanStopSTDsLA, envisions a world where young people can thrive without race/ethnicity driving their health outcomes.
 Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Division of HIV and STD Programs, unpublished data
 Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, 2017 data