Stacey Jacobs
COLUMNIST

This year Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Week is February 9 – 13. This year’s theme, as in past years, is Heart Your Parts. This Campaign is hosted by the new organization, Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights (sexualhealthandrights.ca). The Canadian Federation for Sexual Health, Canadians for Choice, and Action Canada for Population and Development have joined forces to become a progressive, pro-choice charity promoting sexual and reproductive health in Canada.

The namesake ‘parts’ referred to include the vulva, the vagina, the uterus, the cervix, the ovaries, the penis, the testicles and the prostate gland.

By acknowledging, respecting and loving these parts of your body you can ensure they are healthy, just as you would any other part of your body.

Bodies work as a whole and if one part is not healthy, the body is not healthy.

People have experienced incredible trauma because they did not acknowledge these body parts, never looked at or touched these body parts, or they were too uncomfortable or embarrassed to see a health care provider about these body parts. Surely a moment of embarrassment is worth your life. These vitally functioning body parts are cause for human existence and deserve some recognition.

There are simple things you can do to ensure you heart your parts. Get tested and treated for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), have consensual sex, use condoms every time you engage in sexual activity, use flavoured condoms for oral sex, look into the HPV and Hepatitis vaccines. Become familiar with your reproductive parts (yes I am telling you to play with yourself) and see a health care provider if you notice any changes in these parts, or there is any soreness, redness or swelling.

I knew a woman who ignored a cancerous tumour on her vulva until it was the size of a golf ball, and by the time she went to see a health care provider it was too late.

If you have a cervix, get regular Pap tests. This means every three years, if your test results are normal. According to the Ontario cervical screening program, cervical cancer will be found in approximately 1,500 individuals in Canada in 2015 and at least one person will die every day from this disease.

If you have testicles, do regular self-testicular exams. According to Testicular Cancer Canada, testicular cancer occurs most often in men between the ages of 20 and 39, and is the most common form of cancer in men between the ages of 15 and 34.

It is also among the most treatable when caught early. To learn how to check them, go to testicularcancercanada.ca.

Join Planned Parenthood Waterloo Region in the #HeartYourParts selfie challenge by taking a selfie of you holding an I heart my parts sign and tagging #HeartYourParts and #PPWR.

Have a question for Stacey? Email us at communityeditor@thecord.ca.