I was originally going to write something about how the dynamic of Christmas may be different this year, but I’ll save that for when I get a bit more data.
Instead, I was thinking about modern day dating and one of the risks that come with that: STIs. Otherwise known as Sexually Transmitted Infections (formerly known as Sexually Transmitted Diseases, or STDs). It seems like they are so much more rampant these days, but I’m not sure if that’s accurate. The other thing that surprises me is just how little knowledge people have about them, including myself about 8-10 years ago.
What I use to think was this: there are some STIs, but if you get checked for them, and use condoms, then you’re fine. Or, if you’re dating someone for a while, and you get checked for them, and it’s “clean”, then you’re fine (well, and on some type of birth control, because the biggest preoccupation was getting pregnant).
However, this is what I’ve discovered, to the best of my knowledge. There are a variety of sexually transmitted infections, and not all of them are transmitted sexually. The ones off the top of my head in order of severity (in my opinion) are: HIV/Aids, Syphilis, Hepatitis, Herpes, HPV, gonorrhea and chlamydia. I believe there are others, but those are the ones that one is tested for when getting an STI check.
Well, kind of. I thought that all of those were tested, but actually, you aren’t checked for herpes or HPV, unless you have an outbreak of them. Those are two that you can be carrying, but you can’t exactly be tested for them.
HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) has many different strains, one of them being genital warts. According to the CDC, almost every single actively sexual person will contract a form of HPV during their lifetime. It is very common, and often does not have symptoms.
Herpes is not as common, but when symptoms show up, can be quite painful. It is an STI that can be communicated via simple skin to skin contact, especially if a person has an outbreak. The one thing about the herpes virus is that it is believed to be forever once it has been contracted. Read: you can never get rid of it from your system once you have it. There are two main types: Herpes simplex 1 and 2. Simplex 1 is generally associated with the mouth/facial area. Simplex 2 is with the genital/rectal area. Many people have Simplex 1 because it is quite easy to spread via skin contact, sharing chapstick or even drinking from the same glass.
I remember that I was dating someone years ago who told me he had herpes. He had experienced the sores on his genitals. He felt very ashamed about it. He said that he had dated a girl before, they had sex once and the condom broke. He was very scared that he had given her herpes (even though he had no outbreak). So, they went and got her checked (there is a blood test that can check for it, but it can be expensive). It came back positive. He felt horrible that he had given her herpes! When we dated, he told me about it and I said to him what I had been told at the doctor: those blood tests don’t distinguish between Simplex 1 or 2. It can detect the Herpes simplex in your body, but not which one it is. Many, many people carry simplex 1 and have no idea, as they’ve never experienced symptoms.
All of this to say: as best as you can, protect yourself. However, if a condom breaks, something like herpes or HPV cannot be accurately checked for (without symptoms).
Gonorrhea and Chlamydia are STIs that can be treated with medication and then cured. They are checked via simple tests. Sometimes these diseases can be transmitted via unprotected sex with the carrier not even aware that they have it. (This is the same for herpes and HPV).
HIV/Aids, Syphilis and Hepatitis B & C are ones that I am not as knowledgable about. I know that they are communicated via the sharing of fluids. I believe they all have noticeable symptoms, either sooner or later. They are considered to be less common, but my understanding is that the blood tests that are taken can quite accurately check if you have it or not.
The one thing that I’ve noticed with myself and even other people that I’ve spoken to over the years, from friends to partners, is that we don’t think that it’ll happen to us. We think that only people who are very promiscuous will get STIs. Or only gay men get them. Or only if you have anal sex. Or that if you use a condom, then it protects against everything (these are actual things I’ve heard people say).
Not true, I’ve discovered. Nowadays, sexually transmitted diseases are so common. However, if you are responsible, use protection and get checked for the STIs that are checkable, then you will be that much safer. The only way to pretty much guarantee you’ll never get one is to be celibate.
My stepmom, who is a doctor, said, “Don’t go around stressing about these things. If you are aware of and get to know your own body well, then you’ll see when there are symptoms (like a herpes breakout).Then go and get tested.”
Pretty much, Know your body so that when you share it with others, you will be as aware as possible and won’t pass along diseases to them and continue the cycle. Many people feel scared to even get tested. I once dated a guy who had never been tested his whole life and his mother was the top STI nurse in the country. There is a stigma around STIs and often we believe that if we ignore them, then they won’t happen to us.
Not true!!!! I’ve found that the more informed and aware I am, the better it is. For me and for my sexual partners! Imagine how horrible it would feel to pass along an STI to someone just because I didn’t want to get tested. For women, it is riskier as most of the STIs wreak more havoc long-term in our bodies than they do for men (like affecting our fertility and ability to have a child).
So, get tested! Talk to your sexual partners, whether it be a long-term relationship or a one-night stand! Get a mirror out and take a peek! It’s all you! Get to know yourself! 🙂
Another day, I’ll write a post about women’s health, in general, and what I’ve discovered personally. I feel it’s so important to share these things because so often we are perceived as being “dirty”.
In my opinion, sex isn’t dirty. It’s fun, when between two consenting adults, who know their bodies well and take care of their sexual health. 🙂 Swab it up! 😉 xo