Sexually transmitted diseases are not welcome!
As we get ready for the holiday parties, I’d rather pick-up a new pair of shoes than a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or sexually transmitted infection (STI). However, there is a greater chance of getting an STD/STI than designer shoes. STD’s have risen drastically in the past 30 years. Once upon a time, several decades ago, the sexually transmitted disease list was short. Syphilis and gonorrhea topped the centuries old list, followed by a random chance of herpes. Today a minimum of at least 17 well known, STD/STI’s exist. People most at risk are between 15-24 years old. If you are reading this and engaging in sex, you have a 50/50 chance of getting an STD/STI.
Visiting Santa at the mall? Then here is a partial list what you don’t want in your stocking: Chlamydia, Chancroid, Crabs (Pubic Lice), Genital Herpes, Genital warts, Hepatitis B, HIV/AIDS, Human Papillomavirus (HPV), Trichomoniasis (parasitic infection), Molluscum Contagiosum, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), Scabies, Syphilis, Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Trichomoniasis (Trich), Yeast infections.
Worse yet, you may not even be aware of the special “gift” you have been given. Consequently you are asymptomatic. Which simply means, you are a carrier for the disease, and are unaware. Therefore, being asymptomatic, many people are passing STD’s and STI’s along, unknowingly. If you are sexually active, get tested.
I don’t want to make light of these very serious infections and diseases. There are a lot of facts about these diseases at Center For Disease Control (CDC.gov) and the Mayo Clinic.
Did you know?
Young people acquire half of the estimated 20 million new STD/STI infections diagnosed each year. (CDC November 2015 newsletter) Consider these facts:
- There are 13 possible STD/STI that you can aquire from having straight male female vaginal sex. (Wikipedia)
- Oral sex may transmit as many as TEN different STD/STI’s. (Wikipedia)
- Young people between the ages of 15 and 24 accounted for the highest rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea in 2014, (CDC November 2015 newsletter)
- Young people acquire half of the estimated 20 million new STD’s diagnosed each year. (CDC.gov)
- Chlamydia continues to be the most commonly reported (1,526,658 cases reported in 2015). (CDC.gov)
- Chlaymdia can lead to serious long term consequences including infertility, increased risk of fatal ectopic pregnancies, and PID. (CDC.gov)
- Gonorrhea is the second most commonly reported (395,216 cases were reported in 2015). (CDC.gov)
- Syphilis. The Women’s rate of syphilis diagnosis increased by more than 27% from 2014-15. (CDC.gov)
- Congenital syphilis (infection is transmitted from a pregnant woman to her baby) increased by 6 percent. (CDC.gov)
- The health outcomes of syphilis – miscarriage, stillbirth, blindness or stroke. (CDC.gov)
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common STI in the US (40 distinct types). (CDC.gov)
- 90% of HPV infections are asymptomatic, meaning no symptoms. (CDC.gov)
- HPV types can cause cancer including throat and neck, and genital warts. (CDC.gov) & (CDC.gov)
- HPV types 16 and 18 account for approximately 70% of cervical cancers worldwide. (CDC.gov)
- HPV types 6 and 11 are responsible for approximately 90% of genital warts. (CDC.gov)
- Genital herpes: In the US, about one out of every six people aged 14 to 49 years have genital herpes. (CDC.gov)
- Every 9 ½ minutes someone in the U.S. gets infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. (NIDA.gov)
- The presence of another STD greatly increases a person’s likelihood of getting or transmitting HIV. (CDC.gov)
What should you do about an STD/STI?
First, if you have been sexually active then you are at risk for STD/STI. You need to be tested. In addition you are putting any sexual partner at risk. Next, ask your doctor for testing. Last, don’t assume that your gynecological exam and pap smear cover STD/STI testing.
Types of STD/STI testing:
Chlamydia and Gonorrhea screening can be tested by a urine test or a genital swab test. Screening is important, because if you don’t have signs or symptoms, you can be unaware that you have either infection.
Syphilis: Testing is either a blood sample or a swab from any genital sores.
HIV and Hepatitis: Require a blood test.
Genital herpes: No good screening test exists for herpes. Your doctor may take a tissue scraping of blisters or early ulcers. A negative test doesn’t rule out herpes as a cause for genital ulcerations. Because results are not always conclusive a blood test may help. Some blood tests can help differentiate between Type 1 (the virus that more typically causes cold sores, but may cause genital sores) and Type 2 (the virus more typically causes genital sores) Still, the results may not be totally clear. (Mayo Clinic.org)
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) can cause cervical cancer or genital warts. Most sexually active people become infected with HPV at some point in their lives, but never develop symptoms. Various cancers have been linked to HPV. This list includes cancer in the sexual organs for both male and female, plus the neck, mouth and throat areas (CDC.gov). No HPV screening test is available for men. They may not know when they are carriers! Infection is diagnosed only by visual inspection or biopsy of genital warts. In women, HPV testing involves a Pap test (checks the cervix for abnormal cells) and HPV test if abonormal cells exist. (Mayo Clinic.org).
What NOT to do.
Do not think you are protected 100% with a condom or vaginal dam. Counting on protection from a condom or dam is leaving your self open for infection or disease. Does a condom eliminate sexually transmitted diseases and infections? NO! Therefore, you need to know the facts. Don’t risk getting infected or passing an infection.
DO NOT, not get tested. You may save your own life.
Last words –
Finally, The Center for Disease Control states,“The most reliable ways to avoid transmission of STDs are to abstain from sexual activity.”
Care for your body this holiday season. Indulge in what is healthy for you. The best gift you can give yourself this season is peace of mind knowing your health is not at risk. If you are concerned that you may have an STD or an STI, or if you think you may be pregnant, we at the ABC Life Choices are here for you. And if you qualify, a limited ultrasound may follow a positive pregnancy test. All services are at no cost to you. No shame, no judgement.