Guess what month it is? Time to get yourself checked. April is STD Awareness Month. Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) also known as Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) are the icky things that like to attack your genitals and may become a hindrance to a fulfilling sex life if left untreated. For many people, STDs rarely show symptoms until it’s too late. Almost all of us are aware of HIV/AIDS, but there are other diseases just as deadly. These STDs/STIs below are just a few you should be aware of.
Herpes. One of the most common STDs is herpes. There are actually two types of herpes, HSV-1 and HSV-2. It’s been reported that approximately 67% of people under 50 HSV-1 . Outbreaks present themselves as what we commonly call canker sores, cold sores, or fever blisters. Often, we contact HSV-1 early in life; our parents, aunt, uncle, etc. will kiss us probably not evening knowing they have the virus.
However, the one most of us think about when we think about herpes is HSV-2; genital herpes. As with any virus, once in your system, it’s there for life. More often than not, the virus will remain dormant; with many people never experience outbreaks. Herpes is transmitted by skin to skin contact and is not protected by condom usage.
Chlamydia. Chlamydia is one of the most common STDs and can leads to infertility in women when left untreated. Burning and unusual discharge are common symptoms of a chlamydia infection. Women may experience painful sex, lower back pain, or abdominal pain. However, according to ASHA, 50% of men and 75% of women experience no symptoms. If left untreated, chlamydia can infect a woman’s entire reproductive system, including ovaries and Fallopian tubes.
Gonorrhea. Also known as the clap, gonorrhea often goes undetected, especially in women. Signs of infection are a foul smelling discharge coming from the genitals or a horrible burning sensation during urination. Men may feel intense discomfort in their testicles or experience discharge from the penis that is yellow, green, or white in color. Women may experience painful intercourse. If the infection has spread to the stomach or Fallopian tubes they may also experience extreme pain in their lower abdomen. With early treatment, gonorrhea is curable. However, left untreated, gonorrhea can lead to throat, rectal, or genital infections.
These are a small handful of STDs/STIs. Many don’t show signs of their presence or share common symptoms. This is why, if you are sexually active with someone other than yourself, you will want to add regular check-ups to your sexual health maintenance. Part of an enjoyable sex life is being safe and knowing your STD/STI statuses and sharing that information with anyone you may be interested in sharing your body with.
If you have a regular primary healthcare provider, you can include a full STD/STI panel during your annual physical. There are also clinics throughout the country that offer free or low cost testing. Your local Planned Parenthood is a good choice if you are unsure where to go.
Sex is fun and should always be a pleasurable and safe experience for you and your partner(s). To keep that pleasurable and safe experience going taking responsibility for your sexual health is a top priority. Get tested and get tested often. You owe it to yourself to know your stats.