The Importance of Safe Sex

Maybe it is just my hidden germaphobia, but I know I cannot be the only one deeply concerned about people’s attitudes towards safe sex. If you are responsible enough to be having sex, you are responsible enough to be having SAFE sex. end. of. story. Sexually transmitted diseases and infections are preventable but have lasting impacts if left untreated.

I have often heard my friends say “oh, I would know if I had an STD,” but STDs are often asymptomatic. You cannot count on previous partners to inform you if they contract an STD either. It’s your body, so it’s your responsibility. Unfortunately, there is a highly negative stigma around sexually transmitted diseases that may prevent your sexual partners from being honest about their diagnosis or they may be completely unaware. Planned Parenthood recommends people who use condoms still get tested yearly. Condoms only protect against STDs like gonorrhea, HIV, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis, which are spread from bodily fluids. Condoms do not prevent STDs such as HPV, herpes, syphilis, and conchoid, which are spread from bodily contact. HPV, herpes, and HIV are transmittable even when a flare-up is not occurring. ¾ of women do not show symptoms of chlamydia and ½ of women do not show symptoms of gonorrhea. Women cannot rely on symptoms to give awareness of an STD; testing is the only surefire way to know whether you are clean. People who do not get tested are not only putting their health at risk but also risking the health of every single person they sleep with.

It is a crime for a person to engage in vaginal, oral, or anal sex knowing that they have HIV, syphilis, or Hepatitis B without informing their partner in Virginia. A prosecutor could classify knowingly spreading a permanent STD as malicious wounding, a class 3 felony, which could earn the perpetrator a five- to twenty-year prison sentence and up to a $100,000 fine. In some states, it is a crime just to spread, even unknowingly, these STDs.

The negative stigma surrounding STDs is deeply concerning. If fear of stigma prevents you from reaching out to partners about your diagnosis or getting tested, please put your health first. STDs, particularly for women, can be very damaging to the reproductive system. Chlamydia and gonorrhea both cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, which may damage fallopian tubes enough to cause infertility. 1 in 2 people contract an STD before the age of 25. The Center for Disease Control reports over 19 million new STD cases each year. STDs are not only common, but except for HIV, certain drug resistant strains of gonorrhea, HPV, and herpes, are also treatable if caught in time.  Considering how many people have sex, especially without condoms, STDs should not be considered so negatively. A disease is a disease, no matter how it was contracted.

The Peninsula Health Center, located at 416 J Clyde Morris Boulevard, is within walking distance of CNU. Call (757) 594-7305 to make an appointment for STD/STI testing. All services are income-based. Uninsured patients should bring in a W-2 form or most recent paystub to qualify for cheap or free testing.