Behind the Couple Photos: A Relationship Advice Blog

Living in a society that’s over-sexualized, yet still views sex as a taboo subject is hard. It seems like all the answers could be in front of you, but everyone makes you too afraid to ask. Within a relationship, there are so many questions about STDs and how to properly talk to your S.O. about your limits. Ladies, it’s sex talk. But not the usual sex talk, we’ll be covering all that stuff later. Right now, its time to talk about STDs.

STDs, the dark horse of sex talk— yet the problem we should be talking about most. It seems like whenever you mention an STD, no one tells you what to expect, what it entails, or even the different kinds. They push you away with a preach of abstinence and praying you wear a condom— which you should, they’re there for a reason! But let’s face it, we’re in college and most of us want sex. But we should know what’s out there.

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In 2015, the CDC found that the total cases of STD were at an all-time high among people aged 15-24. So yes, my college ladies, this applies to us.

So, let’s start with the basics: what is an STD? Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), or Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), are mostly infections from sexual contact in different forms. But the thing is, is that you can’t always tell they’re there. According to sources, 35% of adults have an STD and don’t even know. Which is completely terrifying. But to tackle the unknown, you gotta learn the basics: the main STDs are HIV, Herpes type 1 and 2, Hepatitis A, B, C, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and Syphilis.

STD/ Sexual health basics

HIV

What is HIV?

HIV is Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Summed up, its a virus that attacks immune cells that kill off infections.

HIV Quick facts:

  • 1.2 million Americans live with HIV

  • Approximately 250,000 people currently have HIV and don’t even know

  • HIV IS NOT AIDS. AIDS is the late stages of HIV.

Who can contract it?

Anyone can through unprotected sex, intravenous drug use, or multiple sex partners (one of which with an already active STD).

Is there a cure? What happens if it’s untreated?

Currently, there is no cure for HIV. But it is manageable through medications to slow down the virus and people live normal happy lives. To put it bluntly, HIV can lead to death if enough damage to the immune system is present if you don’t get it undiagnosed.

Symptoms:

It can take 2-4 weeks to show symptoms normally mixed up with flu-like symptoms.

Herpes

What is Herpes?

Herpes is a common virus that can cause sores in places mainly in the genitals or mouth. The two types are Genital Herpes and Oral Herpes.

Quick Facts:

  • 80% are HSV-1 (oral)

  • 20% are HSV-2 (genital)

  • 1 in 6 Americans has genital herpes

What is Oral and Genital Herpes?

Oral Herpes (Type 1 Herpes) and Genital Herpes (Type 2 Herpes) is herpes that infects the skin and/or mucous membranes like the other strain of herpes.

Oral— Who can contract it?

Contracting it can be from unprotected sex to kissing, sharing utensils to oral sex with a partner with genital herpes.

Genital— Who can contract it?

This kind of herpes is spread from any bodily fluid from saliva to semen, skin to skin contact with unprotected sex.

Is there a cure? What happens if it’s untreated?

There’s no cure, but treatments are available when you discuss with your doctor. While it’s not incredibly serious, it's still good to get checked out so a weakened immune system or spreading won't occur. For genital, meningitis can occur— so go get checked ladies!

Symptoms:

For oral herpes, the most common symptoms are cold sores, fever blisters in the lip area, while genital herpes presents itself with sores in the genital area, anus, thighs. Genital herpes can present itself 2-12 days after exposure and most get it confused with other possible skin conditions.

Hepatitis

What is Hepatitis?

Hepatitis isn’t purely a sexually transmitted disease, but it’s an inflammation of the liver that can lead to even more damaging results.

A, B, C?

While Type A is contagious, it’s a mild infection that can’t become chronic. Type B has a wide range from short-term to lifelong, it can start from a mild infection to a cause of death with liver inflammation leading to more health problems (two stages with B: acute and chronic). Lastly, Type C is a long-lasting, blood-borne infection.

Who can contract it?

A: Hepatitis A is spread through ingestion of infected fecal matter within objects, food or drinks.

B: Hepatitis B is spread through contact with the blood or sexual fluids of an infected person. 

C: Hepatitis C is spread when an infected person's blood enters the body of an uninfected person. 

Is there a cure? What happens if it’s untreated?

A: There is no treatment, get vaccinated firstly, but otherwise the sickness just fades within a few weeks to months.

B: There is no cure, but long with Type A studies have shown 90% of adults have it fade within a year if treated.

C: If in the acute (newer) stages of Type C, its treatable. Otherwise, it may require antiviral medications. To make sure that doesn’t happen, use a condom or dental damn, not to share a needle, razor blades, or toothbrushes with someone infected.

Symptoms:

According to STDcheck, the symptoms include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain and jaundice within 2-6 weeks from the initial exposure.

Chlamydia

What is Chlamydia?

Chlamydia, according to STDcheck, is a common STD caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis.

Quick Facts:

  • It is the most frequently reported STD
  • There are 2.86 million infections reported annually

Who can contract it?

Because of their cervixes not fully maturing, younger women are more likely to be infected. Although anyone can get it with different forms of sex.

Is there a cure? What happens if it’s untreated?

Yes, good news y’all: Chlamydia can be cured. But if left untreated, it can have crazy health complications leading to prenatal problems and more.

Symptoms:

It’s known as the ‘silent’ STD since symptoms are so subtle or even apparent. But the most common occur up to 3 weeks from exposure, pain within the pelvic region, burning pee, bleeding, and so on.

Gonorrhea

What is Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is an infection that harms the mucous membranes of the reproductive system, urethra, mouth, throat, anus, eyes, and so on through the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae.

Quick Facts:

  • There are 820,00 US cases of gonorrhea annually
  • Can occur with even no ejaculation occurring during sex

Who can contract it?

Anyone who’s experienced unprotected sex (many different kinds) can be infected.

Is there a cure? What happens if it’s untreated?

It’s easily curable, don’t you worry. But if untreated, it can make you more susceptible to HIV and other STDs.

Symptoms:

Just like Chlamydia, it can be mild to absent. But if they do how it ranges from painful urination, stomach pain, and more.

Syphilis

What is Syphilis?

Syphilis is an exceedingly contagious infection caused by Treponema pallidum that comes in 4 stages: primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary.

  • Primary (2 weeks to 3 months) is the first stage that includes small sores
  • Secondary is a rash that covers the palms or feet.
  • Latent is when the STD is dormant for up to 20 years, but organ problems are irreversible.
  • Tertiary is when after 10-30 years after being infected, there are life-threatening symptoms that could result in death

Who can contract it?

Anyone who comes in contact with sores, rash, mucous membrane during unprotected oral, vaginal, or anal sex.

Is there a cure? What happens if it’s untreated?

It can be easily treated in the beginning stages, but otherwise more stages will occur as read above.

Now I’m not telling you this to scare you off from sex, it's just a warning that you need to know what’s happening to your body. You can’t always tell if someone is infected, so take the initiative. Know your limits and take away one thing: go get yourself checked. Go to STDcheck.com and find a lab near you.

As for your partner, ask them to get tested too. If they dead-right refuse, why do you need that person in your life anyway You don’t need to risk your sexual health for one good night.

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Is makeup right for you?

We’ve all faced that decisions, and if you haven’t yet: brace yourselves. An ex will call you up and ask to go get a cup of coffee, which easily translates to getting back together. Now you’re conflicted: they made me happy, but should I really go back to them? Well, here’s 4 questions to ask yourself (and your friends):

1. Were you happy?

Really think about this, think about your best times and worst times. Think about your first kiss, the first kiss tells everything. Ask your friends if you seemed happy around the time you guys were dating, what’s their answer? If all signs point to yes, then maybe consider getting back together.

2. Why did you break up?

If it was a trivial fight you both realize was at equal fault, swallow your pride honey. If you wanna get back, sometimes you have to admit you’re wrong. But if they lied or cheated on you, stop right here. You don’t need that negativity in your life. If they cared, they wouldn’t have lied— simple as that.

3. Will they listen now to my concerns?

Every relationship has problems, but the real relationships talk it out. When you meet up, discuss your concerns and if they seem genuine, dip your toe in the water. Try it out, but don’t change your relationship status just yet.

4. Will you be happy?

Think about it and be honest: will you by happy if they’re back in your life? Think long term before you answer with a coffee spot location.

I know it’s simple, but these questions are critical to ask yourself before this large decision. Breaking up is hard, but getting back together is a risk. Think wisely lovelies. Relationships, dating in general, is hard in this generation. But that doesn’t mean we can't be smart about it all.

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