The Dirty Truth About STDs

Raise your hand if you like sex. Okay, now raise your hand if you like sexually transmitted diseases. Yeah, I didn’t think so. Currently, the top five most dangerous and common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are, ranked from least to most, chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis, syphilis, and HIV/AIDs, according to std-gov.org. Less so diseases (STDs), more so infections, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are one of the unhappy potential consequences of having unsafe sex. They are often transmitted through vaginal intercourse, although many, such as herpes, are also spread through oral contact. Common side effects of many STIs include some kind of infection, bacterial growth that can interfere with certain bodily functions, growth on the skin or in the body, and in some cases, a vulnerability to illness due to a compromised immune system. And some of those STIs are incurable! It doesn’t sound very fun, does it? According to the CDC, approximately 20 billion Americans have contracted an STI this year. Not only is it a dangerous health problem, it is a common one.

Commonality might beg the question: well, if it’s so frequent, shouldn’t there already be a cure for it? And it’s not a bad question. But the unfortunate truth is that there isn’t a cure for every one of them. And some of them (such as chlamydia) are developing new strains that are antibiotic-resistant, AKA you can’t just erase it with medicine. I don’t know about you, but that’s f*cking terrifying. Instead, great care has been taken to prevent the spread of bacteria and infection, the same way individuals are prompted to stay home if sick, or cover their coughs.

 

Comparing, say, chlamydia to the flu is good and bad, each for their own reason. The bad reason is that chlamydia is debatably far more dangerous to acquire than the flu. The good reason, is that both fall under medical issues, something that is often forgotten due to the sexual nature of STIs and the conflicting moral agendas surrounding sex. (Which, by the way, keep your morals and your religious views out of my sex life, thanks).

 

For preventative measures, one of the best ways to protect yourself and others is to go get tested. You can go to your doctor and asked to be screened. Instead of saying “screen me for all of them”--because your definition of “all” and their definition of “all” may be very different--come ready with a list of infections you want to be tested for. For example, ask for chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, syphilis, and HIV/AIDs. It is a list of the most common and the most dangerous. While you don’t need to get tested too frequently, the recommended frequency is every six months or right before you intend to have sex with a new partner.

 

While this next piece might accompany getting tested, it can be considerably more difficult. If you learn that you have an STI, it is your responsibility to seek treatment and to tell any future partners that you have it (while you have it. If it was treated entirely, then there isn’t necessarily a need because you won’t transmit it). Telling people you have one can be difficult because it can bring about feelings of shame or embarrassment, but it is crucial that you do this. It can be done anonymously by certain organizations that will contact you when you’ve been diagnosed, or you can sit with your partner and have the very honest conversation, ready with resources. Whatever way you do it--please do it.

Some ways to prevent the spread and protect yourself when you don’t know if someone has an STI is to make a habit of using contraceptive devices such as condoms and dental dams. Yep, that’s right! That gross, wiggly bit of latex can save you a world of trouble. And if a guy says he won’t wear one--don’t worry. Here’s a list of appropriate responses, brought to you by America’s youth: https://www.bustle.com/articles/80600-14-year-old-perfectly-responds-to-guys-who-dont-want-to-use-condoms-and-we-want-to-sit

Many places offer them for free, or condoms can be found in most grocery stores and pharmacies.

Here is a list of sexual health resources in the Capitol Hill area in Seattle:

Gay City: Seattle’s LGBTQ Center

Any Lab Test Now

Planned Parenthood

The Feminist Women’s Health Center

And many more!

 

Remember, if nothing else, get tested and use a condom/dental dam!