Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What You Should Know About STDs

If your parents or guardians haven't taught you anything about men, they've probably also neglected to teach you about your sexual health. Whether you are planning to whore yourself out, sleep with a few men you love, or only have sex with your husband, it makes sense to learn about STDs. Some are serious enough to pose a real threat to your well-being and others have enough of a social stigma that they are worth taking precautions to avoid. Over the years I've had a couple scares and near-misses with STDs, and have done a lot of research because of it. There is really no reason not to know the following:

1. In the U.S., you can safely assume that every sexually active guy you are having sex with has some strain of HPV. The CDC states that "At least 50% of sexually active people will have genital HPV at some time in their lives." A lot of these strains don't have symptoms, but some are linked to cervical cancer, others to genital warts. There is an immunization for women that protects against some of the common strains. If you are considering sleeping with a guy who has been sexually active, but haven't gotten this immunization, you are an either an idiot, reckless, or uneducated. Hopefully this post precludes the latter.

2. Any skin-to-skin contact in the genital region can transmit STDs - Herpes, HPV, probably some other shit too. A condom only prevents the contact of the outside of his shaft with the inside of your vagina. The rest of your genital area ends up touching your partner's, unless you are having really boring sex.

3. Bodily fluids do not need to be exchanged inside the vagina or mouth to transmit an STD. If he has an STD and his hand touches his penis, then moves down to fondle your clitoris or finger you - guess what? If you are having a threesome and he fingers the other girl (who has an STD), then puts on a condom with his unwashed hands, and bangs you while wearing it - guess what? You get the idea.

4. The term "STDs" collects into a single category several things that are hugely different. If you have until now thought of HIV and Gonorrhea, or HPV and Syphilis as the same general type of thing (i.e. something nasty you get from fucking around too much), you are hugely mistaken. Some can kill you, others are merely embarrassing. See #5.

5. A lot of STDs aren't a big deal. I got Chlamydia from the girl I lost my virginity to. In fact, it was transmitted the first time I ever had sex. This was because until shortly before then, I wasn't really planning on being sexually active, so I'd never bothered to educate myself. I freaked the fuck out when I started getting symptoms, only to learn very soon afterwards that it is completely curable, minimally annoying and has next to no health effects, as long as it is treated within a reasonable amount of time. I'd rather get it again than the flu. Other STDs are similarly mild, even if they aren't curable. The pictures you see when you search for information on STDs on the internet depict the extreme, atypical cases.

6. Men will fuck you even if they know they have STDs. I know guys who have done this. While to some it is abhorrent and unthinkable behavior, to others it isn't a big deal. While a lot of people could benefit from understanding just how minor many STDs really are, it is always easier not to get any if you can avoid them, and to do so, you have to look out for yourself. By not fucking random guys, you will eliminate the vast majority of men who are indifferent to your sexual health.

7. No one ever asks guys if they have STDs. Only one woman has ever asked me this before having sex, ever. She was older than me, and therefore probably more confident than other women. You aren't the only one who wants to avoid the awkwardness of asking, though there is probably some prescience in keeping quiet too, since the guys who have STDs but are still trying to bang you would probably lie about it anyway.

8. Women are more affected by STDs than men. The symptoms are often harder to detect, the effects are more severe, and the male-to-female transmission rates are higher than female-to-male. If you apply the same nonchalance to STDs as your male counterparts, don't be surprised when the effects hit you harder.

9. In the U.S., blacks have disproportionately higher STD rates compared to other races. This might be partially because blacks recognize the point I made in #5, and therefore take fewer precautions - I really don't know. Whatever the case, the statistics are unequivocal. Although it is unquestionably discrimination to judge a person based on the color of their skin, you can dramatically reduce your chances of contracting something if you do so. This point is not just directed at white people or Asians. Even if you are black it applies - by sleeping around within your own race, you will significantly increasing your odds of contracting an STD.

10. Men are less likely to date you if they know you have STDs. This sort of goes without saying, but you are far more likely to get sympathy or understanding from a guy who has slept around than from a guy who has not. Finding a guy who is (or was) a player might be your best bet. Although then you might need to be just as understanding about his STDs...

33 comments:

  1. 1. I love that one of the tags for this post was "whore"- that is actually funny (I am not being sarcastic).
    2. do you think it's wrong to ask a guy if they have been tested? The last two guys I have been with I asked them, and one told me he was recently tested and was clean and asked me the same question back. And the other replied he was tested two months ago and was fine. I'm 24 and those guys were also 24, and 26. I guess you are right in the sense that someone could always lie and say they were tested even if they weren't...

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    1. No, in fact I think there is everything right about asking, and it is way more effective than asking if he has an STD moments before having sex (which will almost definitely elicit a lie). That you would even question whether or not it is right surprises me - how could it conceivably be wrong??

      Be careful though, because STD testing isn't a black-and-white matter. It isn't something you just walk into the doctor's office, ask to be tested, then walk away with a "yes" or "no" answer. To get "fully" tested he would have to have a blood test, urinalysis, swab test (though they wouldn't bother doing this unless he had symptoms of clamidia or gonorrea), and a visual exam of his genital area. Doctors won't just perform all these test either, because it gets expensive and takes time. They always will ask the patient what they want to be tested for. So if your guy says he "got tested," make sure you know FOR WHAT he got tested.

      Also with the urine and blood test, the patient usually has to request that the doctor look for specific STDs. They don't just do a scan for "STDs" in general.

      On top of all that, STD testing isn't infallible. It can indicate an STD that isn't really there or miss ones that are.

      All the more reason to wait before jumping into the sack with a dude you don't trust.

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  2. This sounds like it's the men who are the ones "whoring themselves out...", at least initially (after all, look at your #1 and #6). If your intent is to help women, that comment comes across as more "asshole". Look, tell a chick "watch out, men are whores. Don't be a whore yerself." .

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  3. Can't wait to see this post blow up with comments. Oh geez

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  4. I'm black myself, and as ignorantly selective as number 9 sounds, it is true. i have witnessed (or rather OVERHEARD) it myself. it tends to be black guys who are careless with STDs. Black men (I don't know about Americans in particular, I'm not American) are also under-informed about how easily these diseases are transmitted. In addition to number 6, I learned not too long ago that men also carelessly have unprotected sex, even with a girl who is a one night stand, or they're superficially acquainted. I was HORRIFIED when I was told this! by a male friend of mine who had done it himself. And all he said was "I pulled out".....It seems men are only REALLY aware and cautious about pregnancy. Hard to tell which is worse, an unplanned pregnancy or an STD.I've questioned a lot of men about this, and the mentality behind it is that they are thinking "what are the odds that this girl has an STD", and so they go ahead unprotected! Damn shame...

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  5. In reference to the HPV vaccine, at least, if you're talking about Gardasil:

    http://www.pop.org/content/merck-researcher-admits-gardasil-guards-against-almost-nothing-985

    According to Dr. Diane Harper, who is funnily enough the leading international developer of Gardasil, women are more likely to have an adverse reaction to the vaccine than they are to suffer from the cervical cancers it is supposed to prevent.

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  6. Shameless plug here, but my friend (who's a certified sex educator) wrote a great article about STDs that is very relevant to this post. I think you'd find it intriguing, it builds on point 5.

    http://sexlifeandromance.com/entry.php?11-HIV-HPV-and-General-STD-Discussion

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  7. How do you handle it if you *did* ask your partner if he had tested and STIs and he lied, and you contracted multiple STIs from him? besides cutting off contact, what is the appropriate way to deal with this and, specifically, if they were someone that you had known for several years? On one hand, you have a responsibility to notify him of what he gave you, yes?

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    1. If he already knows what he has, telling him what he gave you will just give him a guilt trip - which he probably deserves. But it won't accomplish much more than that. I seem to remember reading or being told that it is illegal in some states to have sex without informing your partner of some STDs. I've never researched it but if it were true and you could prove that you got it from him (tough...) you could sue him.

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  8. Don't most people learn this from sex ed? The only part of this post my 9th grade sex ed class didn't cover was the admittedly un-PC #9.

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    1. Not everyone gets sex ed (a lot of private schools don't offer it for religious reasons), and it is easy to not pay attention to things like this when you aren't sexually active at the time.

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  9. "No one ever asks guys if they have STDs. Only one woman has ever asked me this before having sex, ever."
    Were you monogamous? If you were, I consider it mandatory to ask before changing from condoms to the pill/p-ring/whatever. If you weren't, I still don't think it was a "responsible" thing to do. I wouldn't trust the answer of a guy I wasn't with. If it's the first hookup, condoms are the only option.

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    1. Where do oral sex and foreplay fit into your picture? As was mentioned in the article, there are many other ways to get STDs than unprotected penal/vaginal intercourse.
      Also, you can have multiple sexual partners that you know well enough to trust and still have safe sex with them; monogamy doesn't have anything to do with it. Communication with your partners is key-- they should be confident their partners are STD-free, and vice versa... and maybe if you don't know them well enough to know the honesty in their words, you shouldn't be getting so intimate too quickly.

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  10. #1 - There is a vaccine which protects against 3 of the 30 strains of HPV. I don't know about the US, but in several European countries this is only offered to virgins. They offer this at school to girls in the age range 11-16. It is not long ago that this was launched, so women older than 20 today, most likely never had this or was offered it.
    I go to a private doctor (one of the top clinics in the UK) and pay for everything, so there is no reason for him to 'withhold' any tests to save money. I have asked for many tests, HPV as one of them. The doctor has said that if they find no strain of HPV, there is no reason for me to go through with the vaccine - which is an expensive procedure done with 3 injections over 6 months (my boyfriend would also have to agree to use condoms throughout this period). They will only offer this to a promiscuous women.
    Smear tests however, are important (and they are what matters in regards to cervical cancer). But again, if you have no strain of HPV, they are only done every 2-3 years.

    "I got Chlamydia from the girl I lost my virginity to. In fact, it was transmitted the first time I ever had sex. This was because until shortly before then, I wasn't really planning on being sexually active, so I'd never bothered to educate myself"
    I don't know what you mean by this. Chlamydia is only transferred through fluids. Are you saying you didn't know how to use a condom at 23?

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  11. Okay so what happens if your partner says he got tested and you know you should be clean & you both find out you have an STD.. how do you know who gave it to who?

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  12. In America a woman can only get the HPV vaccine if she is under the age of 26

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  13. If you are willing to sleep with a guy without this HPV vaccination but in the UK they only give it to vigins and I was out of the age range the year they introduced it as they gave it to 12 year olds in my school. I do not see how it makes me any of those things as it is impossible to get it should I just never have sex? So it seems like most older people have it and it can't be avoided by condoms and one day you are going to have sex, so this seems like something that is unavoidable. Also the hand thing, the virus is only active on certain parts of the body, genitals, mouth so I find this hard to believe, it is likely the rest of the genitals touch during intercause so the condom was inneffective that way.

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    1. You can get the HPV vaccine privately at any age in the UK. I'm 22 and I am taking it now. It only means it will be more expensive.

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    2. How much is it? I didn't manage to get one on the NHS when it was available.

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    3. Approx £160 per shot, three shots total. Reducing chances of cervical cancer with 99%, it's well worth it.

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  14. Most of the time HPV is not contagious or easily transmittable by casual contact, it is very easily spread through sexual contact. Again, we are speaking of sexually active adults here, but there are cases of children with HPV.what is warts

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  15. Sexist asswhole. This is directed towards women disrespectfully, calling us whores etc. " Guys will have sex with you knowing that they have an std" eww... you guys aren't great either i see.

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  16. Dear Andrew,
    I too used to think that STD's were not that big of a deal. Then I started medical school and was enlightened (actually horrified). STD's can mess you up big time...even if you get treated. (also viewing pictures of STDs for weeks on end will inspire thoughts of celibacy in even the most depraved sex addict)
    Reasons why:
    1. people who are careless about safe sex, also tend to be careless with taking their medications, i.e. it no longer burns to pee so I'll stop taking the antibiotics halfway through the course, and save the rest for later ( cause I'm young/broke with no insurance). So they don't get treated properly and the bugs that survive the half dose are usually stronger and can mutate to become resistant so antibiotics.
    2. The fact that some stds can be cured with one dose doesn't mean that you won't get it again or that you're now immune. Some people actual believe that getting an std once is like getting chicken pox. YOU CAN GET REINFECTED WITH THE SAME STD.
    3. STD's for some means fertility problems (both men and women) later on
    4. The absolute SMELLIEST cases I have ever witnessed are from women with PID from untreated STDs. If you've ever wondered why some doctors appear to be cold and unfeeling d-bags just know that there are some smells that can totally annihilate one's goodwill towards humanity.
    5. Herpes will come back with a vengeance when you're elderly and the immune system can't keep up anymore and this time it spreads to your brain. As if having your diaper changed wasn't enough to crush your dignity, now your kids have to be notified every time your herpes flares up and you can't make decisions for yourself due to herpes on the brain
    6. HIV/AIDS is still out there..there is still no cure....Magic Johnson is NOT a typical case

    I'll get off my soap box now

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    1. Here's an op-ed linking pot-smoking to schizophrenia and psychotic disorders where people have delusions etc. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324637504578566094217815994.html?mod=trending_now_2

      more to consider

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  17. Guys do lie! And this is how I know. I had been having unprotected sex with a guy who had told me he was clean. I ended up getting gonnorhea. When I told said guy about my drs visit, he swore up and down that it wasnt him. I know for a fact it was him, because he was the first guy I had ever had anykind of sexual contact with(he took my viginity). Later on I found out that he had slept with a couple of other women before, and it had been unprotected. So guys do lie, and not all women are whores that sleep around. I got an sti from first contact.The guy in this story is now my fiance, and we have been together for a year now. But even to this day when I bring it up, all he does is deny, deny, deny. So maybe guys are realy the whores that sleep around.....think about it.

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  18. about #9 (disproportionate rates of STDs among blacks) I would say yes and no.

    as a black male who got chlamydia about 4 or 5 times (and I say above yes and no, because it is not a big deal getting chlamydia, but getting infected IS) even though I made a habit of getting the condom on since I started scoring pussy, the number of times it slips off or bursts is unreal.

    Some may say it IS my fault as I'm not putting it on properly, I say I should get a job at Durex and fix it, for the sake of mankind.

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  19. How do you go about asking a guy you're dating if they have any STD's? When do you bring it up? Do you ask to see written proof? Do you go to the doctor or health clinic with them so you can see the results yourself?

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    1. I think a better question to ask is how they feel about being tested for STDs/STIs. This opens up a bigger dialogue where you can talk about your own experience about being tested.

      There's no real right or wrong time I think, it's gonna be a little awkward/uncomfortable no matter what. But, asking if someone has an STD really a yes or no question, which a guy can easily answer 'No.'

      The bigger question is how you feel about their response and whether or not you trust the answer they give you; I think this is where the female intuition must come in. If you still feel uneasy about it, then you should listen to that feeling.

      Anyway, that's just my two cents. I would be interested in what Andrew has to say as well.

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    2. One girl I was starting to date said in passing one point "I am paranoid of herpes and syphilis. HIV isn't that easy to get if you use protection and the rest I don't really care about, but I am super paranoid of those two."

      The result was that I knew exactly where her personal boundaries were when it came to STDs, and this was just as effective as a direct conversation, without any of the awkwardness. She might not have trusted me to have sex with her if I didn't know what her expectations were, but she trusted me enough to know that, once I knew them, I wouldn't break them. And I didn't have to waste any time going to get tested for HPV or the clap (neither of which I really give a shit about either).

      Another thing to keep in mind is my reply to the first comment in this thread.

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    3. Andrew--That's a horrible message to send--that you don't give a shit about getting HPV or the clap, even if it's with the use of a condom. I don't think I misunderstand that part, and unless I do, it's horrible message that says a lot about risky sexual behavior.

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