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Safe Sex: STD's
1 in 2 sexually active people will contract an STD by age 25.
The CDC, or The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is a federal agency concerned with improving the overall health in the country. They monitor the status of diseases and other health concerns, and devote large amounts of time, money, and expertise to health promotion, prevention, and preparedness activities and research. If nothing else, maybe you recognize the organization from the popular TV show The Walking Dead…sure, the scientist died in the end and blew up the entire CDC building, but he was REALLY close to ending the entire series with a badass cure.
The CDC often publishes studies and data sheets that are health concern specific, and they have been collecting data on STDs in America annually for many years. The most recent published analyzed data is from 2016, and it notes a steady upward climb in STD cases, and over 2 million new sexually transmitted infections in that year alone. The CDC finds this highly concerning, and deems this to be an STD Epidemic. Syphilis cases are steadily increasing, millions live with HIV, and roughly 1/3 of the population is living with type two (genital) herpes. Condom usage is alarmingly low as people throw caution to the wind and tend towards barrier free sex, even with new partners. The CDC recommends three steps to prevent further spread, so read on to make sure you’re doing everything you can to stay safe in the sack.
Step 1: Talk
Be open and honest about STDs with partners and healthcare providers. If talking with doctors is a hurdle, it might be even trickier to have the conversation with a prospective lover. What will they think of you? What will they say? Will they even still be interested? Check your anxiety at the door, because chances are the person will be more understanding than you expect. How do you even bring that up?
The STD Project has a great section with advice, tips, and strategies on how to talk about STDs. Whatever way you tell them, just be sure you do it in person. This isn’t the kind of talk that you want to have over the phone, and chatting about it through texts or emails can misconstrue information and deny you the opportunity to convey your sincerity. If talking really isn’t your style, and you plan to engage in sex with new partners frequently, The Safe App is a new mobile app that you can download for free. Use it to keep track of your results and testing dates and share them with prospective partners.
Step 2: Test
Get tested at least once a year, and more often if STDs are contracted, you have an irregular pap smear, or doctors recommend otherwise. If you are a sexually active gay man, you are at higher risk for STDs (especially syphilis and HIV/AIDS, which are linked). If you fall into that category, you might consider getting tested more frequently, or taking additional steps (See Step 3). Additionally, pregnant women are at higher risk for contracting STDs that may be passed onto their child during birth, so request a full screening early in your pregnancy, and rescreen throughout if you are sexually active.
Step 3: Treat
If you have an STD, work with a doctor to find a medication that suits your lifestyle and helps to prevent further spread. If you’re living with herpes, prescription drugs can keep your symptoms at bay and prevent you from passing it to your partner(s). If you don’t have an STD, consider working with your doctor preventatively. Pre-exposure medications can reduce the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS significantly, and many clinicians vaccinate against STDs like HPV. If you don’t have health insurance, go to your local Planned Parenthood or similar health clinic, as they may offer significant financial aid for those in need.
Practice Safe Sex
This last measure is perhaps more important than any of the aforementioned…practice safe sex. Oral barriers, rubber gloves, and condoms can mean the difference between a long healthy life or one ridden with doctor’s appointments and painful side effects.
“Though condom use among sexually active Americans increased throughout the 1980s and 1990s, it's been waning ever since. After peaking at 20.4 percent in 1995, it has since dipped to 16.4 percent, according to a National Health Statistics Report.” Do the math, people. If only 16% of people regularly use protection during sex, and 50% of people contract an STD by age 25, and 1/3 of the population has type two herpes…you’re REALLY rolling the dice when you don’t practice safe sex, especially with a new or non-monogamous partner. You might be groaning in dismay, or rolling your eyes at the thought of covering all the most sensitive spots on your body in latex for your sexy encounters…but why does it have to be a pain?
Thanks to modern technology and innovative design, there are LOADS (hehe…get it?) of ways that condoms and other protective barriers can actually enhance your bedroom experience.