Talking of sexually transmitted diseases: Are YOU safe?
Did you know that the symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases are not very recognisable? Suchita Parikh lets you in on everything you need to know about STDS.
Let's talk about sex, baby. Let's talk about STDs. Let's talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be.
Alright, so Salt-N-Pepa didn't quite rap about STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). But we can! So here's the lowdown on all you need to know to be a safe and responsible sexually active adult. Advisory: It isn't all bouquets and balloons.
- Latex condoms aren't enough protection. STDs can be transmitted through intercourse as well as oral and anal sex and skin contact (kissing). So, while the free hug is welcome, the free kiss is not!
- We often don't recognise the symptoms of STDs. It is possible to be carrying an STD and not know that you're 'sleeping with the enemy' (pun intended).
- The discomfiture of purchasing condoms is still better than the discomfiture of a burning sensation while peeing. That adds yet another dimension to 'burn for me, baby'...are you feelin' it?!
- Not all STDs are curable. Some are fatal.
Photographs: Wikimedia Commons
'I wasn't comfortable going to my family doctor, so I just went to a friend's'
"If you're sexually active, an STD test is a good idea," advises Rhea Mehta, 24. "I went because I'd noticed something wrong with my 'plumbing', so to speak. I wasn't comfortable going to my family doctor, so I just went to a friend's doctor instead. I was pretty shaken when the test confirmed my fear of an STD. Luckily I just needed to take a dose of medication for it. I confronted the guy I had been with and he had no idea he'd given it to me! After that experience, I insist on using condoms. Better safe than sorry!"
Unfortunately, there is a social stigma attached to STDs or Venereal Diseases (VD). It's why Joey in (sitcom) Friends wasn't thrilled to be the unwitting poster boy for a VD. And yes, you might go 'OMG' if you find you've contracted an STD. Or, like Charlotte in Sex and the City -- who got crabs (pubic lice) -- you might try to 'fumigate' yourself, your bedsheets, your mattress...!
But STDs need not be shrouded in the nebulous fear of the unknown. STDs are here, they make us feel queer and we can deal with most of them.
Photographs: Pascal Lauener/Reuters
Bacterial or parasitic STDs
So what are STDs? There are several kinds.
Those caused by bacteria or parasites can be treated with medication. Those caused by viruses are trickier. Symptoms such as a burning sensation while urinating, an unusual discharge from the vagina or penis, bleeding between periods and unusual sores are all indicators of the presence of an STD. A downer for the ladies is that STDs can affect them more severely by causing infertility, especially if undetected and untreated.
Chlamydia, for instance, is caused by bacteria through vaginal, anal or oral sex. It can also be passed from mother to child during childbirth. It is recommended that sexually active women 25 years and under get an annual Chlamydia test, since the cervix, which is the opening of the uterus, is still developing and is therefore more susceptible to infections.
Gonorrhea, also known as 'the clap', occurs most commonly in young adults and affects the genital tract, anus or mouth. It is also caused by bacteria and can be treated with antibiotics.
Syphilis, another bacterial infection, affects the genital area, anus, lips or mouth. A symptom of the early stage is a single, painless sore. This sore makes the body more susceptible to HIV, so syphilis could end up being a fatal disease.
Trichomoniasis is a parasitic infection. Its symptoms are often more apparent in women than men. A yellow or green vaginal discharge, itching or urinary issues are indicators of the infection. Men may experience irritation within the penis but generally are symptom less. Since this is a parasitic infection, antibiotics can come to the rescue.
Photographs: Wikimedia Commons
Genital herpes is a virus that enters the body through sexual contact. It leads to sores or 'outbreaks' in the area of the genitals, anus, thighs or buttocks. These sores turn to blisters, and get itchy and painful before they subside. Since genital herpes is caused by a virus, it cannot be completely cured, but the outbreaks do reduce in frequency and intensity over time.
There are numerous strains of the STD known as human papillomavirus or HPV. The not-so-harmful strains cause genital warts, while the high-risk ones lead to cancer.
Another deadly STD is human immunodeficiency virus or HIV, an infection that doesn't really need an introduction. It is caused by either unprotected sex with an infected partner, shared needles or infected blood. The last stage of the disease is termed AIDS or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. It attacks the immune system of the infected individual. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS at present and it ultimately leads to death. The initial signs of HIV are flu-like symptoms and swollen glands, while other symptoms occur months or even years later.
A sobering overview indeed! It is amply apparent that unprotected or multiple partner sex offers a landmine situation. The fail-safe is clear enough: be good when you're being bad. Play safe and always use a condom!
Photographs: Piast/Wikimedia Commons