Prevention for Sexual Health

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Understanding STDs

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or sexually transmitted infections (STIs), are diseases or infections that may be transmitted from person to person by having sex with an infected partner.

Names like Chlamydia, Gonorrhea (“the Clap”), Syphilis, Herpes, Genital Warts (HPV: Human Papilloma Virus), Hepatitis B, and of course, HIV/AIDS, may be familiar to you. But there are others, including Hepatitis C, Nongonococcal Urethritis (NGU), Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), Trichomoniasis (“Trich”), Chancroid, Lymphogranuloma Venereum (LGV), Mycoplasma genitalium, Pubic lice and Scabies.

That is a total of sixteen (16) different STDs that you could acquire if your partner is infected! Statistically for Guilford County, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Syphilis come in first, second, and third (respectively) as far as the number of cases reported.

The scary reality is that, most of the time, having sex with an infected partner can expose you to more than one infection because many times people tend to be co-infected with two or more of these infections and are not aware that they are!

Most of these infections are medically curable, but some can only be “suppressed,” meaning the symptoms or progression of infection/disease can be controlled with medication taken routinely.

Having been a public health nurse for many years, I have seen many surprised and devastated  patients find out that they have a STD/STI. “He/she didn’t look like they had any rash,” or “He/she did not tell me they had a discharge.”

The reality is, when a person is infected with a STD/STI, they may experience symptoms, but many times they do not have any symptoms. Most men have symptoms before women do. That is what is so sly and also devastating about these infections. There are not always warning signs to alert you that your partner may be infected. There are no blinking or flashing lights warning you to STAY AWAY! Statistics show that as much as 70% of woman may not have any symptoms of a Chlamydia infection until it has infected her entire pelvic region and organs and caused a severe pelvic inflammation.

 

What Are The Symptoms?

So what are the symptoms? Those can be somewhat different in men and women. Men generally can experience a drip or discharge. Women can have an unusual discharge or smell, pain in her pelvic area, burning or itching around her reproductive organ, bleeding that is not her regular menses (period), pain deep inside her reproductive organ when she has sex.

Men and women both can experience the following: sores, bumps or blisters near their sex organs, rectum (if they received rectal sex from their partner) or in their mouth (if they gave oral sex to their partner), burning and pain when they urinate or have a bowel movement, more frequent urinating, itching around their sex organs, a swelling or redness in their throat (if they gave oral sex to their partner), Flu-like feelings (with fever, chills and aches), swelling in their groin (area around their sex organs).

So, you can see the health consequences of acquiring a STD/STI can be severe. Not only are there physical health consequences, but the mental and emotional anguish of finding out that your partner may have “cheated” on you and given you one of these infections can have a major effect on your ability to establish a healthy sexual relationship with a future long-term committed partner.

 

Preventing Infection

So, how can I stay safe and not get one or more of these infections, you may ask? America’s health educators give us information about ways to reduce our risk. They teach you to reduce the number of partners you have, always use a condom when you have sex (whether penile/vaginal, oral, and/or rectal sex), talk to your partner about their past sexual and needle-sharing practices before you decide to have sex with that person, look at your partner for any signs of a STD before you have sex, etc.

These techniques may help you to reduce your risks, but they do not completely eliminate the possibility of still getting a STD/STI. Anytime you have sex, you are having sex with every single person your partner had sex with previous to you! Over a few years and a few partners, that can multiply up to THOUSANDS of people.

But what if you could prevent contracting a STD/STI completely and not have any worries about the short and long-term health consequences, emotional baggage, or relational mistrust, but have the best sex you could ever have and have it as often as you want? What is the secret? The “secret” is not a secret at all! It is to only have sex within a life-long, committed, mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner. If you only have sex in that context, there is no risk involved at all!

Interestingly enough, this is the way that God designed humans—man and woman—to relate physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It was His design for man and woman to only have sex within a mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner because of the possible consequences outside of that context.

That relationship is what has been known for centuries (and actually from the beginning of creation) as marriage. Marriage between uninfected partners is the only type of relationship that permits a man and woman to have sex without fear of any sexually transmitted infection.

Through the faithfulness of both the man and the woman to their spouse before marriage, and then within marriage, God’s design for your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health reaches its optimal level of relational well-being and enjoyment.

The final thing I want to address is for those who have already been having sex outside of this healthy context of marriage. What if you have already had sex? Should you just give up on waiting until marriage? The answer is absolutely not! You can stop having sex today. Make sure you get tested for STDs and treated, if necessary, so that if or when you do get married, you can have sex with your spouse knowing that the relationship is committed, monogamous, and uninfected.

We’re here to help, so don’t hesitate to call us if you would like to talk through these things. Your future is in your own hands. Make the healthy choice and leave sex for marriage.

 

Charlotte Haywood is one of our staff RNs at the pregnancy care center. She has many years of experience in the public health arena, especially related to STD testing and treatment. Charlotte is married and is actively involved with her church family at Cornerstone Baptist Church.

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