Sexually transmitted infections are still a relevant issue in today’s society. You wouldn’t think so because it’s not talked about as often as it used to be. But, it’s still a real issue that persists. Whether it’s due to a conservative view of sex contributing to a lack of proper sex education and awareness. Or having a liberal viewpoint that focuses more on sexual expression and indulgence. But, fails to properly educate in regards to sexual responsibility and health. In the end, both viewpoints place importance on feelings, emotions and personal perceptions of sex.
Regardless, if you have conservative or liberal views regarding sex. Proper education is important and is needed to help empower young adults when it comes to making decisions regarding their bodies and their sexual health. And, while there are medical advances that provide treatments that can cure many sexually transmitted infections. There are still STI’s that can not be properly treated or cured via medication. So, being aware of the different STI’s that are out there and learning how to protect yourself is an effective preventative tool.
All About Sexually Transmitted Infections
Understanding the facts regarding sexually transmitted infections can help you advocate for your sexual health. Therefore, increasing your ability to make empowered decisions regarding your sex and sexuality. Sexually transmitted infections (STI) are infections and diseases that are spread via sexual contact. Yet, sex isn’t the only way a person contracts an STI. Different types of STIs can spread through various points of contact. Common ways to contract and spread an STI include:
- Sharing unsterilized needles
- Blood transfusions
- In utero
- During childbirth
- Penetrative intercourse (vaginal, anal)
- Non-penetrative sex (oral)
- The use of contagious sex toys
Additionally, all STI’s are not created equal. Some STI’s are bacterial, others are viral, while still others are caused by small organisms. And, the type of STI determines how it can be treated as well as if it’s curable or incurable.
Just as the name suggests these sexually transmitted infections are caused by an overgrowth of bacteria. And, they can be easily cured and treated with antibiotic medication. Examples of bacterial STI’s include:
In the case of viral sexually transmitted infections, these are caused by a virus. Types of viral STI’s are:
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
- Hepatitis b
Additionally, HPV, HIV, and Herpes are listed as incurable. Yet, the body can develop antibodies against certain strands of HPV. (1) Therefore, resolving itself within a period of 1-2 years. Yet, there are other strands of HPV that remain dormant within the body and lead to health complications. Currently, there are no specific tests for men to diagnose HPV. But, women are able to screen for HPV. And, in some cases, HPV has been detected due to an abnormal PAP smear. As it pertains to viral STIs early diagnosis is beneficial in proper treatment.
STI’s Caused By Small Organisms
There are sexually transmitted infections that are caused by small organisms. They are easily treated with the use of oral or topical medication. Sexually transmitted infections caused by small organisms are:
- Molluscum Contagiosum
- Crabs/Pubic Lice
Health Complications of Sexually Transmitted Infections
Due to the fact that sexually transmitted infections display no symptoms at the beginning of onset. Or, symptoms are confused with something else and ignored. Diagnosing and treating an STI can be difficult. This is why it’s super important to advocate for your sexual health by practicing safe and responsible sex. And, making sure you get regular screenings. Complications associated with undiagnosed or late diagnosis of STI’s include:
- Pelvic pain
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
- Fertility Complications
- Pregnancy Complications
- Heart Disease
- Certain Cancers (cervical and rectal)
- Eye inflammation
Furthermore, knowing what symptoms to be on the lookout for can also prove helpful in properly diagnosing and treating an STI. Symptoms such as:
- Painful urination
- Sores, bumps, rashes around the genitals, anus or mouth
- Unusual vaginal discharge or bleeding
- Vaginal itching
While these symptoms are pretty general and can be due to a variety of things. It’s still important to know that these aren’t normal. And, it’s your body’s way of letting you know something’s up. So, if you find that you’re dealing with these symptoms schedule an appointment with your doctor to have appropriate testing done. And, since it’s not always common to have STI screening done with a pelvic examination. Make sure you request to have one done as a preventative measure. Even if you think it’s just a yeast infection or urinary tract infection. It doesn’t hurt to make absolutely sure.
When it comes to preventing the transmission of sexually transmitted infections there are various options. From abstinence, monogamy, and engaging in responsible sexual practices.
This method is the only 100% way to avoid contracting a sexually transmitted infection. To be clear abstinence is the absence of all sexual contact. This includes oral and anal sex. Avoiding casual sexual contact and being celibate in relationships until marriage or the time of your choosing can protect your sexual health. It’s important to know and understand that abstinence/celibacy is a commitment and in order to be successful, there may be lifestyle modifications that you will need to make. If you choose this method you definitely want to speak with your partner about this and define what this means for you. For some, this may not be an option they are willing to commit to.
Sex within a Monogamous Relationship
With this particular method, you get to practice responsible and safe sex with one set partner. Meaning you are excluding sexual activity with anyone else. Again, if this is a goal you’re wanting to achieve with a specific person you need to discuss this with them. Explain what this means for you and gauge to see if they are on the same page as you. Your idea of safe sex within a monogamous relationship may differ from theirs. You may want to still use protective methods such as condoms while they may not want to. Discuss all of these things and get on the same page.
Additionally, sharing your sexual history and getting screening is another important part of this process. This way you can be sure that you are both clear of any STIs before you engage in a sexual relationship. Furthermore, you want to make sure you discuss birth control methods and are clear on what will work best for both of you. When beginning a sexual relationship with someone it’s super important to discuss these things and be clear from the jump.
Practice Safe Responsible Sex
Regardless of what choices you decide to make regarding your sex life, this should be the number one goal. You should always have open, and real conversations with your partner regarding sexual history, boundaries, birth control, expectations, exclusivity, safe sex practices, etc. Using condoms can help avoid the spread of sexually transmitted infections. It’s important to know that hormonal birth control methods, and natural family planning methods are great at preventing pregnancy. But, they do not protect you from sexually transmitted infections. Using condoms, especially with new partners, can help safeguard against the spread of sexually transmitted infections. Hence why it’s important to get screenings before entering into a sexual relationship with a new partner that you intend on becoming sexually active with. While it’s not a spontaneous, casual approach it’s a healthy, intentional one. And, it can help to protect your sexual health and make your expectations clear regarding what sexual behavior is ok and not ok. Thus, setting the foundation for proper intimacy at the start.
Advocate for Your Sexual Health
Regardless of what you choose your sex life is your business. It’s a private, intimate decision that only you can make. Furthermore, it’s your responsibility to protect your sexual health. You can do this by advocating for your sexual health through proper sexual education, awareness, setting boundaries, and making intentional decisions regarding your sex life. Also, having an open discussion with new partners and discussing all options to see which align best with both of your needs. Consequently, this process takes time and that’s ok. You don’t have to jump into or rush into a sexual experience with another person until you’re ready. So don’t allow anyone to pressure you to do so. What’s most important is that you feel empowered to make informed decisions regarding what’s appropriate for you.
The fact of the matter is that…
Sexually transmitted infections are still very real. And, yes there are many advancements that can help treat many of these infections. But, prevention is the best medicine. This is why proper sex education and awareness are important. Educate yourself and become aware of ALL available options for preventing sexually transmitted infections. And, practicing safe responsible sex. Advocate for your sexual health as you’re dating. Get regular check-ups and screenings and discuss expectations regarding sex with new partners. Request that partners get tested before engaging in sexual activity. Furthermore, practice safe sex by using condoms to reduce the risk and transfer of sexually transmitted infections. If you choose to abstain or be celibate determine your boundaries in advance then stick to them. And, make sure to discuss them at the beginning of a new relationship. Sex doesn’t have to be the big taboo that it is. It’s real and it’s apart of being an adult. It’s not bad or gross. It’s a beautiful and intimate act of love when practiced responsibly.
About the Author
Hi, my name is Kathleen but you can call me Kat. I’m a health and wellness professional turned freelance writer and content creator. You can find me on YouTube and Instagram. If you take the opportunity to visit me on my other platforms don’t hesitate to leave a message, I would love to hear from you!
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- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Genital HPV Fact Sheet
- Healthline| Everything you Need to Know About Sexually Transmitted Diseases| written by Heather Cruickshank, medically reviewed by Suzanne Falck MD on July 31, 2018
- Medical News Today | What You Need to Know About STD’s | written by Adam Felman, medically reviewed by Jill Seladi-Schulman on June 29,2018