Love means never giving the "gift" of an STD
Valentine’s Day can be a time that involves going the extra mile for somebody special or planning a caring act to make your partner happy.
So why should things be any different when it comes to sexual activity?
Responsible sex can be achieved in a variety of ways and taking the time to familiarize yourself with and practice these methods can result in a mutually enjoyable, worry-free holiday.
One of the most common ways of preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) is by using condoms. Be sure to use a new condom with every sex act, and to do so correctly. Laboratory studies have shown that proper applications of them create a protective barrier between partners, and that they also reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy.
If at any point you believe you were exposed to a STD, or would just like to be sure, getting tested is an option. All sexually active people should be tested for STDs at least once; others should be tested more frequently depending on factors that include a high number of partners.
Many STDs are asymptomatic, meaning there are no tell-tale signs of an infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis have all significantly increased since 2014. More cases of STDs mean that more people are infected, and they may not even know it.
Practicing responsible sex is important because it reduces your chances of contracting all STDs, including human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV. HIV weakens the human immune system and can lead to the development of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). If you have or have had an STD, you are at an increased risk of getting the virus. According to the CDC, around 154,000 people in America have HIV and don’t know it.
HPV, or human papillomavirus, is a common virus. There are about 14 million new infections every year. HPV is spread through intimate contact and can lead to many forms of cancer. More than 9 out of 10 cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV. There are also more than 14,000 new cases of throat cancer in men caused by the virus every year.
The best thing you can do is make sure you have been vaccinated. The HPV vaccine comes in two doses if taken at the recommended age, and it is approved for girls and boys ages 11-12. Young adults can also receive the vaccination up to age 26. Those who are older and have not yet been vaccinated should talk with their health care provider first.
Getting tested not only determines if you have an infection, but it also ensures that you receive the proper care while keeping others safe. Monongalia County Health Department’s Clinical Services offers free confidential testing and treatment to the public, regardless of income or health insurance coverage.
While the only way to completely avoid STDs is to abstain from having sex, here are the key takeaways to reduce your exposure if you do:
- Use a new condom for every sex act, and for the entire duration of it.
- Limit or reduce your number of sexual partners.
- Limit alcohol use because it lowers inhibitions and good judgment.
- Make sure you have received the full HPV vaccination.
- Make sure both you and your partner(s) get tested.
There may not be anything less romantic than finding out you have an STD, so be sure to keep responsible sex practices in mind as Valentine’s Day approaches once again.
For more information or to make an appointment, call MCHD Clinical Services at 304-598-5119.