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Let’s talk about STIs


Many of us think sexually transmitted infections only happen to other people. But outbreaks are popping up around the country, and infection rates, even of practically forgotten diseases like syphilis, are increasing in nearly every age group.

Right now no one is quite sure why.

It might have to do with unprotected oral sex or increasing IV drug use. Even hookup apps like Tinder and Grindr have taken some of the blame (though no studies have yet shown they’re any more likely to result in STIs than meeting people the old-fashioned way). We all know using condoms and getting tested regularly is the best defense, but here’s what else you need to know.

What is an STI? 

STI means sexually transmitted infection. It is passed on through sexual contact with someone who is infected.

When should I have a test? 

You should be tested if: 

  • You have any symptoms which suggest an STI 
  • Your partner has an STI 
  •  You change your sexual partner 
  • You have multiple sexual partners 

What does the test involve? 

For men, you will be asked to give a urine sample into a small bottle. Sometimes, swabs will also be taken from the throat, the anus, or rectum.

For women a swab is taken from the vagina, this can be done by the doctor or nurse and sometimes by yourself. Men and women will also have blood tests to check for HIV, hepatitis, and syphilis.

Common STIs and genital conditions

  • Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

Bacterial Vaginosis is the most common cause of abnormal discharge from the vagina. It is an overgrowth of some of the bacteria (called anaerobes) resulting in an overall imbalance of the bacteria.

How do I get BV? 

You may be more likely to if you: 

  • have a new partner 
  • smoke 
  • have oral sex 
  • douche 
  • have sex with multiple partners

What symptoms would I have with BV?

Common symptoms include an abnormal smell from the vagina, like a ‘fishy’ smell, or a discharge from the vagina which can be grey, pale, and thin. 

How can I avoid getting BV again? 

Avoid douching or using bubble baths and scented soaps as feminine washes.

  • Chlamydia

Chlamydia is a common bacterial infection that can infect both men and women. If it is not treated, it can cause infertility in women.

How do I get chlamydia? 

Chlamydia is passed from one person to another from: 

  • unprotected sex 
  • using unwashed sex toys 
  • mother-to-baby during delivery

What symptoms would I have with chlamydia?

  • pain or burning while peeing
  • lower belly pain
  • abnormal vaginal discharge 
  • bleeding between periods
  • pus or watery or milky discharge from the penis

How can I avoid getting chlamydia again? 

Use condoms, limit your number of sex partners, and avoid douching.

  • Genital Herpes (HSV)

What is genital herpes?

It is a disease characterized by blisters in the genital area, caused by a variety of the herpes simplex virus.

How do I get genital herpes? 

The herpes virus is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact, kissing, vaginal, and anal sex, oral sex (mouth to genital contact), and from mother-to-baby during delivery.

What symptoms would I have with genital herpes?

  • multiple spots or red bumps around the genital area
  • swollen glands in the groin
  • flu-like symptoms
  • pain when urinating

How can I avoid getting genital herpes again? 

Use condoms, limit your number of sex partners, and avoid douching.

  • Gonorrhea

What is gonorrhea?

It is an infection caused by a sexually transmitted bacterium that infects both males and females. Gonorrhea most often affects the urethra, rectum, or throat.

How do I get gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is passed from one person to another through:

  • unprotected sex 
  • rimming
  • using unwashed sex toys 
  • mother-to-baby during delivery

What symptoms would I have with gonorrhea? 

  • burning pain when urinating
  • bowel symptoms such as diarrhea, pain, mucous discharge, or bleeding from the back passage 
  • discharge from the tip of the penis

How can I avoid getting gonorrhea again? 

Use condoms and limit your number of sex partners.

  • Hepatitis B

What is hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a viral infection that infects the liver. In most people, a full course of vaccination prevents infection.

How do I get hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B can be passed on through: 

  • unprotected sexual contact and rimming
  • sharing needles 
  • mother-to-baby during pregnancy or delivery 
  • sharing toothbrushes, razors, or towels contaminated with infected blood

What symptoms would I have with hepatitis B?

  • flu-like symptoms
  • yellow skin
  • nausea
  • vomiting 
  • diarrhea

How can I avoid getting hepatitis B again? 

Use condoms and avoid sharing needles.

SOURCES: US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Healthline, Mayo Clinic, and World Health Organization

Source: Manila Bulletin

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