It’s beyond doubt that love and sex are important to us as human beings. Having fun together makes you and your partner close. But with pleasure also comes the responsibility to be safe and to safeguard your loved ones. One plague that has affected all sexually active people is the rise in cases of AIDS. According to recent estimates, there are currently 2-3 million individuals in India infected with HIV.
Which leads me to discuss Sexually Transmitted Diseases (we will refer them collectively as STDs) and questions related to them. Let’s first understand, what are STDs?
What are STDs?
STDs are also known as sexually transmitted infections or venereal diseases. You get infected with them if you come in contact with a person who has STD or a sexual infection. When you have sex with the infected person, you come in contact with the body fluids both vaginal and semen.
STDs generally spread by touching the infected area, unprotected sex, oral and anal sex, a blood transfusion from an infected person, or unsterilised/used needle. It can also pass from mother to child during childbirth, or breastfeeding. These infections are usually caused by bacteria, virus, and parasites.
Genitals provide the best environment for these bacteria/viruses/parasites to breed and grow, as these are moist and warm areas of the human body.
When and how can you get STDs?
Well, you can get an STD if you are sexually active and have many partners for sexual pleasure. Or even if you have a single sexual partner who is not aware of having an infection. By touching the infected area, you are prone to getting an infection.
It’s good to be aware of what are the infections that come under sexually transmitted diseases category. Bacterial infections like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, viral infections like HIV, genital herpes, genital warts (HPV) and hepatitis B and infection caused by parasites such as Trichomoniasis.
This leads me to the next question
What are the symptoms and preventive measures?
Related reading: What are the best contraceptives for newly married couples?
Symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases
Many symptoms seem usual and sometimes even go untreated due to lack of awareness. Let’s understand what these symptoms are in both men and women.
Symptoms in men include genital sores, warts, ulcers, and painful or burning sensation while passing urine.
It is difficult to notice symptoms in women, as there may be no signs of symptoms or some usual signs which are not noticeable. These symptoms are vaginal discharge which could be milky white, thick or thin, green or yellow.
Vaginal rash, blisters, pain during sex, or lower abdomen pain are some other symptoms of an infection.
The most common symptom in both men and women is a pain in the lower abdomen and burning sensation during urination. These are associated with a sexual disease called Chlamydia. This is a bacterial infection which can be treated with antibiotics.
In this case, it is very important to get yourself checked by a medical practitioner if you feel there could be chances that you have an infection. So it’s good to see a doctor before the disease becomes severe and spreads to the different parts of the body
The most recent infection that has popped up is Zika virus which happens due to sexual contact and mosquitoes carry infection from the affected person.
12 ways to protect yourself from STDs
Prevention is better than cure, and having found out what these infections and symptoms are, let’s look at ways to prevent them.
In today’s generation where one-night stands are common among youngsters, sexual encounters with someone you do not know well are common. You may have found a new love or be sexually attracted to someone and want to be intimate and share your passion. Going with the flow might not be rational. It is of utmost importance to talk and find out to save yourself and your partner from getting an infection and setting limits to what you both would like to do and what would be the limits. So here are 12 ways to protect yourself from STDs
1. Use condoms and dental dams
Always use condoms (there are many brands available in the market which are for males and females). Sexual diseases or infections get transferred with improper use or lack of use of condoms. Oral sex is less risky but dental dams should be used to avoid the tongue coming in contact with other person’s genitals. These dental dams are made of rubber or silicon.
2. Avoid having sex with multiple partners
Having sex with multiple partners has a greater risk of getting these infections. So it is advisable to have a single sexual partner and be faithful to each other and not to invite STDs unnecessarily by having different partners.
3. Clean after the act
To avoid sexually transmitted diseases, always wash after an episode of sex, no matter whether or not you were using a condom. Ideally, it is best to wash before and after intercourse.
4. Being proactive
If you are going on a date or a party, when you know the idea of sex or being sexually attracted to someone can end up in making out or a one-night stand, make sure you are prepared for the same. Always be sure what you would like to do and what would be the limits. Have this clear in your mind and stick by it. In such situations, always carry a condom irrespective of your sexual preferences.
5. Be responsible for yourself
It’s good to be responsible for yourself while you are drinking or getting high on drugs. It’s always easy to get carried away when you are high, but set limits. Do not have sex with people you do not know. Unsafe sex is the most common reason people get STDs.
6. Avoid having sex
If you happen to meet a partner and hit the bed, but notice genital sores, rash, any kind of unreasonable discharge, or anything that seems out of the normal, it is best to put off sex for that time.
7. Do not use personal belongings
One of the safest ways is to avoid using personal belongings of other people, like used towels and undergarments or even soaps and private part cleaning accessories. The key is to lead a healthy and hygienic life.
8. You have a right to say No
Unsafe sex can only be safe if you and your partner have had sex only with each other for at least 6 months. Or if you have recently tested negative for STDS. Whether you are in a relationship or not, sex is your choice and it cannot be forced upon you. Do not be scared that if you say no to someone who wants to go a step further into the relationship, you would end up losing the relationship. Set ground rules and if the other person feels let down by your disagreement, then that relationship was not meant to be.
9. Sexual abuse or rape
If incidents like sexual abuse or rape, happen it takes a toll on your emotional as well as physical self. But getting yourself checked for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or STDs is very important for your health and future well-being.
10. Be open to talking
It is always better to communicate and discuss things out. Be open and clear when you discuss sex. It is good for your own self to know that the other person is not having these infections or diseases. And that your relationship with the other person is not an open one but is exclusive to you.
11. Get yourself tested
The key is to get yourself and your partner tested for STD/STI. Do not shy away. There are a lot of centres across cities available where you can get yourself tested and privacy of information is maintained. Make sure to have HIV tested at least once a year. Except for Hepatitis B, Herpes simplex virus (HSV or herpes), HIV, and human papillomavirus (HPV), all other STIs or STDs are curable.
12. Get vaccinated
HPV vaccine is available to prevent common STDs. Children in the age group of 11-12 years can get a routine vaccination. This vaccine is also available for men and women in the age group of 13- 26 yrs.