All Articles Tagged "sti"
By Mercy Edionwe, MD
So the doctor calls you into the office because she has something to tell you. Just a few weeks ago, you decided to get a pap smear. At that time, the doctor told you that if the test was fine, you wouldn’t hear from her office. Now, as you sit anxiously awaiting the results, your mind starts to wonder, “Could I have AIDS, syphilis, or gonorrhea?” A chill runs down your spine as the door opens and in walks the doctor. She sits down and she tells you, “Ma’am, the results of your pap smear show that you have HPV?” Your mind starts to wonder, “What is HPV?”
Well, let me break it down for you.
HPV? What is that?
HPV stands for Human Papillomavirus. It is a family of viruses that look similar to each other but can cause different conditions in the body. Scientists associate the individual viruses as types. In general, there are a total of 40 types. One type of HPV can cause warts while another type can cause cancer. The type of the virus someone has dictates what kind of disease the person will get.
HPV can be contracted from skin-to-skin contact. It does not matter if you are into oral, anal, or plain old regular sex. If your partner is infected, you will have a high chance of being infected too.
And for all you virgins out there, even if you are not sexually active, you can still be affected. Why? HPV can be found within the skin of your private parts. So, if your genitals or mouth have direct skin contact with an infected person’s genitals, you are at risk of getting it as well. The learning lesson is that with HPV, you are not safe with just 4-play.
Why is it important?
HPV can cause cervical cancer, which is the third most common cancer in the world. Cervical cancer is also the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women living in developing countries. In other words, HPV can be deadly.
What signs or symptoms will someone have with HPV? Why would you call it the silent killer?
The problem is that you can’t always tell, hence being called the silent killer. Someone with HPV can walk around without any signs or symptoms. On the other hand, HPV can be so sneaky and show up in different forms. It can cause genital or oral warts in both men and women. It can also cause cancer of the penis, cervix, vagina, anus, and even oral cancer. When it attacks these parts of the body, the person may not notice anything until it is too late.
There is another twist to the story. Not everyone who gets the virus gets the disease. According to the CDC, 90% of people who are infected with HPV do not have the virus after two years. The reason for this is that the body is designed to naturally clear it from its system, which would be great news if it stopped there. However, the problem is there is no way to know which person will be able to clear the virus from their system and which person will not.
What can I do to find out if I have it?
You should report to your doctor if you see any suspicious warts or skin conditions in your genitals, mouth, or anywhere in your body. In HPV, the warts can resemble cauliflowers.
You should also report abnormal vaginal or rectal bleeding to your doctor.
Ladies, it is important to get a well women exam done yearly, especially if you are sexually active. A well women exam is an exam that your doctor does to check on the health of your vagina, ovaries, cervix, and other girl parts. When they do the well women exam, they perform a test called a pap smear. Because HPV tends to change the way the cells look on the cervix microscopically, a pap smear checks for abnormal cells on your cervix (the opening hole to your uterus). Your doctor will use a tool to gently scrape some of the cells off the cervix to send them to the lab. This process is similar to the common paternity test where someone scrapes the inside of the cheek for cells. At the lab, the cells will be examined more closely with the use of a microscope. Different tests can also be done on the cells to detect either HPV or cervical cancer. Well women exams are extremely important because early detection of HPV can prevent cervical cancer or stop a cancerous cells from growing to the point that they could potentially kill.
Unfortunately, at this time, there is no screening test for men.
When it comes to maintaining our sexual health, the odds are already stacked against us just for being female. STIs can cause a lot of complication in anyone’s life, but for women especially, STIs can cause complications and irreversible damage that simply just won’t occur in the lives of our male counterparts. Take a look at the list below for several facts that give women a disadvantage when it comes to practicing safe sex:
Whether it’s 6 months into a relationship or 6 years, there comes a time when partners may question if it’s even necessary to use condoms anymore. Unfortunately, this is a decision that is often made casually and unclothed in the heat of the moment, but there are some people who invest the consideration and thought into this major health decision that it deserves.
Whether it’s lack of access, relationship status or the most popular reason, “It just feels better,” the decision not to use protection opens a sexual relationship to a variety of risks. Many women feel that as long as they’re on birth control if they’re in a monogamous relationship with a man they trust there’s nothing wrong with losing the latex after some time. Others simply don’t ever take the thought of using condoms that seriously whether they are having sex with someone they’ve known for a day or a decade. In fact, in 2010 an article published by Reuters entitled, “Condom Use Routine for U.S. Teens, not Adults”, states that teens are more likely to use condoms than adults over 40. In a study, public health officials found that one in four acts of vaginal intercourse involves condom use, and among single adults that figure is one in three. Condom use is higher in African-Americans and Hispanics than whites, and lowest among all races for people over the age of 40.
Many are quick to assume that single people are the only ones who are gambling with their sexual health by choosing to have unprotected sex and for most people it’s almost a given that there’s no point in using condoms when you’re married. The truth is that exchanged vows and a wedding band can only protect you so much from sexually transmitted infections. Like any relationship, some partners are asymptomatic and without being tested are unaware that they have anything to infect their partner with, whether that partner is a wife or a girlfriend. And while we’re being honest, marriage doesn’t guarantee monogamy, which means that even in a marriage the decision to not use protection is something that involves a lot of factors, namely trust.
So how much do you trust that your partner is only sexually active with you? One of the first steps you can take is any sexual relationship is having open, honest communication about sexual history and values. While we all know that “men lie, women lie, numbers don’t.” Give your partner an opportunity to tell the truth about the number of partners he/she has had in the past and keep in mind that the more partners someone has had, the more likely it is that he/she has been exposed to an STI. The next important step is to get tested together. It’s important to not just take things at face value; all too often, people rely on the fact that someone “looks” healthy and become too complacent to take an active step to get tested. By getting tested together (and hopefully receiving negative results) you both start off with a clean slate; this way if STI symptoms do appear, you know that somewhere along the line someone was unfaithful. Before getting tested, talk about how the results (whether negative or positive) will affect the relationship. The last step that a woman can take is making sure that even if she is protected against unintended pregnancy by choosing a form of birth control that works for her particular lifestyle.
Since marriage itself can’t always guarantee fidelity, is there ever a right time to not use condoms? When it comes to sexual health we are often bombarded with messages of safer sex that place emphasis in using condoms correctly and consistently, but it’s important to remember that it’s not enough just to use condoms, you also have to make a well-informed decision about the person with whom you choose to have sex as well. Also, don’t fall victim to the belief that once you’ve had sex without a condom there is no turning back. Relationships and people grow and change, and although you may have initially agreed to not use condoms, this decision should be addressed from time to time to make sure both partners still feel the same way.
Regardless of what type of relationship you’re in and for how long, by choosing not to use condoms you are placing your health at risk. Essentially, you’re leaving your sexual health in the hands of someone else. Hopefully that person is someone you trust, and for most people trust is built throughout a long length of time and based on more than the physical pleasure and sexual attraction.
Consider the following before making the decision to break down your barrier method:
- What kind of relationship am I in? You may think you’re in an exclusive relationship, but your partner may have other ideas about exactly what qualifies as monogamy and/or cheating. You may think cheating is doing anything sexual with anyone besides your partner, but he may believe 0-ral sex doesn’t count as cheating, leaving your health at high risk. Be clear and specific about what’s expected in the relationship.
- What type of birth control works for me? Some women may find that after they’ve made a decision to not use condoms, they experience difficulty in finding a method of birth control that works for them. Some women experience uncomfortable side effects with some hormonal methods. If pregnancy is an issue for you, make sure to give your body time to adjust to a method that you are sure you can use correctly and consistently BEFORE choosing to not use condoms.
- Do I trust my partner? If you’re in a relationship where you feel constantly compelled to check his social networks and cell phones for signs of infidelity, you probably shouldn’t be thinking about losing the latex just yet.
- How long have I known my partner? Although time doesn’t necessarily guarantee trust, you definitely increase your chances of making well-informed decisions about sex and contraception when it’s with someone you’ve known for several years as opposed to several days.
- Am I being pressured to not use condoms? The decision to not use condoms should be something that both partners agree on. Partners shouldn’t feel pressured because one partner feels like condoms mean they aren’t “trusted” or because they think condoms are uncomfortable.
- Can I communicate honestly with my partner? A conversation about sexual values and history can quickly turn uncomfortable, and you may hear things that you don’t like. Although your partner may reveal some questionable things about their sexual beliefs or history, try to appreciate their honesty. A tense and touchy conversation about sex is always better than a non-existent one.
Toya Sharee is a community health educator who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee.
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You use condoms. You sleep with guys who run in the same social circle as you, so you know who they have slept with. You think you’re being safe. You think you fear what you should fear, and are taking all the right precautions. But, sadly, there are a lot of myths that somehow survived through high school, through college and even into adulthood about sexual health. Like these:
When you teach sex-ed in the inner city, you manage to be less and less shocked about the secret sex lives of teenagers. I’ve heard detailed defenses about how effective the pull-out method is as a birth control method and how ear wax is a reliable tool for STI testing. But last week I found myself picking my jaw up off of my desk as I read Brande Victorian’s 1 in 13 Girls Has Had Gro*up Sex which highlighted a study researching the growing fad of gro*up sex among Boston-area teenagers. The study appeared in the Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine and revealed that 1 in 13 girls had engaged in at least one type of multi-person sex (MPS) ranging from gang rape to sex parties. What’s even more concerning is that more than half of the 328 girls surveyed in a Boston-area community or school-based clinic revealed that they felt pressure to engage in gro*up sex that was more often than not non-consensual.
Researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health identified certain common factors that teens engaging in MPS had “a strong association between exposure to pornography.” If you look hard enough you can find a variety of culprits to take the blame for what seems to be an increasing pattern of teens challenging the sexual norms of society. With a simple mouse-click and a quick yes to a pop-up that questions, “Are you over 18? Please enter your birth date,” any adolescent who passed basic math can access free Adult Videos with insulting ease. You can also turn on the radio and hear artists like pop favorite Rihanna chanting about S&M and Usher beckon a sexually liberated Nicki Minaj to proposition girls in a club and bring them to him so they can play in each other’s pants. Give your teen a little credit; they could probably teach you a thing or two about taboo sexual behavior, although when experimenting with sex I’m willing to bet Usher is the last thing on their minds.
It’s not so much the case of teens being overtly sexual and pushing the boundaries of what’s socially acceptable, but more their willingness to express these sexual values. As our society grows more and more sexualized, young people feel more comfortable expressing their sexual attitudes and are willing to accept behaviors that traditionally may have been viewed as abnormal. On a positive note, alternative lifestyles can be viewed regularly on TV and teens are becoming more informed that all types of sex (even the ”freaky” stuff) can put them at risk for STI’s. On a positive note, I feel like our society is moving in the right direction when teens feel they can be open and honest about sexuality. A teen that feels free to talk about masturbation, pornography or gro*up sex may also feel just as comfortable asking about condom use and birth control. It’s almost as if America is slowly awakening and thinking, “OK, teens have sex, what can we do so that they can make good decisions regarding their sexual conduct?” As frequent as sexuality appears in our media, it makes sense that sexual education appear just as much if not more.
If I’m completely honest with myself, I’ve been hearing rumors about “trains” being pulled on girls and “Rainbow Parties” (that have nothing to do with gay pride) since I was in high school. But I always felt that I had a choice as to whether or not I engaged in those types of activities. One-third of the teens who participated in the study used drugs or alcohol prior to their most recent experience and even felt pressure to be “liquored-up” by their sexual partners. This makes me question why such a large number of our teens are lacking the confidence to stand up for their sexual values. I’m not the biggest fan of teens engaging in risky sexual behaviors or having multiple partners, but the truth is these teens will grow into adults who are free to engage in whatever taboo practices they wish as long as they aren’t hurting themselves or one another. The important thing is that they have the confidence to give or deny consent which it seems our teens are obviously lacking.
As parents and other caregivers, we only have so much say in the sexual interests of our teens, but the best we can do is make sure they are making well-informed decisions whether they’re diving into the waters of sexual deviance or simply dipping their toes into the shallow waters of sexual experimentation. Teens need to know just as much about what constitutes as consent and how age relates to laws governing sexuality as they know about condoms and STI testing. Although we’ve made tremendous progress in opening the gates for open honest conversation about the birds and bees and birth control by making sure young people have more access to sexual education, we need to be just as sure that our teens are armed with the tools to navigate healthy relationships and are able to identify and communicate their sexual wants and needs so that they aren’t taken advantage of or violating anyone else.
by Andrea Williams
Since the beginning of the recession entrepreneurism has been on the rise as more and more people tire of endless job searches that yield few results, and others grow weary of work that fails to provide any real personal or financial satisfaction.
But not all entrepreneurs are equal, and there’s a new crop of business leaders on the scene. For them, money isn’t enough – they want to make a difference.
Jason Panda’s road to social entrepreneurism began with a conversation with his mother. Having seen how drugs decimated inner cities in the 70s and 80s, she dedicated her career to working with recovering addicts in the Boston area. They began discussing the issues currently plaguing urban communities and Panda, immediately thinking of the disproportionate rates of HIV, AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), felt his own call to action.
Panda connected with friends and former Morehouse classmates Elkhair Balla and Ashanti Johnson, and b Condoms was born.
“What came out of the conversation [between Jason and his mother] was really a sense of shock and awe that none of the condom companies – which [offer] the only preventative measure for HIV, AIDS and STIs – were playing an active role in urban communities at all,” said Balla.
And that is exactly the niche that b Condoms aims to fill. With the belief that luxury brands attract more consumers – especially urban consumers – Balla and company have embraced a marketing campaign that positions b Condoms as the Hot, chic and high-end prophylactic.
“If we have people thinking that it’s a hot condom, which then in turn makes them use the condom, which in turn makes them want to carry the condom, then we’ve achieved our goal,” Balla explained.
Luckily for consumers, particularly those in the low-income communities hit hardest by HIV/AIDS, the high-end strategy doesn’t mean higher prices. b Condoms are comparable in price to Durex, Trojan and other popular brands.
From naïve statements like, “I don’t sleep around so I won’t catch anything,” to engaging in risky sexual behaviors like “just the tip,” to believing downright ridiculous stuff like “HIV is not a big deal because there’s tons of medication to keep me alive,” some people have let irresponsibility and downright ignorance guide their sexual practices. And having these kinds of beliefs and practices is a very scary thing, considering that while blacks only make up 14 percent of the U.S. population, we account for 50% of HIV/AIDS cases- as well as a disproportionate amount of STD infections when compared to the general population.
As a physician, and Black woman, I find this to be very alarmingly. In this day and age, the stakes are too high not to know about the implications of risky sexual behavior and beliefs. There are many myths about sex and sexual health. And I’m going to dispel a few of them. Here are six sex myths that increase your risk of catching an STD.