Relationships

Sexually Transmitted Infections 101

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By Stephen de Wit

What would happen if you were the “I” in STI?  As in “I have one!”  How would you feel?  How did you get it?  How do you tell other partners? What would you do?  Who would you tell?  Where would you go to get treatment?  These are just a few of the questions that I am sure would be racing through your head.  Oh the horror, the shame, the guilt… relax.

There is a huge stigma associated with STIs. Why?  Because STIs are associated with sex.  We have been taught to view sex in 3D’s – dangerous, degrading and dirty, so when you are diagnosed with an STI all that practise safe sex training comes back full force.

Think about it, equally debilitating/troublesome infections/diseases are not seen in the same light as STIs because they are not transmitted sexually.

In this article I will address the basic STIs and provide you a few helpful hints and tricks to keep your sex life healthy and humming.

First off let’s break down the most common STIs:

Gonorrhea – curable through antibiotics.

Chlamydia – curable through antibiotics.

Syphilis – curable through penicillin.

Herpes – there is no cure but there are anti-viral medications that help reduce the symptoms and speed the healing.

Genital warts (HPV) – there is no cure, although there are treatment options to remove the warts, from liquid nitrogen to Trichloroacetic acid.

Hepatitis A – usually clears up by itself and does not require treatment.  A preventative vaccine is available. Check with your doctor next time you are in to see if you have immunity.

Hepatitis B – there is no cure.  There is a preventative vaccine available.  Check with your doctor next time you are in to see if you have immunity.

Hepatitis C – it is treatable and treatment can help, up to 60 per cent of people get rid of the virus.  No vaccine is available.

HIV – there is no cure.  However, drug advances make it possible for people to live a long, healthy and productive life.  HIV is no longer the death sentence it was twenty years ago.  It is similar to having diabetes as regular blood tests are done (every three or six months to test your viral load) and drugs are taken daily.

Here are some important things to remember when thinking about STIs:

If you have had sex without a condom and you are concerned or the condom broke or slipped off, get to your nearest sexual health clinic or doctor.

The sooner you are diagnosed the better.  Do not wait to see if it goes away by itself, often the symptoms do disappear but you are still infected and can infect others. The longer you wait more complications may arise and it may be more difficult to treat.

Often you can be asymptomatic (showing no symptoms), however, you are still infected and can infect others.  Get checked.

It is important to note that none of the above infections bring an end to your sex life.  However, there may be a period of abstinence while the infection clears up and new ways you will have to learn to manage your sex life, safely.

You can have Gonorrhea and Chlamydia in your throat from unprotected oral sex, in your vagina from unprotected penis/vagina sex and an anal/rectal infection through unprotected anal sex.

Once you have contracted an STI and treated for it, you can be re-infected.

Sex toys can also carry STIs, if you do share them…simply put a condom on it!

If he says he always uses a condom with other partners, don’t be fooled.  Hate to burst your bubble but you are not that special.  If he is not using a condom with you, he is not using it with other people.

It is not the number of sexual partners that you’ve had but rather how you have sex with those partners.  If you are using a condom you are good to go.  Studies have been done to establish what would be more effective at reducing the rate of STI transmission, decreasing the number of partners or increasing the rate of condom usage. Guess what technique was more effective…you guessed it using condoms.

If you are located in the GTA or surrounding areas and want more information about STIs, I recommend the AIDS and Sexual Health Info Line 416-392-2437.  And if you are looking for a non-judgemental and sex positive sexual health clinic, I recommend the Hassle Free Clinic http://www.hasslefreeclinic.org/.

This article was created to provide you with some basic understanding surrounding STIs.  More to come in future articles, like you have tested positive for an STI how do you tell your partner? Yikes!   I will also explain how to assess sexual risk in your decision to practice safer sex.

Remember there is no right way. There is no wrong way.  There is just your way. And hey, it is OK.

Stephen de Wit

Dr. Stephen de Wit is a Toronto sexologist and sexual communications coach. Stephen is on a one man mission to ensure that everyone lives the sexually empowered existence they want.  He has completed his Doctorate of Human Sexuality and focuses his energy on keynotes, workshops, seminars, writing and media appearances always with a fun, interactive, high impact approach.  For more information visit www.drdewit.com.

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