Claremont Climax: Guide to STDs

Did you know that you can give your partner genital herpes even if you don’t have it? This happens because there are two strains of the herpes virus. Herpes simplex 1 is the virus that causes cold sores, and herpes simplex 2 is the virus that is typically associated with genital herpes. By performing oral sex with an active cold sore outbreak, you can transmit the virus to your partner’s genitals.There is no cure for herpes, but there are treatment options. Although you may not have the symptoms, the virus doesn’t go away, and you can transmit the infection to others.According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), one in five adolescents and adults have genital herpes, and the majority of people have oral herpes.Condoms reduce but do not eliminate the risk of herpes, and it is best to abstain from sex during outbreaks.Unlike most diseases, testing for the virus won’t necessarily tell you anything. You might test positive for the virus, but it’s most effective to see the doctor when you suspect that you are having an outbreak.Many people have learned the hard way that not everything about sex is particularly sexy. Diseases are embarrassing and take an emotional toll on those who have them. However, many STDs are curable, and others are treatable. People living with AIDS can live fulfilling lives with proper treatment; it is no longer the death sentence that it once was. Diseases like syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia can easily be cured with antibiotics, and if treated immediately they pose no long-term harm.Syphilis has a broad array of symptoms, ranging from an initial chancre (a hard red lesion) that appears within weeks of transmission to rashes, hair loss, fever, headaches, weight loss, muscle aches, and fatigue. Because these symptoms are so vague, the disease often goes undetected. The symptoms will disappear, and eventually syphilis can damage internal organs, such as the brain, nerves, heart, liver, bones, joints, eyes, and blood vessels, eventually leading to numbness, paralysis, blindness, dementia, and even death. It can bedetected by a blood test and cured with penicillin or other antibiotics.It’s estimated that there are more than 7.4 million new cases of trichomoniasis (commonly known as “trich”) each year, making it the most common curable STD in young, sexually active women. Symptoms for women include an odiferous yellow-green discharge from the vagina or discomfort during intercourse. Men typically don’t have symptoms, but some experience burning from urination or mild discharge. Trich can be cured with prescription medications in a single dose.Although about 350,000 cases of gonorrhea are reported to the CDC each year, it is expected that there are probably twice as many infections. Both men and women tend not to have any symptoms, and when they do occur they are usually mild and can include discharge, bleeding, soreness, and itching and pain in the anus. Gonorrhea can grow in the uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, and urethra, but also in the mouth, throat, eyes and anus. It can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), which can cause ectopic pregnancy or infertility in women. Gonorrhea can be life-threatening, and it is becoming harder to cure due to drug-resistant strains. Doctors test for gonnorrhea with a urine sample and treat it with antibiotics. Although the disease can be cured, antibiotics will not undo any damage it does.Chlamydia is the most common bacterial STD in the United States, with over one million cases reported annually. But because there are no symptoms, it is underreported and under-treated. Like gonorrhea, it can cause PID.Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV, is the most common STI (sexually transmitted infection). There are more than 40 strains. Most of the time, the immune system will cure itself of HPV, but HPV can cause genital warts and cervical cancer. There is a vaccine to prevent several strains which are known to cause cervical cancer, but the vaccine does not protect against the other dozens of strains of HPV. Approximately one percent of Americans have genital warts and 12,000 women get cervical cancer annually. Additionally, women can get vulvar, vaginal, or anal cancer, whereas men can get penile or anal cancer.HIV/AIDS affects over one million Americans. AIDS is a permanent disease, but it’s treatable. With treatment, the viral load decreases, which in turn minimizes the chance of spreading the disease to partners.Many sexually transmitted diseases can be transmitted from mothers to newborns during childbirth. Additionally, most STDs drastically increase the risk for transmission of HIV. Although many diseases are curable, it’s still possible to get re-infected if you are exposed.If you are sexually active, you need to get tested regularly. STDs can be transmitted though vaginal, anal, or oral sex, between a male and a female or two people of the same sex. Many diseases don’t have symptoms, and the risk of long-term effects increases over time. You can go to Student Health Services for STD testing, or take advantage of non-profit organizations such as Planned Parenthood, which provide testing on a sliding scale.Despite the social taboo, STDs are not something to be embarrassed about. Many people have had or currently have STDs, and as long as precautions are taken, the only difference between people who become infected and people who don’t is luck. Unprotected sex, including oral sex, poses a real health risk. If you get tested regularly and treated immediately, you will probably be able to avoid any serious repercussions from most of these diseases. If you’re infected, you have a moral obligation to tell any previous partners who may be at risk, so that they can get tested and treated and let their partners know. The only way to break the endless cycle of disease transmission is to know your status so that you won’t pass on the disease to others.

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