Sex, Lies and STD's

Now that the new academic year is well underway, with all the new places, new faces, parties,and nights spent in clubs and pub’s now familiar, the likelihood is that there are some people you’ll want to get to know better. You and your partner may have been together for a while but every now and then you may become involved with other people. Relationships toady usually include physical involvement. Generally, you probably think you’re good at figuring people out and could look at a person and tell if they had a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Don’t count on it, they might not even know themselves.

Anyone; man or woman, young or old, gay, straight or bisexual can get an STD. In fact, apart from the common cold, STD’s are probably one of the most common types of infection. STD’s can be uncomfortable, painful, inconvenient, embarrassing and cause great anxiety. STD’s are varied in their symptoms and long range effects. Some never disappear, while others may leave behind damage. Until you have established a relationship that is based on trust and is mutually sexually exclusive, you must take responsibility for protecting your own health and the health of your partner.

There are several important facts to remember about STD’s.

Many people who are infected with STD’s experience no symptoms. A good example is women who develop Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) which without symptoms can result in infertility.

Sexually active men and women should be tested for possible infection with the common STD’s during an annual medical examination.

Women are at a higher risk of becoming infected with an STD from one act of intercourse than men.Women are more likely to catch STD’s from men that men are from women.

Some people are at increased risk of catching an STD because of the behaviour of their sexual partner outside the their relationship.

All STD’s are treatable and most are curable if they are diagnosed and treated early.

When an STD is diagnosed, sexual partners should always be treated at the same time to avoid the ‘Ping-Pong’ effect (passing the infection back and forth between partners).

If you think you have been exposed to an STD and are uncomfortable about going to your GP (many people feel this way) than you should go to a clinic that specialises in diagnosing and treating STD’s. A short list of clinics are given at the end of the article.However,aside from becoming celibate, there are many ways of reducing the risk of contracting an STD. Restrict the number of sexual partners you have.

You are at a lower risk of catching an STD when both partners in a relationship are monogamous.

Learn as much as you can about any new potential sexual partner, but don’t accept answers at face value.

Don’t assume that what people call themselves (heterosexual or homosexual) tells you anything about their actual sexual behaviour.

Avoid high-risk sexual behaviours (unprotected intercourse: without using a condom and a spermacide containing nonoxynol-9 or octoxynol) until you are certain your partner is not infected with an STD.

STD’s are not uncommon and are nothing to be ashamed about should you become infected. Some you should be aware of are:

Chlamydia and Nsu: Chalamydia is a germ which infects the genitals. It is one of the most common cause of sexually transmitted diseases and particularly NSU. Chlamydia is usually passed on when you have sex with a new partner who is already infected. Sometimes it appears in people who have not had a new partner (the germ can remain in the body for some time before showing symptoms) Often there are no symptoms at all. NSU is an inflammation of the urethra. of which one of the most common causes is Chlamydia. The treatment of both Chlamydia and NSU is a course of antibiotics
Genital Herpes: Herpes is a viral infection which comes in many forms. Genital herpes simplex virus (HSV) has two types. Type I can cause “cold sores“ around the nose and mouth or more rarely around the eyes, in the genital and anal area. Type II can cause sores in the genital and anal area and occasionally in the mouth. Herpes (HSV) infection can be passed from the mouth to the genital area, and vice versa. Currently there is no long-term cure available. However the symptoms can be treated and medication can shorten an outbreak and help sores heal more quickly. About half the people who get a herpes episode never have another one For those who do, the symptoms are usually milder and last for 3 to 5 days. An outbreak can be caused by getting over tired or stressed out, friction from sexual activity, sunlight/sunbeds, tight clothing, or at a particular time in the menstrual cycle. When herpes is active, the blisters and sores are highly contagious, and the virus can be given to others through direct contact.
Genital Warts: Warts are small fleshy growths on the skin. Warts are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). The virus can be passed by skin to skin contact with the wart. If you have sex with someone who has genital warts, you may develop them too. Once caught, the virus usually takes between two weeks and a year before warts appear (the average is one to three months). Once you have the virus, it can be passed on to other people for some time before warts are noticeable or after they have disappeared.
Gonorrhoea: Gonorrhoea is caused by bacteria and can affect the vagina, cervix, urethra, rectum and even the throat. It can be passed on through vaginal, anal or oral sex. In women, the symptoms may not occur until the infection has spread to the cervix. When gonorrhoea is in the throat or rectum there are no symptoms. Gonorrhoea can be completely cured (with Penicillin) if you are treated early.
HIV/AIDS: Human Immunodificiency Virus (HIV) is the virus that can cause Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.(AIDS). HIV is found in fluids exchange during sex (men’s semen and women’s virginal fluids). The more people you have unprotected sex with the more likely you are to meet someone with HIV and become infected yourself. HIV/AIDS can damage the body’s defence system so that it cannot fight certain infections. The symptoms (fever, sore throat, fatigue,) often imitate other more common illnesses. HIV can be detected through a blood test (HIV-antibody test). Treatment is available, but as yet there is no cure.
Syphilis: Syphilis is caused by an organism called Treponema pallidum. It is transmitted through vaginal, anal, oral sex with an infected partner. The symptoms are varied. It can last for many decades in the body. Syphilis is curable and is treated with penicillin.
Vaginal Infections: The three most common vaginal infections are: Candidiasis (thrush), bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis (TV). Some vaginal infections can be caught through sex with someone who already has an infection. Others develop even if you have never had sex, or not having sex at the time.

Candidiasis or thrush is caused by an organism that normally lives in or on your body (skin, mouth, gut). It is a type of yeast called Candida albicans. When your body is healthy, candidiasis is kept under control. Sometimes it grows and multiplies. This is more likely to occur if you are pregnant, wear tight clothes, are taking antibiotics, have diabetes, are unwell or have sex with someone who has it. It is treated with cream and medication.

Bacterial Vaginosis occurs when bacteria that normally grows in small numbers in your virgina multiply. The treatment is a short course of antibiotics or cream.

Trichomoiasis or TV is caused by a tiny parasite that is occasionally found in the virgina and urethra. It is possible to have it without having symptoms. You can contract it by having sex with someone who has it. The symptoms (unusually coloured discharge, a fishy smell, soreness or itching around the virgina) starts between 4 days and 3 weeks after you have had sexual contact. TV is treated with a short course of antibiotics.

So when the night is young, the lights are low and the mood is perfect don’t forget to practice safe sex to keep both you and your partner healthy. and STD free.

Ariel King

Getting Help

For advice or appoinments contact:

The Archway Sexual Health Clinic
Appoinments: 0170-530 5800 or 530 5801

The Mortimer Market Centre
Appointments: 0171-530 5000

National AIDS Helplines
Phone Free - In Confidence
Advisor: 0800-567 123
Free leaflets: 0800-555 777

The Royal Free Hospital
(Marlborough Clinic)
Appointments: 0171-794 0500 ext. 3620
Advice Line: 0171-431 3165
Same Day Testing Clinic: 0171-431 0970

The Terrence Higgins Trust
Appointments: 0171-831 0330
Helpline: 0171-242 1010 (12-10pm daily)
Legal: 0171-405 2381 (Mon&Wed 7-9pm)
Advice Centre: 0171-831 0330 (10-5pm w/days)



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