The way the world views sex is drastically changing. As society continues to talk more openly about sex and sexuality, we must begin having more conversations about STD testing and safe sex. Though discussing STD’s can be uncomfortable, these conversations are the best way to start having safer sex.
Why STD Testing Matters
The more we discuss STDs and STD testing, the less stigmatized both topics become. STD testing is so important because we all need to know our status. Regardless of whether you have one partner or you prefer dating around, part of having an enjoyable experience is knowing that you’re being as safe as possible.
Failing to get tested regularly can result in an individual unknowingly living with an STD. Instead of actively treating this STD and engaging in healthy sex practices, this person may spread their STD to their partners.
How to Get Tested
Most people avoid getting tested because they aren’t sure how to or where to go. Getting tested is as easy as heading to a local clinic and either taking a blood test for HIV, herpes, hepatitis, and/or syphilis, an anal swab for Chlamydia or Gonorrhea, and a Pap smear for HPV.
In the event that you want more privacy, you can see your doctor and ask them to give you a full panel of STD tests. Similarly, many drug stores offer at-home STD tests that can be done from the comfort of your own home.
Symptoms of STDs and How to Treat Them
While some people live with STDs for years without realizing they have one, others notice their symptoms right away. The following list details STDs and their corresponding symptoms, as well as how to treat them:
HPV’s most common symptom is genital warts. HPV can cause cancer in both men and women, though only women can be tested for HPV. While there are currently three vaccines to protect against the cancer caused by HPV, there isn’t a specific way to treat HPV.
The most common STD in America, Chlamydia’s symptoms include painful or burning urination and genital discharge. Chlamydia can be treated with antibiotics.
Gonorrhea is often a companion of chlamydia. Its symptoms are unusual genital discharge or burning or painful urination. Gonorrhea can be treated with antibiotics as well.
There are four stages of syphilis. Syphilis can initially appear as a sore, then a rash, following up with sores in the anus, vagina, or mouth. The final stage of this STD results in nerve or organ damage. Antibiotics can be used for treating syphilis.
HSV1 and HSV2 are the two strains of herpes. Both strains can result in painful blisters, however, HSV1 typically results in oral herpes and HSV2 in genital herpes. However, not everyone with herpes shows symptoms. As herpes can spread with skin-to-skin contact, it is incredibly easy to spread. However, it is most contagious when someone has blisters. There is no cure for herpes, but medication can be used to manage it.
How to Prevent STDs
While there are more resources and information available about safe sex and prevention, these days, it isn’t always clear how preventative measures correlate to specific STDs. Use the following information to prevent STDs:
Condoms should be used to prevent the spread of STDs and unwanted pregnancy. They should be used for the entirety of the sex act. While condoms can prevent the spread of most STDs, they aren’t 100% effective. Similarly, in the event of a herpes outbreak, condoms don’t always cover the affected area.
- Gloves or Finger Cots
During sex, gloves can be used to cover the wrist, nails, and hands during manual penetration. These help to protect the partner that is penetrating, as well as the partner that is being penetrated.
- Dental Dams
Dental dams act as protection for a partner that is performing oral sex. Dental dams prevent against most STDs, including herpes.
Talking about STDs is hardly enjoyable, but it is an important conversation to have. Honest and open discussions about sexual health are the only way to truly have safe sex.