4 STD Prevention Habits to Add to your Life
You want to know the secret to never getting a Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD)?
Honestly, I don't know. There is no sure-fire way to never get an STD, besides maybe if you're a virgin and then sleep with another virgin for the rest of your life and never kiss any of your family members??? The truth is 20% or 110 million people in the United States will have an STD at any given time. Even the most diligent person who makes their partner wear a condom every single time can still get a skin-to-skin sexually transmitted infection. So what do you do? Below are a few habits to help prevent them.
ASSUME YOUR PARTNER HAS AN STD, UNTIL YOU ARE SURE THAT THEY DON'T
You meet someone new and then after a few dates you decide that you like them enough to have sex with them. Now before you act on that pretend that they have an STD. What would you do first?
A. Wait. I mean if you really really liked them you'd wait until they were in the clear to have sex with them. So in the same vain, wait until you know their status to sleep with them.
B. You would probably have a conversation and ask them what they have and what they’re doing to get rid of it or live with it. You'd also find out if they are currently sleeping with someone else or plan to.
C. You would make sure that you are going to protect yourself from getting a STD from them. Pick a barrier method (condom, dental dam, etc) that will protect you from STD's.
So follow the same steps in real life. Wait until you feel like you can trust them enough to tell you the truth, have a conversation about what they had/have, and make sure that you are going to use the correct barrier method to protect yourself from contracting anything.
STOP ONLY LOOKING FOR SYMPTOMS
As I pointed out in my other blog post, Should you have Sex on the First Date, looking for physical symptoms won’t help you in some cases. Here are the often symptom-less STDs that you need to be worried about:
- Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)- with over 40 strains, most won't carry any physical signs
- Chlamydia- also known as the 'silent infection'
- Herpes- Up to 90% of people with herpes simplex 2 are never diagnosed and you can still spread the infection even if sores are not present.
Also, keep in mind that having an STD, whether you know you have it or not, will increase your chances of contracting other STDs, especially HIV. This is why the next habit is so important.
TESTING 1, 2, 3
It’s important to get tested on a regular basis. For women, it's recommended that you have a Pap Smear every three years. It tests for pre-cancerous or cancerous cells on the cervix which could help you detect cancer and HPV. You should also have a yearly gynecological exam which will include a breast and pelvic exam. Usually the doctor will test for chlamydia and gonorrhea, and ask if you want an HIV test. However, the rule of thumb is that you should ask first. Tell the doctor up front that you are interested in STD testing and ask what specifically they can test for. Keep in mind that most doctors will not offer a test for Herpes. People usually only ask for it if they think that they're having an outbreak or have been exposed. If the same applies for you, be sure to ask.
Another thing to keep is mind is that there is currently no test for men for HPV, so your male partner could have HPV and not even know it. Here's some positive news: HPV infections are usually temporary. A person may have had HPV for many years before it causes health problems. If you or your partner are diagnosed with an HPV-related disease, there is no way to know how long you have had HPV, whether your partner gave you HPV, or whether you gave HPV to your partner. HPV is not necessarily a sign that one of you is having sex outside of your relationship.
ALCOHOL AND SEX CAN BE A NASTY COMBINATION
If you’ve ever had a few drinks and then proceeded to have sex with someone that you really love and trust, then you know that it can be an amazing experience. Your inhibitions are lowered and your alter ego (insert freaky name here) comes out and all of a sudden you’re doing things you said you wouldn’t but deep down inside really wanted to try. While all that sounds fun, it's not the right move when you’re just beginning to date someone who you don't know very well. If you haven't had a conversation about past/current STDS, current partners, or contraception, don't order alcohol.
Did I miss an important prevention habit? Chime in, in the comment section or share this post on your favorite form of social media below.