Sexual Health

Dating and Sex

There are many pros and cons to dating, and it all depends on how you approach your relationships.  If you feel that you are not ready or interested in having a committed relationship, you may want to postpone dating until you feel that you are ready.  There is no rush to start dating.

The decision to have sex is a very important one, and there are lots of things to think about.  Sexual relationship affect your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.  There are risks for pregnancy and STDs even when you birth control or condoms. The only sure way to avoid getting an STD or to prevent pregnancy is to practice abstinence. Once you are in a long-term, mutually exclusive and committed relationship with an uninfected partner, as in marriage, you will have no reason to worry about getting an STD.

Do you want to talk with someone about your relationship? We are here for you.

STIs and STDs:  the Basics

With respect to Sexually Transmitted Infections, in February 2013, the Centers for Disease Control estimated  “that there are about 20 million new infections in the United States each year” and “America’s youth shoulder a substantial burden of these infections. CDC estimates that half of all new STIs in the country occur among young men and women” that is those between the ages of 15 and 24. “ CDC’s new data suggest that there are more than 110 million total STIs among men and women across the nation.

An STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) is an infection contracted from another person usually through sexual or intimate skin-to-skin contact and may not show any physical signs or symptoms. When symptoms appears, it is referred to as  an STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease).  It’s important to remember that not all infected people will have signs or symptoms and that the infection may be transmitted in other ways as well.  STIs can cause a lot of damage and can be passed to a partner without either person knowing. You do  not have to have symptoms to be contagious; you can spread the disease at any time.

STI/STD: Prevention

Did you know that some STIs can be spread through all forms of sex and/or intimate skin-to-skin contact (oral sex, outercourse, anal sex, mutual masturbation)? Condoms are not as effective as most think at preventing the spread of STIs.  Using a condom during sex can sometimes reduce the risk for transmitting or contracting certain STIs, but using a condom never eliminates the risk entirely.

Consistent and correct condom use 100% of the time during vaginal sex reduces your risk for:

HIV by 85%

Gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes, syphilis each by about 50%.

HPV by 50% or less

Few studies have been done to see whether condoms reduce the risk of STIs during oral sex or anal sex.

Abstaining from sexual activity is the only 100% guarantee you have to avoid pregnancy and to avoid contracting an STI.  If you feel that you are not ready to have sex, or if you do not want to put yourself at risk for pregnancy or/and STI, then abstinence is your best choice.

If you are sexually active, even if only once-in-a-while, you are at risk of having a STI/STD.  Get checked.  Get treated if necessary.  Stay healthy.

Information on Sexually Transmitted Diseases

The following information on STIs/STDs comes from the Centers for Disease Control website.  If you want to know more about any one of these conditions, click on the name of the disease and you will be directed to the CDC fact sheet about it.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) (http://www.cdc.gov/std/HPV/STDFact-HPV.htm)

The Human Papillomavirus is the most common sexually transmitted. About half of sexually active men and women will acquire an HPV infection at some point in their life. Currently, there are over 40 different types that can infect the genital areas of both men and women. Most people who have HPV do not know that they have the infection. Even if there are no symptoms it can still be spread to your partner. This disease is important because it is responsible for abnormal pap smears and is a major cause of cervical cancer.

Those who have symptoms of HPV may experience:

Cervical Cancer does not have symptoms until it is quite advanced. For this reason, it is important for women, especially those who are sexually active,  to get a regular pap test to detect it early. The pap test detects microscopic changes that HPV causes. Usually, these changes can be picked up and treated long before cancer develops.

Genital warts usually appear as small bumps or groups of bumps most often in the genital area. They can be raised or flat, single or multiple, small or large, and sometimes cauliflower shaped. Warts may appear within weeks or months after sexual contact with an infected person. Or, they may not appear at all. If left untreated, genital warts may go away, remain unchanged, or increase in size or number. This form of the disease will not turn into cancer.

HPV is contracted through genital contact. In 90% of cases a person’s body is able to clear the HPV infection on its own, but a person will still be contagious until the infection is cleared. There are no tests for a general HPV infection. The only test on the market is used for cervical cancer screening. The best way to protect yourself from HPV is not engaging in sexual activity until marriage and remaining faithful to your partner after marriage.

Human Papillomavirus Vaccination

In June of 2006, the FDA approved the vaccine, Gardasil, which was developed for the prevention of cervical cancer, pre-cancer and genital warts due to human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. The vaccine is designed to prevent the types of HPV that cause approximately 70% of cervical cancers and 90% of genital warts cases. It does not protect against less common strains not yet discovered. Additionally, it cannot protect someone who has already contracted the HPV types included in the vaccine.

Abstaining from sexual activity prior to marriage and fidelity after marriage is the best way to prevent STIs including HPV.

 Chlamydia (http://www.cdc.gov/std/chlamydia/STDFact-Chlamydia.htm)

Chlamydia is a common STI  that can cause permanent and lasting damage to a woman’s reproductive organs (uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries) if left untreated. It is the most frequently reported bacterial STI in the United States.  Often chlamydia shows no signs or symptoms, yet can cause irreversible damage.

Chlamydia can affect both men and women at any time regardless of age. It is spread through body fluids during vaginal, oral, or anal sex. Condoms offer a measure of protection against chlamydia, but even with protection you can still contract the disease. Chlamydia can also be found in the throats of women and men who have oral sex with an infected partner.

Genital Herpes (http://www.cdc.gov/std/Herpes/STDFact-Herpes.htm)

Genital Herpes (HSV-2) is caused by a virus  . Many people infected with this disease do not have any symptoms. When signs do occur, they typically appear as one or more blisters on or around the genitals or rectum. The blisters break leaving sores that may take two to four weeks to heal the first time they occur. Infected people can also have pain or burning during urination.

HSV-1 most of the time is oral herpes, which causes cold sores. HSV-2 is typically found in the genital area. HSV-1 isn’t generally sexually related; however, it is becoming common to find both versions of the virus in the genital and oral areas due to oral sex.

There is no cure for genital herpes; however, there are medications that can help suppress and/or reduce outbreaks. A person with genital herpes may be contagious and not be aware. Between outbreaks, it lies dormant in a nerve root. A variety of stressors can cause the virus to emerge resulting in an active infection. Even correct use of a condom does not guarantee protection from getting or spreading genital herpes.

Gonorrhea (http://www.cdc.gov/std/gonorrhea/STDFact-gonorrhea.htm)

Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection.  It can be spread through contact with the penis, vagina, mouth, anus, and mother to baby during delivery. Ejaculation does not have to occur for it to be transmitted or acquired.

Not all people who contract gonorrhea experience symptoms, but an infection can cause serious complications. Men may experience symptoms such as: burning sensation while urinating, white, yellow or green discharge from the penis, and sometimes pain and swelling in the testicles. Some signs of gonorrhea in women may be: discomfort or burning while urinating, increased vaginal discharge, and bleeding between periods.

Gonorrhea can be cured with antibiotics, but may cause serious side effects. Some forms of gonorrhea are drug-resistant, making treatment of this disease more difficult.

Syphilis (http://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/STDFact-syphilis.htm)

Syphilis is caused by a bacterium. It is passed through direct contact with a syphilis sore. Sores occur mainly on the external genitals, vagina, anus, or in the rectum. Sores also can occur on the lips and in the mouth. Syphilis can be transmitted during vaginal, anal, or oral sexual contact.

Syphilis symptoms occur in three stages, but people infected with syphilis may not show any symptoms for years. However, they are at risk of suffering health complications later if they do not receive treatment. Even if a person has no symptoms, they can still pass and spread the disease.

If caught early syphilis can be cured with antibiotics, but not without the possibility of it causing serious damage. The use of a condom does not guarantee protection from getting or spreading syphilis.

Hepatitis B (http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/PublicInfo.htm#whatIsHep)

There are five kinds of hepatitis.  Hepatitis B and hepatitis D are the two that are transmitted sexually.

Hepatitis B is caused by a virus and is a disease that affects the liver. It is a sexually transmitted infection, but it can also be spread through blood or other body fluids. There is no cure for hepatitis once contracted, but before contraction a vaccine is available to protect against it.

Many people with the hepatitis B infection do not know they have the disease. Commonly people do not look or feel sick, but they are still able to pass the disease to other sexual partners. If symptoms do occur, people may experience fever, fatigue, loss or appetite, nausea, vomiting, and more. Since the majority of people do not have symptoms, it’s important to talk to your doctor about being tested.

The use of a condom does not guarantee protection against hepatitis B.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) (http://www.cdc.gov/std/PID/STDFact-PID.htm)

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease is a serious infection that usually involves the fallopian tubes and can be caused by many different bacteria. In addition to infecting the fallopian tubes (the tubes that carry the eggs from the ovaries to the uterus), PID can also infect the tissues around and in the uterus and ovariesis caused by a number of different bacteria, but is most frequently caused by gonorrhea and chlamydia often both at the same time.

One way that Pelvic Inflammatory Disease can occur is when bacteria (in many cases from a sexually transmitted infection) move from the vagina into the uterus. This can result in serious consequences including infertility, ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy in the fallopian tube or elsewhere outside of the womb), abscess formation, and chronic pelvic pain.

The symptoms of PID can range from none to severe. About two-thirds of the time, PID goes undetected by health care providers. If symptoms occur they may include: lower back pain, unusual discharge, odor, painful urination, and irregular menstrual bleeding. If PID is left untreated it can cause serious, permanent damage. If detected it can be treated with antibiotics, but the possibility of long-term damage still exists.

If you have had PID before, you are more at risk for another episode, which will cause further damage to your reproductive organs. One out of every 10 women is left infertile after one episode of PID.

Trichomoniasis (http://www.cdc.gov/std/trichomonas/STDFact-Trichomoniasis.htm)

Trichomoniasis (or “trich”) is a very common sexually transmitted disease (STD) that is caused by infection with a protozoan parasite.  Although symptoms of the disease vary, most women and men who have the parasite cannot tell they are infected.

The parasite is passed from an infected person to an uninfected person during sex.  In women, the most commonly infected part of the body is the lower genital tract (vulva, vagina, or urethra), and in men, the most commonly infected body part is the inside of the penis (urethra). During sex, the parasite is usually transmitted from a penis to a vagina, or from a vagina to a penis, but it can also be passed from a vagina to another vagina.  It is not common for the parasite to infect other body parts, like the hands, mouth, or anus.  Infected people without symptoms can still pass the infection on to others.

Men with trichomoniasis may feel itching or irritation inside the penis, burning after urination or ejaculation, or some discharge from the penis.  Women with trichomoniasis may notice itching, burning, redness or soreness of the genitals, discomfort with urination, or a thin discharge with an unusual smell that can be clear, white, yellowish, or greenish.  Having trichomoniasis can make it feel unpleasant to have sex. Without treatment, the infection can last for months or even years.

 

This information is intended for general educational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional medical advice.