Types of STIs and debunking myths
Sex is a part of human nature and for some a favourite pastime, but be sure you know what you are getting into before indulging in sexual pleasures. There are so many rumours concerning the contraction of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), that sometimes it can get difficult distinguishing myth from truth. The National Health Service and the Family Planning Association sexual health company are reliable sources that lay down information on STIs. Let’s look at some of the most common STIs in Canada and in the world and put some myths about them to rest.
This STI is a bacterial infection contracted through sex when your partner is not wearing a condom. It is spread through semen or vaginal fluid. This means that you can get chlamydia through oral, anal, and vaginal sex. Sometimes you are not aware that you may have chlamydia, however females could experience excess vaginal discharge, itchiness and bleeding in vaginal area, abdominal pain in lower quadrants and pain when urinating. Males can also present with painful urination, testicular pain, milky discharge, and burning or itching of the penis. On a brighter note, chlamydia is curable if treated early on with proper antibiotics. However, if left untreated, it can lead to more serious health conditions like infertility.
Similar to how chlamydia is contracted, gonorrhea is an STI caused by bacteria as well. This STI is easily transmitted through unprotected sex of any kind of shared sex toys and vibrators. This infection can be passed during pregnancy from mother to child. Common symptoms of gonorrhea include green and yellow discharge from male and female genitalia, pain during urination, and for women, bleeding between menstruation.
Like the previous two STIs, syphilis is also a bacterial infection that causes sores on genitalia, rectum, and mouth, accompanied with a body rash. This infection can be carried on to the baby if pregnant, and potentially cause birth defects and in more severe situations, death. Symptoms of syphilis include painless sores, rash, skin growths, white patches on mouth, fatigue, joint pain, fever, and swelling. This infection can be treated with antibiotics when caught early. If left untreated, syphilis can cause damage to major organs and other body systems.
HPV stands for human papillomavirus. This virus affects skin in genitalia and produces wart growths. This infection can increase chance of cervical cancer, so it is recommended that women have pap smear tests regularly to catch any developments early on and treated. This virus can be prevented through vaccines (done for free in Ontario in grade seven).
A well-known virus due to the fact that this infection can lead to AIDS. HIV weakens the immune system and leaves the body open for other infections. HIV is considered a sexually transmitted infection because it can be contacted through semen and vaginal fluid in addition to sharing needles, razors, and toothbrushes that may have blood on them. Furthermore, this infection can be transmitted to babies through breast milk. There is no known cure yet for HIV but there are medications that control the development of the disease.
Like HIV and HPV, herpes is also caused by a virus. This STI is contracted through oral sex when the partner has cold sores on their mouth. Herpes can spread to the eyes, mouth, and genitals. Herpes can be passed on to an unborn child, but there is medication to reduce risk of baby being infected. There is no known cure for herpes, but this condition comes and goes and is treated with medications to reduce outbreaks and flare-ups.
Also known for its less attractive name of pubic lice. Like the name suggests, crabs are lice that reside in the genital area. They are wingless insects that spread through sexual contact. It takes a while to realize that you have pubic lice, some indicators are itching, inflammation and irritation, black powder in underwear, lice bites that appear as small blue spots or blood spots on inner thighs. These lice are more active at night, so the symptoms are more prevalent during that time.
The only way to prevent STIs completely is abstinence, but as an alternative you can take precautions. Condoms are a simple yet effective way of protecting yourself. Don’t be scared to ask your partner about their sexual health, your safety relies on it. Lastly, be sure to visit the Middlesex-London Health Unit STI Clinic between partners and/or every three months for regular STI checks.
Now that we have some information on some of the most common STIs out there, what myths can we put to rest? Here are some common misconceptions of STIs that many people believe today:
1. STIs cannot be contracted from oral sex
We now know that STIs can be transmitted through any form of sex, oral, anal, and vaginal.
2. Only gay men and drug users get HIV
This never made sense to me, but no, all people who have any form of sex can get HIV, not just gay men. Unless they are the only ones having sex these days, and last time I checked, I don’t think so.
3. Oral contraceptives prevent STIs
Pills prevent pregnancies, they definitely don’t prevent STIs from being spread on to others.
4. People with many sexual partners are the only ones to get STIs
It only takes one person, and one sexual experience for you to contract an STI.
5. STIs are all curable
We already know that STIs like herpes, HIV, and HPV do not have a known cure to this day.
Taking the proper precautions to avoid contracting STIs is imperative for your health and the health of your partner. During this pandemic, the importance of being safe during sex is even greater. Due to the many unknowns pertaining to COVID, potentially having STIs alongside COVID-19 could possibly affect your health more negatively. Be safe, smart, and informed so that your health stays in optimal shape!