Americans Were Quizzed on Sexual Health:

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What The Results Say About the State of Sex Ed

by LeAnne Graves

There’s no question that offering consistent and accurate sexual health information in schools is important.

Providing students with these resources not only helps to prevent unwanted pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), but it can also help to ensure the overall well-being of an individual.

Yet the state of sexual education and awareness in some areas of the United States ranges from medically inaccurate to virtually nonexistent.

At present, only 20 states require that sex and HIV education be “medically, factually, or technically accurate,” (while New Jersey is technically the 21st state, it’s been left out since medical accuracy isn’t specifically outlined in state statute. Rather it’s required by the NJDE’s Comprehensive Health and Physical Education).

Meanwhile, the definition for what’s “medically accurate” can vary by state.

While some states may require approval of the curriculum by the Department of Health, other states allow materials to be distributed that are based on information from published sources that are revered by the medical industry. This lack of a streamlined process can lead to the distribution of incorrect information.

Healthline and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), an organization dedicated to promoting sexual education, conducted a survey that looked at the state of sexual health in the United States.

Below are the results.

Access To Education

In our survey, which polled more than 1,000 Americans, only 12 percent of respondents 60 years and older received some form of sexual education in school.

Meanwhile, only 33 percent of people between 18 and 29 years old reported having any.

While some previous studies have found that abstinence-only education programs don’t protect against teen pregnancies and STIs, there are many areas in the United States where this is the only type of sexual education provided.

States like Mississippi require schools to present sexual education as abstinence-only as the way to combat unwanted pregnancies. Yet Mississippi has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancies, ranking third in 2016.

This is in contrast to New Hampshire, which has the lowest rate of teen pregnancies in the United States. The state teaches health and sex education as well as a curriculum dedicated to STIs starting in middle schools.

To date, 35 states and the District of Columbia also allow for parents to opt-out of having their children participate in sex ed.

Yet in a 2017 survey, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 40 percent of high school students had already engaged in sexual activity.

“When it comes to promoting sex education, the biggest obstacle is definitely our country’s cultural inclination to avoid conversations about sexuality entirely, or to only speak about sex and sexuality in ways that are negative or shaming,” explains Jennifer Driver, SIECUS’ State Policy Director.

“It’s hard to ensure someone’s sexual health and well-being when, far too often, we lack appropriate, affirmative, and non-shaming language to talk about sex in the first place,” she says.

STI prevention

In 2016, nearly a quarter of all new HIV cases in the United States were made up of young people ages 13 to 24, according to the CDC. People ages 15 to 24 also make up half of the 20 million new STIs reported in the United States each year.

Which is why it’s concerning that in our survey — where the age bracket 18 to 29 made up nearly 30 percent of our participants — when asked whether HIV could be spread through saliva, nearly 1 out of 2 people answered incorrectly.

Recently, the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) published a study that states comprehensive sex education (CSE) programs not only increased the overall health and well-being of children and young people, but helped to prevent HIV and STIs as well.

Driver cites the Netherlands as a prime example of the payoffs from CSE programs. The country offers one of the world’s best sex education systems with corresponding health outcomes, particularly when it comes to STI and HIV prevention.

The country requires a comprehensive sexual education course starting in primary school. And the results of these programs speak for themselves.

The Netherlands has one of the lowest rates of HIV at 0.2 percent of adults ages 15 to 49.

Statistics also show that 85 percent of adolescents in the country reported using contraception during their first sexual encounter, while the rate of adolescent pregnancies was low, at 4.5 per 1,000 adolescents.

Though Driver acknowledges that the United States cannot simply “adopt every sex education-related action happening in the Netherlands,” she does acknowledge that it’s possible to look to countries who are taking a similar approach for ideas.

Contraception misconceptions

When it comes to contraception, and more specifically emergency contraception, our survey found that there are a number of misconceptions about how these preventive measures work.

A whopping 93 percent of our respondents were unable to correctly answer how many days after intercourse emergency contraception is valid. Most people said it was only effective up to two days after having sex.

In fact, “morning-after pills” such as Plan B may help stop unwanted pregnancies if taken up to 5 days after sex with a potential 89 percent reduction in risk.

Other misunderstandings about emergency contraceptives include 34 percent of those polled believing that taking the morning-after pill can cause infertility, and a quarter of respondents believing that it can cause an abortion.

In fact, 70 percent of those surveyed didn’t know that the pill temporarily stops ovulation, which prevents the releasing of an egg to be fertilized.

Whether this misconception about how oral contraception works is a gender issue isn’t clear-cut. What’s understood, however, is that there’s still work to be done.

Though Driver cites the Affordable Care Act as one example of the push for free and accessible birth control and contraception, she’s not convinced this is enough.

“The cultural backlash, as exemplified by several legal fights and an increase in public debates — which have, unfortunately conflated birth control with abortion — illustrates that our society remains uncomfortable with fully embracing female sexuality,” she explains.

93 percent of our respondents were unable to correctly answer how many days after intercourse emergency contraception is valid.

Knowledge by gender

When breaking it down by gender, who’s the most knowledgeable when it comes to sex?

Our survey showed that 65 percent of females answered all questions correctly, while the figure for male participants was 57 percent.

Though these stats aren’t inherently bad, the fact that 35 percent of men who participated in the survey believed that women couldn’t get pregnant while on their periods is an indication that there’s still a ways to go — particularly when it comes to understanding female sexuality.

“We need to do a lot of work to change pervasive myths, specifically surrounding female sexuality,” explains Driver.

“There is still a cultural allowance for men to be sexual beings, while women experience double standards regarding their sexuality. And this long-standing misconception has undoubtedly contributed to confusion surrounding women’s bodies and female sexual health,” she says.

Defining consent

From the #MeToo movement to the Christine Blasey Ford case, it’s clear that creating dialogue around and providing information about sexual consent has never been more imperative.

The findings from our survey indicate that this is also the case. Of the respondents ages 18 to 29, 14 percent still believed that a significant other has a right to sex.

This specific age bracket represented the largest group with the least understanding as to what constituted as consent.

What’s more, a quarter of all respondents answered the same question incorrectly, with some believing that consent is applicable if the person says yes despite drinking, or if the other person doesn’t say no at all.

These findings, as concerning as they might be, shouldn’t be surprising. To date, only six states require instruction to include information on consent, says Driver.

Yet the UNESCO study mentioned earlier cites CSE programs as an effective way “of equipping young people with knowledge and skills to make responsible choices for their lives.”

This includes improving their “analytical, communication, and other life skills for health and well-being in relation to… gender-based violence, consent, sexual abuse, and harmful practices.”

Of the respondents ages 18 to 29, 14 percent believed that a significant other has a right to sex.

What’s next?

Though the results of our survey indicate that more needs to be done in terms of providing CSE programs in school, there’s evidence that the United States is moving in the right direction.

A Planned Parenthood Federation of America poll conducted this year revealed that 98 percent of likely voters support sex education in high school, while 89 percent support it in middle school.

“We’re at a 30-year low for unintended pregnancy in this country and a historic low for pregnancy among teenagers,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood.

“Sex education and access to family planning services have been critical to helping teens stay safe and healthy — now is not the time to walk back that progress.”

Moreover, SIECUS is advocating for policies that would create the first-ever federal funding stream for comprehensive sexuality education in schools.

They’re also working to raise awareness about the need to increase and improve the access of marginalized young people to sexual and reproductive healthcare services.

“Comprehensive school-based sex education should provide fact and medically-based information that complements and augments the sex education children receive from their families, religious and community groups, and healthcare professionals,” explains Driver.

“We can increase sexual health knowledge for people of all ages by simply treating it like any other aspect of health. We should positively affirm that sexuality is a fundamental and normal part of being human,” she adds.

Complete Article HERE!

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Talking sexual health with older patients

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Dr Sue Malta and her research team want to promote more positive social perceptions of older people’s sexuality, in general practice and beyond.

By Amanda Lyons

It is no secret that Australia’s population is ageing.

But that doesn’t mean older Australians are leaving the pleasures of the bedroom behind – and nor should they, argues Dr Sue Malta.

‘Having a healthy sex life when you’re older, even when you do have disability and disease, is actually really good for your health and wellbeing, and also your overall cognition and cognitive function,’ the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health research fellow told newsGP.

‘So there’s lots of reasons for people to remain sexually active in later life, and for GPs to encourage them to be so, if that’s what the older patient wants.’

Our culture contains many deeply embedded stereotypes about older people, and one of the strongest is that they are asexual. But, as shown by Sex, Age & Me, a national study conducted on the sexual and romantic relationships of over 2000 Australians aged 60 and older, this is very far from the case: almost three-quarters (72%) of respondents reported having engaged in a variety of sexual practices in the preceding year, ranging from penetrative intercourse to mutual masturbation.

Despite this kind of eye-opening data, stereotypes about older people’s sexuality – or lack of – persist, even among older people themselves and the health professionals who treat them.

The Sexual Health and Ageing, Perspective and Education (SHAPE) project, for which Dr Malta is a researcher and project coordinator, also revealed these stereotypes could cause significant barriers in discussion of sexual health between GPs and older patients.

‘GPs don’t want to initiate these conversations, they want them to be patient-led,’ Dr Malta said.
‘But older patients won’t talk to GPs because they are embarrassed, and for reasons that go back to an historical lack of sex education when they grew up: the context and eras these patients were born into, they just didn’t talk about sex.

‘So it leads to this Catch-22 situation.’

The SHAPE team wanted to further investigate the reluctance of GPs to raise sexual health issues with older patients, so they conducted semi-structured interviews with 15 GPs and six practice nurses throughout Victoria. The resulting paper, ‘Do you talk to your older patients about sexual health?’ was published in the most recent edition of The Australian journal of general practice (AJGP).

Dr Malta explained that semi-structured interviews allowed the researchers to access richer and more detailed information from their GP respondents.

‘It’s very easy to say ‘“yes, no” in a survey. We don’t really find out people’s underlying or unconscious views and attitudes,’ she said.

Researchers ultimately found many of the GPs feel uncomfortable broaching the subject of sexuality with older patients, and some found it difficult to reconcile sexuality with ageing.

As one GP said, ‘It’s a bit like you don’t really want to know your mum and dad have sex, you know? Because that’s just gross’.

However, as Australia’s ageing population grows, and divorce, online dating and sexually transmissible infections (STIs) become more common among older people, neglecting issues of sexual health can lead to harms.

There’s a whole issue around [the fact that] they’re not practising safer sex, so the STI rates are going up,’ Dr Malta said. ‘It has gone up 50% in five years, but from a low base.

‘But if we continue in this vein, with more and more single older adults coming into the population, this could potentially be more of an issue in the future.’

Furthermore, if GPs and other health professionals are unaware that they should be looking out for sexual health issues in older patients, they may miss important signs.

‘A lot of the symptomology [of STIs] actually mimic diseases of ageing,’ Dr Malta said. ‘So if there is a stereotype of the asexual older person in the GP’s mind, and an [older patient] has a symptom that might or might not be an STI, which side do you think the GP is going to err on? Not the possible STI.’

A vivid anecdote that Dr Malta encountered during her teaching work is a telling illustration of the importance of not making assumptions.

‘One of the registrars at a presentation I gave had a consultation with an older man, a gentleman on a walking frame, who was 90 or so, and presented with what looked like an STI,’ she said.

‘The consultant the registrar was working under said, “No, it wouldn’t be an STI, just look at him, he’s past it. That’s ridiculous.” But the registrar decided she would ask him.

‘So she asked and he said, “Yes, actually, it could be an STI. I went to see a prostitute last week and it was the best thing I’ve done in ages”.

‘So the registrar then had the opportunity to have that discussion about safer sex and give him some treatment.’

Many of the GPs interviewed for Dr Malta’s paper felt they would appreciate interventions designed to help facilitate discussions about sexual health during consultations with older patients.

Dr Malta agrees this would be helpful, but believes it would also be useful to start earlier, with better information about ageing and sexuality provided during general practice (and other medical) training.

‘In training, you learn about ageing, but in the context of disease and dysfunction,’ she said.

‘So the only thing about sex and ageing you might learn is about erectile dysfunction, how beta blockers affect your ability, vaginal dryness, menopause, prolapse. You don’t actually learn about positive sexuality in later life.’

Dr Malta has found that most older patients would like sexual health screening to become a normalised part of routine care in general practice. She also believes it is necessary to make changes in overall health policy to make it more inclusive.

‘There is no sexual health policy targeting older adults,’ she said. ‘They get lumped into general sexual and reproductive health policy, and the only mention that’s made of them is about menopause and the like.

‘There should be a specific sexual health policy for older adults because the issue is more involved than we think.’

Complete Article HERE!

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How to have the talk with your partner

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Since the most common symptom is actually having no symptoms, talking to any partners about sexual health is even more important than it is awkward. The good news is talking about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and getting tested leads to more honesty, open communication and better relationships (and health) in the long run. Here’s how to start that particular conversation.

Taking the lead

“Just so you know, I got tested for STIs last month…” is a strong start. Taking the initiative yourself to get tested, get treated if necessary and know your status keeps you and your partner safer. Then, when you’re ready to have the conversation, you can open by sharing your results and normalizing getting tested for your partner.

If they respond that they haven’t been tested or it’s been a while since their last appointment, encourage them to do it, too, so you can be on the same page. This also is a good time to remind them that getting tested doesn’t mean they do have an STI, and if they do, most are curable and all are treatable (and having one doesn’t say anything about them).

Jumping in together

If you haven’t been tested recently either, start a conversation with your partner about both of you getting tested. You can even introduce it as something uncomfortable if that’s where you are, i.e., “This is awkward, but I care about our health and I think it’s time for us to get tested for STIs. Would you want to go get tested together?”

This kind of conversation lets you share an awkward experience while empowering you both to take care of yourselves and each other, creating stronger communication in the long run. It’s also a quick way to hear from your partner if they have recently been tested, and if so, they can serve as your support system in taking on your health.

Sharing results

Talking about an STI you had or have, or hearing about one from your partner, can be a stressful situation. A few things to keep in mind: STIs don’t define people or behaviors, many are curable and all are treatable, millions of people contract STIs every year and even in monogamous relationships an STI doesn’t necessarily mean someone cheated (in some cases, it can take years for symptoms to show up, if at all).

Start a conversation like this one in a safe place where you won’t be interrupted and practice what you’d like to say ahead of time. “I had chlamydia and took medicine, so I don’t have it anymore, but it made me realize we should be getting tested more…” or “I was just diagnosed with gonorrhea and my doctor said you can also get a prescription for the antibiotics…”

Sometimes people need time to process this information, and that’s okay—let them know you’d like to continue talking about it when they feel ready.

If your partner is disclosing an STI to you, remember these facts and consider how you’d want to be treated on the other side. Be compassionate, avoid judgment and take on your health as a team. If you have questions or would like to get tested, Medical Services offers STI testing by appointment with a health care provider and on a walk-in basis through the lab.

Free safer sex supplies (condoms, lubricant, etc.) are available through Health Promotion on the first floor of Wardenburg Health Center. For general information on sexual health and sexually transmitted infections, visit beforeplay.org

Complete Article HERE!

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What Do You Do If You Have An STI?

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Stay Calm, Here Are 3 Steps To Take

By Laura Moses

Years ago, a friend raged into my apartment with bad news: the guy she had been hooking up with had given her an STI. She knew he was seeing other people, but he had just written her a lovey-dovey email from his business trip, asking about her upcoming schedule, and saying how much he missed her. She was gobsmacked about what to do. I mean… what do you do if you have an STI? Like a good friend, I made her a drink and then we made a plan. She wrote a nice email back to him saying she’d check her schedule, hoped he had a nice trip, and ended with “P.S. We have gonhorrea.” Boom.

Although we still laugh about that to this day, your sexual health is something to take very seriously. If you think you might have an STI, you probably feel anxious, scared and pretty physically uncomfortable. I connected with Dr. Gillian Dean, Senior Director of Medical Services at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, about this topic. She observes, “The reality is that there are 20 million new STI cases each year. Getting an STI or having a partner with an STI is extremely common — it’s the result of intimate contact with other people and not something to be embarrassed about. It doesn’t make you any less valuable or worthy of love, and your STI status doesn’t make you “clean” or “dirty.” So take a deep breath, you got this, and read on for steps to take to address what might be going down… down there.

Step One: Get Tested

It’s important to note what your specific symptoms are and when they first occured. While a girl’s gotta pay attention to everything going on below her belt, keep in mind that not every itch or sore spot is caused by an STI. Dr. Dean explains, “painful or frequent urination could be a symptom of an STI — or it could be caused by a urinary tract infection or vaginitis. Both yeast infections and pubic lice cause itching. Is that bump a wart or a pimple? It can be hard to tell sometimes.”

While noting and keeping track of your symptoms is important, most common STIs out there — chlamydia, gonorrhea, HPV — often don’t have any symptoms, Dr. Dean says. That’s why there’s no accurate way to tell if you have an STI without being tested. STI testing is quick, easy and painless. All STIs are treatable, while many are curable — but you have to know your status before you can get treated. So go.

Step Two: For Real, Get Tested

Let’s say you feel fairly fine, just a little irritation down south, but you would rather wait it out and hope it goes away than trek to your gyno’s office and do the whole pelvic exam thing. Most of the time, STIs have no symptoms or may be so mild that they don’t bother you, but that doesn’t mean they’re not harmful.

Dr. Dean cautions, “Just because you don’t have physical symptoms doesn’t mean you can’t pass it [an STI] to a partner or that it can’t lead to more serious health problems in the future. If you’ve had vaginal, anal, or oral sex with a new sexual partner or multiple sexual partners, you should talk with a nurse or doctor about getting tested.”

Now, if you have physical symptoms such as sores or bumps on and around your genitals, burning or irritation when you pee or flu-like symptoms like fever, body ache, and swollen glands… then please put your phone in your bag and go right to the doctor. (You can finish reading this later!) You can also get rested — often for a reduced rate or even for free — at Planned Parenthood or a sexual health clinic.

Once you’ve been tested and you know exactly what you’re dealing with, the treatment your doctor prescribed to you will get to work. Going forward, be sure you take all precautions to protect your precious health, like using protection and getting tested regularly. Dr. Dean explains, “At a minimum, sexually active people should get tested once a year — but it also depends on your personal risk factors, such as if you use protection or if you have a new sexual partner since you last got tested.” She suggests talking with your doctor about what makes sense for your life.

Also, you should talk to your sexual partner or partners about this. If you’re unsure how to have this super fun talk with a sexual partner about STI testing and protection, or that you have an STI, Planned Parenthood created a set of videos to help you out. If you truly don’t want to have a face-to-face chat, you can always do it in an email postscript, like my dear friend once did. Your sexual health is part of your physical, emotional and mental health, so being able to communicate with your sexual partners is key.

Complete Article HERE!

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Gay or bi men who disclose sexual history may get better healthcare

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By Anne Harding

Young men who have sex with men (MSM) who disclose their sexual orientation or behavior to a health care provider are more likely to receive appropriate healthcare, new data suggest.

Dr. Elissa Meites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and her colleagues studied 817 MSM, ages 18 to 26, who had seen a healthcare provider in the past year.

Men who had disclosed were more than twice as likely as those who had not to have received the full panel of recommended screenings and vaccines, the researchers found.

The CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommend that MSM be screened for HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia at least once a year, and immunized against hepatitis A and B and human papillomavirus (HPV), Meites and her colleagues note the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases.

Overall, 67 percent of the study participants had received all four recommended STI screenings, but that was true for only 51 percent of the MSM who had never disclosed.

Nine percent overall had received all vaccinations, compared to six percent of those who hadn’t disclosed.

The pattern was similar when researchers looked to see how many participants received all seven recommended services. The rate was just seven percent for the overall study population, but it was even lower – at less than four percent – for the MSM who hadn’t disclosed.

About two-thirds of study participants (64.2 percent) said they had disclosed their sexual behavior or orientation to a healthcare provider, while roughly nine in 10 (91.7 percent) said they would do so if it was important to their health.

“This shows us that the patients are doing all the right things. They are going to the doctor regularly and they are willing to speak about their sexual behaviors,” Meites told Reuters Health in a telephone interview. “It looks like health care providers may be missing some opportunities to provide the best health care to these young men.”

Doctors can encourage disclosure among MSM by asking about sexual history, and “fostering a clinical environment where people can be comfortable revealing their sexual behavior,” Meites said. And doctors should be aware of the panel of health care services that are recommended for MSM, she added.

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Can You Get An STI From Anal Sex?

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That itch in your butt? It may not just be a harmless rash.

By Isadora Baum

[W]hen you think of sexually transmitted infections, symptoms like vaginal itching and pelvic pain probably come to mind. But the same STIs that threaten your health down below can infect other body areas. They’re typically transmitted through oral sex or anal sex, but some can be picked up after direct skin contact.

The scary thing about getting an STI in another part of your body is that you’re less likely to recognize signs, so you don’t seek the right treatment—and the infection potentially gets worse. Here are four body areas that can play host to an STI, plus the symptoms to look for.

On your face

You already know that genital herpes can spread to your lips if you have oral sex with someone who has this STI. What you may not know is that the same type of herpes that shows up below the belt can infect other parts of your face, such as around your mouth, Amesh Adalja, MD, an infectious disease physician and senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells Health. Herpes can also appear on your tongue or nose.

How do you know if a sore on your face is herpes? Early signs are the same as genital herpes: tingling and itching, and then as the sore develops, it blisters and scabs over. If you’re unsure, check in with a dermatologist. You can treat herpes with over-the-counter cold sore remedies; your doctor can also prescribe antiviral meds that cut the duration of an outbreak.

In your butt

Yep, we have to go there. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis can be transmitted to the rectum if you have anal sex with an infected partner, Karen Brodman, MD, a gynecologist in New York City, tells Health. Your risk of one of these backdoor STIs increases if you develop small tears or nicks in the thin skin of the anus, through which the bacteria can get into your system.

STIs transmitted through skin contact, such as genital herpes or HPV, can develop in or outside the anus and rectum, says Dr. Brodman. Herpes may also show up as sores on the skin of the buttocks. And of course, HIV is spread via anal sex, as are blood-borne viruses such as hepatitis B and C.

Signs of an STI in your behind include rectal burning, unusual discharge, bleeding, pain, or a fissure, says Dr. Brodman. You might also notice blisters or achiness in the groin, she adds. If any of these develop, let your doctor know. And don’t be embarrassed—she’s seen it all before.

In your eyes

STIs that trigger eye infections include herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis, says Dr. Adalja. The signs of many of these conditions mimic pink eye: think pain, swelling, redness, and discharge.

An eye herpes infection, however, can present differently. If the herpes virus is in your eye, it may result in an outbreak of one or more lesions on the eyelids or even the cornea, triggering pain and sensitivity that could jeopardize your vision by causing scarring. If you have any symptoms, see your ophthalmologist promptly, says Dr. Adalja.

In your throat

STI infections in the soft, moist tissues of the back of the mouth and throat are more prevalent than you might think. Chlamydia and gonorrhea (including the drug-resistant strain known as “super gonorrhea”) can set up shop here if a person contracts either of these infections during oral sex. Scarily, you may not even know it; sometimes the only symptom is a sore throat, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

HPV is another infection that invades the throat—and it’s thought to be behind the recent rise in cases of head and neck cancers, especially among men. While there are more than 100 types of HPV, the type that causes many cases of cervical cancer, HPV 16, is also responsible for most head and neck cancers. Though HPV of the throat is becoming more common, a 2017 study emphasizes that the overall lifetime odds of cancer is low. Still, if you think you might be at risk, talk to your doctor.

Complete Article HERE!

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7 Reasons Why Your Crotch Itches

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[I]t may not be the most couth move men make, but there are occasions when guys grab at their balls for a quick scratch or adjustment. There are also times, however, when the urge to scratch is intense because you are experiencing a serious itching sensation, perhaps one that keeps recurring. Should you be concerned? Would you like to know why your crotch itches and what you can do about it?

Here are seven reasons why your crotch itches and, thankfully, ways you can stop itchy balls in their tracks. Some fixes are quick while others take a bit more time, but follow the suggestions and you should have your hand out of your pants in no time.

Chafing

Running and other athletic activities that can cause your thighs to rub together are typical causes of chafing. The rubbing can result in inflammation and minute cracks in the outer skin layer, resulting in a burning or itchy rash. You can protect your skin and eliminate the itching and burning by using a moisturizing cream that contains colloidal oatmeal along with one that provides zinc oxide. Natural remedies include aloe vera gel or olive oil rubbed into the affected area.

Contact dermatitis

This super itchy condition is caused when your skin makes contact with an allergen, which could be the material in your underwear, a new laundry detergent, fabric softener, or soap, or towels. Contact dermatitis usually looks like a bumpy red rash that may be accompanied by an oozing fluid. The effective treatment is to eliminate the cause, which may take a little detective work. If you recently started using a new soap, laundry detergent, or fabric softener, return to your old one. If you have new underwear, you may need to wash it several times (in your tried-and-true) detergent before wearing them. If you have contact dermatitis, you should notice results within 10 to 14 days or sooner.

Fungal infections

If a fungal infection is the cause of your itchiness, you likely will also have a rash or other noticeable skin condition. A yeast infection, for example, is usually accompanied by moist, shiny skin on the penis as well as white deposits in the skin folds and an itchy red rash. Other fungal infections may appear slightly differently. All fungal infections can be treated with antifungal cream (e.g., clotrimazole). A natural alternative is coconut oil, while other remedies (e.g., tea tree oil, oregano oil), when mixed with an appropriate amount of carrier oil, can be helpful as well. Discuss the best mixture of oils with a knowledgeable practitioner.

Genital warts

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is characterized by the presence of genital warts, which are usually soft, skin-colored growths that may even look like tiny florets of cauliflower. Fortunately, these itchy warts don’t cause any other symptoms, but they also are merely a visible representation of a systemic virus. You can successfully treat genital warts with topical medications available over the counter (e.g., imiquimod, podofilox, sinecatechins) or by prescription (e.g., podophyllin, trichloroacetic acid) or have the warts frozen or burned off by your doctor. However, the virus will remain in your system, and the warts may return at a later time.

Herpes

Sometimes itching is the first symptom of an infection with the herpes virus, a sexually transmitted disease. The itching quickly turns into burning, after which blisters can develop. If the blisters break, they can result in painful ulcers. The best treatment strategy is to see your physician, who can prescribe an antiviral medication such as acyclovir or valacyclovir hydrochloride. You also should inform any sexual partners of your infection so they can treated as well.

Intertrigo

Intertrigo is an inflammatory condition that forms in the folds of the skin. It is usually chronic, and along with itching you can experience burning, pain, and stinging. Intertrigo is caused and aggravated by exposure to friction, heat, moisture, and lack of air circulation. In some cases, intertrigo is complicated by a fungal, bacterial, or viral infection. Men who are obese and/or who have diabetes are frequently affected.

Treatment includes keeping the affected area as clean and dry as possible. Avoid wearing tight clothing that restricts air circulation. Use a barrier cream to help prevent irritation. Your doctor may suggest short-term use of a topical steroid to manage inflammation. If you have an infection, an antifungal or antibiotic ointment may be necessary.

Pubic lice

If you notice tiny yellowish or white specks near the roots of your pubic hair and the itching is intense, there’s a good chance you have eggs belonging to pubic lice (aka, crabs). Once the eggs hatch, the parasites are gray-white or tan and can cause quite a bit of itching and irritation as they crawl. You should see your healthcare provider as soon as possible for an accurate diagnosis.

Treatment of pubic lice typically includes use of a lotion or shampoo that contains either permethrin or pyrethrins with piperonyl butoxide, which kills lice. Natural remedies include holding a soft cloth soaked with equal amounts of apple cider vinegar and water on the affected area for about 30 minutes. Repeat daily as needed. Both peppermint and tea tree oils, mixed with an appropriate amount of carrier oil, can help eliminate pubic lice as well.

Complete Article HERE!

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Our shame over sexual health makes us avoid the doctor. These apps might help.

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[W]e’re taught to feel shame around our sexuality from a young age, as our bodies develop and start to function in ways we’re unfamiliar with, as we begin to realize our body’s potential for pleasure. Later on, women especially are taught to feel ashamed if we want “too much” sex, or if we want it “too early,” or if we’re intimate with “too many” people. Conversely, women and men are shamed if we don’t want nearly as much sex as our partner, or if we’re inexperienced in bed. We worry that we won’t orgasm, or that we’ll do so too soon. We’re afraid the things we want to do in bed will elicit disgust.

This shame can also keep people from getting the health care they need. For example, a 2016 study of college students found that, while women feel more embarrassed about buying condoms than men do, the whiff of mortification exists for both genders. Another 2016 study found many women hide their use of health-care services from family and friends so as to prevent speculation about their sexual activity and the possibility that they have a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

While doctors should be considered crucial, impartial resources for those struggling with their sexual health, many find the questions asked of them during checkups to be intrusive. Not only that but, in some cases, doctors themselves are uncomfortable talking about sexual health. They may carry conservative sexual beliefs, or have been raised with certain cultural biases around sexuality. It doesn’t help that gaps in medical school curriculums often leave general practitioners inadequately prepared for issues of sexual health.

So how do people who feel ashamed of their sexuality take care of their sexual health? In many cases, they don’t. In a study on women struggling with urinary incontinence, for example, many women avoided seeking out treatment — maintaining a grin-and-bear-it attitude — until the problem became “unbearable and distressing to their daily lives.”

Which may be why smartphone apps, at-home testing kits and other online resources have seen such growth in recent years. Now that we rely on our smartphones for just about everything — from choosing stock options to tracking daily steps to building a daily meditation practice — it makes sense people would turn to their phones, laptops and tablets to take care of their sexual health, too. Websites such as HealthTap, LiveHealth Online and JustDoc, for example, allow you to video chat with medical specialists from your computer. Companies such as L and Nurk allow you to order contraceptives from your cellphone, without ever going to the doctor for a prescription. And there are a slew of at-home STI testing kits from companies like Biem, MyLAB Box and uBiome that let you swab yourself at home, mail in your samples and receive the results on your phone.

Bryan Stacy, chief executive of Biem, says he created the company because of his own experience with avoiding the doctor. About five years ago, he was experiencing pain in his genital region. “I did what a lot of guys do, and did nothing,” he says, explaining that, while women visit their gynecologist regularly, men generally don’t see a doctor for their sexual health until something has gone wrong. “I tried to rationalize away the pain, but it didn’t go away.” Stacy says he didn’t want to talk to a doctor for fear of what he would learn, and didn’t know who he would go to anyway. He didn’t have a primary care physician or a urologist at the time. But after three months of pain, a friend of his — who happened to be a urologist — convinced him to see someone. He was diagnosed with chlamydia and testicular cancer. After that, he learned he wasn’t the only one who’d avoided the doctor only to end up with an upsetting diagnosis. “What I found is that I wasn’t strange,” Stacy says. “Everyone has this sense of sexual-health anxiety that can be avoided, but it’s that first step that’s so hard. People are willing to talk about their sexual health, but only if they feel like it’s a safe environment.”

So Stacy set out to create that environment. With Biem, users can video chat with a doctor online to describe what they’re experiencing, at which point the doctor can recommend tests. The user can then go to a lab for local testing, or Biem will send someone to their house. The patient will eventually receive their results right on their phone. Many of the above-mentioned resources work similarly.

Research shows there’s excitement for tools like these. One study built around a similar service that was still in development showed people 16 to 24 years old would get tested more often if the service was made available to them. They were intrigued by the ability to conceal STI testing from friends and family, and to avoid “embarrassing face-to-face consultations.”

But something can get lost when people avoid going in to the doctor’s office. Kristie Overstreet, a clinical sexologist and psychotherapist, worries these tools — no matter their good intentions — will end up being disempowering in the long run, especially for women. “Many women assume they will be viewed by their doctor as sexually promiscuous or ‘easy,’ so they avoid going in for an appointment,” she says. “They fear they will be seen as dirty or less than if they have an STI or symptoms of one. There is an endless cycle of negative self-talk, such as ‘What will they think about me?’ or ‘Will they think that I’m a slut because of this?’ If people can be tested in the privacy of their own home without having to see a doctor, they can keep their symptoms and diagnosis a secret,” Overstreet says, which only increases the shame.

As for the efficacy of these tools, Mark Payson, a physician and co-founder of CCRM Northern Virginia, emphasizes the importance of education and resources for those who do test positive. These screening tests can have limits, he says, noting that there can be false negatives or false positives, necessitating follow-up care. “This type of testing, if integrated into an existing physician relationship, would be a great resource,” Payson says. “But for patients with more complex medical histories, the interactions of other conditions and medications may not be taken into account.”

Michael Nochomovitz, a New York Presbyterian physician, shows a similar level of restrained excitement. “The doctor-patient interaction has taken a beating,” Nochomovitz says. “Physicians don’t have an opportunity to really engage with patients and look them in the eye and talk to them like you’d want to be spoken to. The idea is that tech should make that easier, but in many cases, it makes it more difficult and more impersonal.” Still, he sees the advantages in allowing patients to attend to their health care on their own terms, rather than having to visit a doctor’s office.

Those who have created these tools insist they’re not trying to replace that doctor-patient relationship, but are trying to build upon and strengthen it. “We want people to be partnering with their doctor,” says Sarah Gupta, the medical liaison for uBiome, which owns SmartJane, a service that allows women to monitor their vaginal health with at-home tests. “But the thing is, these topics are often so embarrassing or uncomfortable for people to bring up. Going in and having an exam can put people in a vulnerable position. [SmartJane] has the potential to help women feel they’re on a more equal footing when talking to their doctor about their sexual health.”

“If you come in with a positive test result,” says Jessica Richman, co-founder and chief executive of uBiome, “it’s not about sexual behavior anymore. It’s a matter of medical treatment. It’s a really good way for women to shift the conversation.”

This can be the case for men and women. While many will use these options as a means to replace those office visits entirely, their potential lies in the ability to improve the health care people receive.

Complete Article HERE!

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STI symptom checker: Do I have gonorrhoea, chlamydia or syphilis? Signs of sex infections

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STIs – or sexually transmitted infections – can be passed on via unprotected sex. These are the symptoms of gonorrhoea – commonly misspelt gonorrhea – chlamydia and syphilis to look out for.

STI symptom checker: Unprotected sex risks sexually transmitted infections

By Lauren Clark

[S]TIs – the common abbreviation for sexually transmitted infections – can be passed on via unprotected sex.

Common STIs include chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhoea, and they are on the rise, according to recent figures.

In 2016 there were 420,000 diagnoses of sexually transmitted infections in England, including a 12 per cent increase nationwide in cases of syphilis.

Rates of gonorrhoea are also soaring particularly in London, which earlier this year was revealed to be the city with the highest STI levels in the UK.

Failing to get a diagnosis and treatment for an STI can cause pelvic inflammatory disease in women, and infertility in both men and women.

But do you know the symptoms of gonorrhoea, chlamydia and syphilis? The NHS has revealed the signs to look out for.

Gonorrhoea

They usually develop within two weeks of an infection, but can sometimes take months to appear. The signs vary between men and women.

Women:
– an unusual vaginal discharge, which may be thin or watery and green or yellow in colour

– pain or a burning sensation when passing urine

– pain or tenderness in the lower abdominal area (this is less common)

– bleeding between periods, heavier periods and bleeding after sex (this is less common)

Men:
– an unusual discharge from the tip of the penis, which may be white, yellow or green

– pain or a burning sensation when urinating

– inflammation (swelling) of the foreskin

– pain or tenderness in the testicles (this is rare)

Syphilis

The first signs usually develop within two to three weeks of infection, and can be split into early symptoms and later symptoms.

Early symptoms:

– the main symptom is a small, painless sore or ulcer called a chancre that you might not notice

– the sore will typically be on the penis, vagina, or around the anus, although they can sometimes appear in the mouth or on the lips, fingers or buttocks

– most people only have one sore, but some people have several

– you may also have swollen glands in your neck, groin or armpits

Later symptoms:

– a blotchy red rash that can appear anywhere on the body, but often develops on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet

– small skin growths (similar to genital warts) – on women these often appear on the vulva and for both men and women they may appear around the anus

– white patches in the mouth

– flu-like symptoms, such as tiredness, headaches, joint pains and a high temperature (fever)

– swollen glands

– occasionally, patchy hair loss

Chlamydia

This is one of the most common STIs in the UK, and, worryingly, it often doesn’t trigger any symptoms. If signs do appear, however, they may include the following.

– pain when urinating

– unusual discharge from the vagina, penis or rectum (back passage)

– in women, pain in the tummy, bleeding during or after sex, and bleeding between periods

– in men, pain and swelling in the testicles

If you think you may have an STI, you should visit your GP or local sexual health clinic. Find out more information here.

Complete Article HERE!

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Here’s what happens when you get an STI test — and if it comes back positive

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By Erin Van Der Meer

[I]f you’ve never had an STI test, you’re probably imagining it’s a horrendously awkward experience where a mean, judgmental doctor pokes around your nether regions.

But like getting a needle or going to your first workout in a while, it’s one of those things that seems much worse in your mind than it is in reality.

For starters, often you don’t even have to pull down your pants.

“If someone comes in for a routine test for sexually transmissible infections (STIs) and they don’t have any symptoms, they usually don’t need a genital examination,” Dr Vincent Cornelisse, a spokesperson for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, told Coach.

“The tests that are ordered will depend on that person’s risk of STIs – some people only need a urine test, some need a self-collected anal or vaginal swab, and some people need a blood test.

“We aim to make this process as hassle-free as possible, in order to encourage people to have ongoing regular testing for STIs.”

Cornelisse says the embarrassment and stigma that some of us still feel about getting an STI test is unnecessary.

“STIs have been around for as long as people have been having sex, so getting an STI is nothing to be ashamed about, it’s a normal part of being human.

“Getting an STI test is an important part of maintaining good health for anyone who is sexually active.”

If you’re yet to have an STI test or it’s been a long time, here’s what you need to know.

How often do you need an STI test?

On average it’s good to get an STI test once a year, but some people should go more often.

“Some people are more affectionate than others, so some need to test every three months – obviously, if someone has symptoms that suggest that they may have an STI, then a physical examination is an important part of their assessment.”

As a general rule, people under 30, men who have sex with men, and people who frequently have new sexual partners should go more often.

To get an STI test ask your GP, or find a sexual health clinic in your area – the Family Planning Alliance Australia website can help you locate one.

What happens at the test?

As Cornelisse mentioned, the doctor will ask you some questions to determine which tests you need, whether it’s a urine test, blood test or genital inspection.

You’ll be asked questions about your sexual orientation, the number of sexual partners you’ve had, your sexual practices (like whether you’ve had unprotected sex), whether you have any symptoms, whether you have injected drugs, and whether you have any tattoos or body piercings.

Your results will be sent away and returned in about one week.

What if you test positive?

There’s no reason to panic if your results show you have an STI – if anything, you should feel relieved, Cornelisse says.

“If you hadn’t had the test, you wouldn’t have realised you had an STI and you wouldn’t have had the opportunity to treat it.

“Most STIs are easily treatable, and the other ones can be managed very well with modern medicine. So don’t feel shame, feel proud – you’re adulting!”

You’ll need to tell your recent sexual partners. While it might be a little awkward, they’ll ultimately appreciate you showing that you care about them.

“People often stress about this, but in my experience people appreciate it if their sexual partner has bothered to tell them about an STI – it shows them that you respect them,” Cornelisse says.

“Also, if this is a sexual partner who you’re likely to have sex with again, not telling them means that you’re likely to get the same STI again.”

The risks of leaving an STI untreated

You can probably think of 400 things you’d rather do than go for an STI test, but the earlier a sexually transmitted infection is caught, the better.

A recent spate of “super-gonorrhea” – a strain of the disease resistant to normal antibiotics –can result in fertility problems, but people who contract it show no symptoms, meaning getting tested is the only way to know you have it, and treat it.

“Untreated STIs can cause many serious problems,” Cornelisse warns.

“For women, untreated chlamydia can cause pelvic scarring, resulting in infertility and chronic pelvic pain.

“Syphilis is making a comeback, and if left untreated can cause many different problems, including damage to the brain, eyes and heart.

“If HIV is left untreated it will result in damage to the immune system — resulting in life-threatening infections and cancers — which is called AIDS.”

There is a long-term treatment for AIDS, but this depends on it being caught early.

“People living with HIV now can live a healthy life and live about as long as people without HIV, but the chance of living a healthy life with HIV depends on having the HIV diagnosed early and starting treatment early.

“Which it’s why it’s so important to be tested regularly, particularly as many STIs often don’t cause symptoms, so you won’t know you have one.”

Looking at the big picture, if you have an undiagnosed and untreated STI, you could give it to your sexual partners, who pass it onto theirs, which is how you got it.

“Getting a regular STI test is not only important for your own health, it also makes you a responsible sexual partner,” Cornelisse says.

“I encourage people to discuss STI testing with their sexual partners. If your sexual partners are also getting tested regularly, it reduces your risk of getting an STI.”

Complete Article HERE!

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6 sexually transmitted infections you should know about and how to treat them

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“Sex is great, but safe sex is better

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[S]exual Health Week upon us, which means it’s time to have that awkward STI chat.

You might be in a loving relationship or think you’re a few decades past your sexual prime, but the STI talk isn’t just for teenagers. According to research last year there has been a surge in sexually transmitted infections in the over 45s (with a dramatic 25% increase in STI diagnosis in women over 65s).

Meanwhile, back in December, it was reported that a third of Brits with an STI caught it while in a relationship – the survey also revealed 39% of people didn’t tell their partner they had an infection.

STIs have been with us for centuries. In the past mercury, arsenic and sulphur were used to treat venereal disease – which had serious side-effects, including death due to mercury poising. The introduction of Penicillin and modern medicine in the 20th century meant, thankfully, the big difference now is that greater awareness and modern medicine means they can be treated much more effectively.

Prevention and education is best practice, so here are what you need to know about six of the more commonly-known STIs…

1. Chlamydia

Chlamydia is the most common STI in the UK mainly due to many people not knowing that they have it. Symptoms can vary between men and women and most have no symptoms at all.

Men can experience pain or burning whilst urinating, cloudy discharge from the tip of their penis, and discomfort in their testes.

Women can sometimes experience a similar discomfort when urinating and discharge from their vagina, pain and/or bleeding during or after sex, and heavier or irregular periods. Usually though, they have no symptoms at all.

If chlamydia is untreated it can lead to serious pelvic infections and infertility so it is very much worth getting checked regularly.

How to treat it

Chlamydia can be diagnosed through a simple urine test, and fortunately can be treated with a single dose of antibiotics.

2. Genital Warts

Genital warts are the second most common STI and can be identified as small fleshy growths around the genitals or anal area. The warts are generally not painful, however may be itchy and irritable. While condoms are the best preventative method for genital warts because they are spread by skin-to-skin contact the area around the genitals my still become infected.

Treatment

Creams and freezing can get rid of them.

3. Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is a common infection and is caused by the same virus that causes cold sores (HPV).

Symptoms can occur a few days after infection and can generally be identified by small uncomfortable blisters which can really hurt – making urinating or just moving around very uncomfortable. The blisters go away by themselves after about 10 days but very often come back again whenever your immunes system gets a bit low or distracted.

Treatment

Unfortunately, there is currently no definitive cure for genital herpes, however each attack can be very effectively managed by using anti-viral medications which you can get from your doctor. Try to have the medications on hand because the sooner you use them in each attack the better they will work.

4. Gonorrhoea

Gonorrhoea is caused by bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoeae or gonococcus. It can spread easily through intercourse, the symptoms are similar to those of chlamydia except usually more pronounced. If the person experiences discharge from their penis or vagina it can either be yellow or green in colour and there can be quite a lot of it.

Like Chlamydia though, the symptoms are not always present.

Treatment

The infection can be identified through a swab or urine test, and can be treated with antibiotics. Unfortunately, bacteria is getting resistant to more and more antibiotics and treatment is getting more difficult. Right now, though it is still well treated with an antibiotic injection.

5. Pubic lice or ‘crabs’

Crabs have commonly been seen as the funny STI and are often the punch line to many a joke. But as with all STIs, the reality really isn’t very funny.

Also known as pubic lice, crabs can be easily spread through bodily contact. They are usually found in pubic, underarm and body hair, as well as in beards and sometimes in eyebrows and eyelashes. The lice crawl from person to person, and can take weeks to become visible. They are usually spotted due to itchiness and in some cases people can find eggs in their hair.

Treatment

Pubic Lice can usually be treated using creams or shampoos which can be purchased readily from pharmacies.

6. HIV

Of all the STIs mentioned HIV probably is the most famous and feared. In the 1980s having HIV was effectively a death sentence and, tragically, it brought with it huge stigma. Thankfully, today modern drugs have had a huge impact on the HIV community, enabling them to live happy and healthy lives. But what is it?

HIV is a virus which attacks the immune system and is most commonly spread through unprotected sex. Many people with HIV appear healthy and do not display any symptoms, but they may experience a flu-like illness with a fever when they first become infected.

The final stage of HIV is AIDS, this is where the immune system is no longer able to fight against infections and diseases.

Treatment

There is currently no cure for HIV – however, modern medicine has come a long way enabling people to live long and otherwise normal lives.

Sex is great, but safe sex is better. If you’re concerned about STI’s visit your local sexual health clinic for a screening.

Complete Article HERE!

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How To Tell Your Partner You Have An STI

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By Cory Stieg

[E]arly on in relationships, it can feel like you have to be careful and strategic about what information to divulge to your partner and when. This is particularly true when it comes to sexual health, because although your partner doesn’t need to know about every time you’ve had bacterial vaginosis in your lifetime, they may need to know about your STI status.

If you have an STI, it’s your responsibility to tell your partners before you have sex, says Kristen Lilla, LCSW, a sex therapist and sexuality educator. That way, your partner can make an informed decision that’s right for them. “There’s no law about discussing your STI status, but it is the ethical thing to do for your health and someone else’s,” Lilla says.

That said, no one has the right to judge you simply because of your current or previous STI status — so just because it’s important to share these health details, that doesn’t mean your partner is free to shame you. Each day, more than 1 million STIs are acquired worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, so there’s no reason to justify or apologize for your STI status, Lilla says.

There’s not necessarily a perfect time to tell your partner that you have an STI, because every relationship progresses at a different pace, but you should absolutely do it before having sex, Lilla says. “Some people prefer to have this conversation right away when they begin dating someone, and may not want to be with someone who judges them for having an STI,” she says. “Other people do not want to be judged, and may feel embarrassed or even guilty, so they might prefer to wait until they get to know someone and have established some trust before discussing it.” But if you wait to share your STI status after you’ve already had sex, then it can make your partner feel betrayed, Lilla says. Although you might be comfortable having sex and using condoms as a barrier method to reduce the risk of STI transmission, your partner might not be if they know you have a particular STI — and that’s okay, but it warrants a (sex-positive and shame-free) conversation to figure out where everyone’s boundaries are.

If someone judges you for having an STI, you deserve to be with someone else who won’t judge you.

Kristen Lilla, LCSW

So, how do you have the talk? Find a time and place that allows you and your partner to actually discuss the topic calmly — preferably out of your bedroom, Lilla says. “If you feel comfortable, it’s okay to talk about how you feel about your STI status,” Lilla says. For example, you can start by saying, I really like you, so this is difficult for me to talk about, Lilla says. Or, I know some people are freaked out by STIs, but I’m not ashamed to share my status. “It also helps to let the other person know if you are taking medications or not, and give them an opportunity to ask questions,” Lilla says. You don’t have to explain to someone how you got an STI, but you should be prepared to answer any specific questions that your partner has about the STI you have, and how that impacts their risk, she says.

Of course, the details of the conversation are dependent upon the people involved and the STI in question. If you have a bacterial STI, such as chlamydia, then your conversation will probably be different than one about a viral STI, like herpes, Lilla says. That’s because one STI is treatable, and the other isn’t. If you have an STI that’s been treated, Planned Parenthood suggests you say something like, I think it’s important to be honest, so I want to tell you that I got tested for STIs last month and found out I had chlamydia. I took medicine, and I don’t have it anymore. But it showed me how common and sneaky STIs are. Have you ever been tested? There are different implications for every type of STI, so this might not be exactly what you say. For many people, talking about getting tested can be a good jumping-off point.

This may all be easier said than done, since STIs can be a tough topic to navigate, especially if you already feel vulnerable, Lilla says. Unfortunately, many people feel embarrassed or ashamed about having STIs because of unfair societal stigma. But as long as you’re honest, you can’t go wrong — and again, nobody should shame you for having an STI. “If someone judges you for having an STI, you deserve to be with someone else who won’t judge you,” Lilla says.

Ultimately, you’re obligated to make sure your partner knows everything there is to know about your current STI status, so they can make the decision that’s right for them (and vice versa). And if you talk to your partner before becoming sexually active, then you haven’t exposed them to anything, so there’s nothing to apologize for. “What’s more important is to talk with your partner about how to move forward being sexually active in a way that feels safe and comfortable for both of you,” Lilla says.

Complete Article HERE!

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What to do when your teen tells you they have a sexually transmitted infection

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[B]y now, most parents likely know that not talking about sex with their teens will not stop them from doing it. And, as a parent, you might even have done some reading on how to have The Talk with your kids. Maybe you think you’ve done everything right when it comes to having important conversations with your teen. Or maybe you’ve been avoiding the discussion because you’re not sure where to start.

No matter which category you fit into, you may still find yourself as the parent whose kid comes home and tells them they think they might have a sexually transmitted infection (STI), or that they have contracted an STI. The way you respond to that bombshell can make all the difference for your child going forward — in their relationship with you, with future partners, and with themselves. “Often, the response of the people that you confide in when you first have a diagnosis shapes how you see your condition from then on out,” says Myisha Battle, a San Francisco-based sex coach. “It’s important that parents have a response that can potentially produce a positive outcome for kids when they’re disclosing.”

That, of course, is easier said than done. Heather Corinna, founder of Scarleteen, a sex ed web site for youth, and author of S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Sexuality Guide to Get You Through Your Teens and Twenties, says that the groundwork for a positive response begins before your child ever receives a diagnosis. In fact, the way you talk about STIs from the beginning may determine whether your child even comes to you if they’re worried about their sexual health. And that, says Corinna, includes things like not talking about any infectious illness in a stigmatized way. “The closer we get to people, the more susceptible we are to infections,” Corinna explains. So if you wouldn’t talk about getting the chicken pox or a cold from someone as something gross, you shouldn’t talk about STIs that way, either. “When STIs come up in media or if people make a stigmatizing joke, correct it,” Corinna says. “Also important is not assigning value to people who do or don’t have an STI.”

And, no matter how many safer sex conversations you have (or haven’t) had with your kid, even people who do everything right can contract an STI. “STIs can happen even if you use protection and get tested,” says Ella Dawson, a writer who was diagnosed with herpes at 20. According to the CDC, nearly all sexually active people will contract HPV in their lifetime; two in three people worldwide have herpes simplex I and half of new infections are genital. The CDC considers both chlamydia and gonorrhea to be common infections. But, as Corinna points out, “The tricky thing is that when we talk about STIs, we’re talking about easily treatable illnesses like chlamydia versus [something like] HIV.”

Something else that might affect how involved a parent is or needs to be is how a young person contracted their STI in the first place. Often, STIs are contracted during consensual sexual interactions, but they can also be contracted during abuse or an assault. Corinna says that the biggest concern that they hear at Scarleteen from teens who have STIs is that their parents or caregivers will be disappointed in them. But, more serious than that, are fears that they may be kicked out of their house for having sex. Or, “if it happens in a wanted or ongoing relationship,” says Corinna, “there is the fear that their parents will punish them by refusing to let them see the person anymore.” All of these things may prevent a young person from disclosing their status to their parent or caregiver, or to avoid seeking medical attention all together.

“Teens with STIs need two things,” says Dawson. Those things are “access to medical care, and support. Make sure that your child has gotten a quality diagnosis from a medical professional, and also make sure that they are being treated with respect by their physician,” she says. Then, bombard them with unconditional love and support. It’s also important to do what you can to avoid adding to the shame and stigma your child might already be feeling. “Believe me, they don’t need you to confirm their own feelings of shame and regret,” Dawson warns.

Of course, it’s normal for parents to panic when their kid comes to them with an unexpected revelation like an STI diagnosis, but “it’s important to keep that freak out away from your kid,” says Battle. Corinna encourages parents to put aside their emotional reaction and get themselves educated so they can best help the young person in their lives. “If you’re in denial about [your] young person having sex, try to move past it and help them with what they need. If it’s about you controlling their health care and not giving them access, fix that,” Corinna says. “If you didn’t have conversations about what it means to be sexual with someone else, it’s time to have this conversation.”

Everyone agrees that the best way to be helpful as a parent is to take your lead from your child. “If they are upset, validate that. If they don’t feel bad about it, don’t make it a big deal,” suggests Corinna. Demonizing the transmitter, especially if that person is a partner, is not a helpful tactic and may alienate your child. Also not helpful? Trying to implement behavior modifications that same day, like taking them immediately to buy condoms, because it may feel like blaming. Also, going behind the young person’s back and calling their healthcare provider or their partner or telling a co-parent without getting explicit permission are surefire ways to lose a teen’s trust.

If your child isn’t sure what their diagnosis means, it can be a great time to get educated together. If they’re unsure if they might have an STI, “ask, ‘What are your symptoms? Let’s go to trusted website and find out what next steps should be.’ Or if it’s a diagnosis, it’s still an opportunity to sit down and ask what they learned at the doctor and what they know, so you can understand the next steps,” says Battle. Check out the resources on Scarleteen, the CDC’s website, or the American Social Health Association.

If you haven’t had great sex education yourself, learn along with your teen. After there is some distance, you can initiate another conversation about safer sex and make sure your teen has access to the appropriate supplies to help them avoid an STI in the future.

At the end of the day, what’s most important is letting your child know that an STI does not change the way you see them. This “does not mean your child has erred, ruined their future, or shown their true, negative character. Anyone can get an STI, even if you’re on the Dean’s list,” says Dawson. “What’s really important is that your kid is having a respectful, consensual and healthy sex life.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Men who have sex with men account for over 80% of syphilis infection rates in the US

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MSM are 106 times more likely to get syphilis than men who exclusively have sex with women

Doctors advise waiting for the skin to heal after shaving before having sex

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A new study of syphilis transmission rates reveals men who have sex with men account for 81.7% of cases in the United States.

This study found gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men are 106 times more likely to get the sexually transmitted disease.

Researchers analyzed data collected in 2015 and compiled the first of its kind state-by-state report on syphilis rates.

The study found gay and bisexual men living in the South had the highest rates of the disease, such as North Carolina, Mississippi and Louisiana.

North Carolina, for example, had 748 cases per 100,000 gay and bisexual men.

Alaska had the fewest cases, with only 73 cases per 100,000 gay and bisexual men.

HIV infects healthy immune cells in the human body by inserting its DNA into the cell’s genome

Fred Wyand, spokesman for the American Sexual Health Association urged people to look at the broader picture.

Wyand said: ‘Better access to healthcare, more welcoming attitudes, better support systems are all important, of course,’ WebMD reports.

‘We need to understand there are challenges faced by many gay and bisexual men greater than what most folks endure,’ Wyand concluded.

For a full list of State-specific cases of syphilis, check out the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Why do men who have sex with men report higher numbers of syphilis?

A further breakdown highlights men who have sex with men accounts for 309 cases per 100,000.

This is in contrast to men who only have sex with women accounting for 2.9 cases per 100,000.

And women with 1.8 cases per 100,000.

Dr Robert Grant, chief medical officer of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation explains why this might be the case.

Grant told CBS News: ‘Now that we have effective therapies for HIV, people who were previously untested and tested infrequently are now getting tested.

‘Sexually transmitted infections tend to go together.

If they come in and ask for HIV testing, we test for syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea as well.

‘People have everything to gain and nothing to lose by getting an HIV and syphilis test.

‘This report will help reinvigorate people’s awareness and hopefully send the message that by getting a test and following through with treatment, we can decrease or even eliminate syphilis as a problem,’ Grant said.

Complete Article HERE!

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