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7 Not-So-Deadly Myths About STDs

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STDs can be scary – if you don’t know the facts.

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Due to the highly stigmatized nature of sexually transmitted diseases and infections, it’s no wonder everything from STD prevention to transmission gets cloaked in confusion and misconception. STDs rarely get talked about without a hidden agenda: fear. Fair enough. STDs can be scary – if you don’t know the facts.

Lucky for you, we do.

Not only are STDs either treatable or manageable these days, but they’re rarely deadly. Bet you didn’t know that, right? We’ve gathered seven other not-so-deadly myths about STDs: explained, decrypted and vetted for your educational benefit.

You’re welcome.

Envy – If You Have an STD, You are Alone

There are more than 30 sexually transmitted infections and diseases. Of the STDs that are diagnosed annually, only some (gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, hepatitis A and B, and HIV) are required to be reported to state health departments and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).The CDC reports that more than 19 million documented new infections occur annually – some curable, some not. Couple that information with the number of cases not getting documented (the other 24 or so STDs), and it’s plain to see that if you are diagnosed with an STD, you are not alone – at all. (What’s it like to have an STD? Read more in Honey, I Have Herpes.)

Sloth – People with STDs Are Dirty

STDs are transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, genital fluids and blood by way of intimate contact, oral sex, vaginal sex and anal sex. Unless you think sex is inherently dirty, STDs are anything but. Washing, douching and genital hygiene methods do not prevent STDs; in fact, genital washing practices after exposure can even increase transmission risk.Clean and dirty are terms of the past. Now, it’s safer sex (or lack thereof) that determines risk.

Gluttony – People with STDs are Promiscuous

That someone has ever contracted an STD or is living with an STD now is not an indicator of that person’s sexual proclivity. Yup, cue the gasp.

In order to contract an STD, a person must engage in one of the aforementioned sexual activities at least once. But once is all it takes. I work both with people who contracted an STD during their very first sexual encounter and those who’ve had a number of sexual forays but have never contracted an STD because they’ve been diligent in their safer-sex practices.

Whether it’s your first or 30th sexual encounter, the risk of contracting an STD is based on the activity you’re enjoying and the measures you take to protect yourself.

Lust – If You Have an STD, Your Sex-Life is Over

If you have an STD, your sex life might change, but you will definitely be able to have one. As someone who’s lived with an STD for 14 years, I can attest to the ability to have an enjoyable and healthy sex life regardless of living with an STD. Quite frankly, my STD has never precluded a partner from wanting to engage in sexual activities with me.

While I’ve had to be more conscientious of risk and transmission – not only to others, but to myself as well (having an STD increases the risk of contracting new STDs), my sex life has hummed along quite nicely. After you bridge the initial challenge of when to tell a new partner about your STD – and how – yours will too.

Wrath – People with STDs Infect People on Purpose

More than half of all people will contract an STD at some point in their lifetime – most won’t know it.Sure, I’ve heard of those horror stories where someone was sleeping with as many people as possible in order to spread their infection, but those situations are not the norm. Most transmissions occur because people are unaware they have an infection at all, and/or people are not engaging in comprehensive safer-sex.

Pride – I Don’t Need to Get Tested

The most common symptom for all STDs is no symptom, which is also why most people are unaware they have contracted an STD. Subsequently, without getting tested, there’s no way to know for sure. 

Think you’ve been tested during your pap smear? Think again. Certain types of pap smears may include HPV testing, and it is also possible that swelling or damage from other STDs could show up on your pap smear. However, that is not the same as undergoing comprehensive STD screening.

Keep in mind that an untreated or asymptomatic STD can still be transmitted to others, and can cause serious health problems for the carrier as well. For example, at least 15 percent of all cases of infertility among American women can be attributed to tubal damage caused by an untreated STD.

Greed – It Costs Too Much to Practice Safer Sex

Safer sex is actually easier and less expensive than you might think. Only two out of four steps in a comprehensive safer-sex practice involve monetary items to begin with, and even those are often attainable at a low-cost or for free. These include:

  1. Talking to a partner about safer sex before engaging in activities with them.
  2. Having a full STD screenings and sexual health exam at least once a year and more often if you have new or multiple partners.
  3. Using barriers consistently and correctly.
  4. Making safer lifestyle choices to reduce risk, such as having mutually exclusive relationships, limiting drugs and alcohol, or reducing the number of sexual partners you have at one time.

Now that you know a little more about STDs, you may need to get tested. Use this handy-dandy testing finder to locate your nearest provider. (Get more facts about sexual health in The Shocking Truth About STDs.)

Complete Article HERE!

Even Fewer Kids Are Learning Basic Things About Sex Ed

BY TARA CULP-RESSLER

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The United States, which has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the developed world, isn’t exactly known for its top-notch sexual health resources. But a new study suggests that our country’s sex ed has gotten even worse in recent years.

Even fewer teens are now getting basic sex ed information, like formal instruction about how to use birth control, according to researchers at the Guttmacher Institute who compared sexual health data over a seven year period.

The researchers compared data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during two of the agency’s survey periods: the 2006–2010 survey and 2011–2013 survey. These surveys included questions for teens about whether they ever received formal sex education materials — like how to prevent sexually transmitted infections, how to say no to sex, how to put on a condom, and how to use different methods of contraception — before they turned 18.

In the 2006-2010 survey period, 70 percent of girls and 61 percent of boys said they had received some information about birth control methods. But in the later survey period, those numbers dropped to 60 percent among girls and 55 percent among boys.

As time passed, fewer girls also reported receiving any formal education on how to prevent STDs and how to say no to sex. These declines were particularly acute in rural areas of the country, where teens already struggle with higher rates of unintended pregnancies.

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The study’s lead researcher, Laura Duberstein Lindberg, characterized the declines in sex ed instruction as “distressing.” She also pointed out that this data fits into a bigger pattern in the United States. Over the past two decades, the number of teens receiving formal instruction about birth control has been steadily declining, and abstinence-only classes that don’t include accurate information about sexual health have persisted.

“The United States is moving in the wrong direction,” said Leslie Kantor, the vice president of education at Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest sex ed provider. “Sex education can make a real difference in adolescents’ overall health and well-being. The fact that young people are being deprived of information critical to their sexual health is unacceptable.”

Only 21 states and the District of Columbia currently require sex education and HIV education to be taught in public schools. An even fewer number, 18, explicitly require information about contraception in the classroom. On the other end of the spectrum, 37 states mandate that schools should focus on lessons about abstinence.

There’s a lot of evidence that providing teens with accurate information about sex ed helps them make healthier choices. Sex ed classes are actually linked to a delay in sexual activity — suggesting that, instead of spurring teens to become more sexually active, talking to them about sex actually helps them make more thoughtful decisions about their bodies.

“We need to right the ship, get back on track, and make sure all students receive quality sex education that prepares them to make informed and healthy decisions,” said Debra Hauser, the president of Advocates for Youth, a nonprofit group focusing on the reproductive health issues that are important to young people.

 Complete Article HERE!

Gay Sex Questions, Answered by Davey Wavey’s Doctor: WATCH

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There is a lot of misinformation out there about gay sex. In an attempt to separate the myths from the facts, blogger Davey Wavey made an appointment with his physician, Dr. Jay Gladstein, to get to the bottom of things.

Among the things that you’ll find out in this check-up with Dr. Gladstein:

Does having anal sex stretch out your anus? … Can a dick ever be too big? … Is frequent douching bad for your body, and what should you douche with? … Why are some guys physically able to bottom and some aren’t? …. Is it important to tell your doctor you’re gay? … Why can’t gay men give blood? … Does bottoming cause hemorrhoids? … Does bottoming increase risk of prostate cancer? … Is the stigma of having many sexual partners justified? … Can you get STDs from swallowing semen? … If you are undetectable what are the chances of transmitting HIV? … Why is gay sex so fun?

Watch:

This Sex Researcher Says Scientists Are Scared of Criticizing Monogamy

Monogamous people catch STDs just as often as swingers, but use condoms and get tested less often, a new survey suggests. Some sex researchers say a scholarly bias toward monogamy makes studies like this all too rare.

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People in monogamous relationships catch sexually transmitted diseases just as often as those in open relationships, a new survey suggests, largely due to infidelity spreading infections.

Reported in the current Journal of Sexual Medicine, the survey of 554 people found that monogamous couples are less likely to use condoms and get tested for STDs — even when they’re not being faithful to their partner.

“It turns out that when monogamous people cheat, they don’t seem to be very good about using condoms,” Justin Lehmiller, a psychologist at Ball State University and author of the study, told BuzzFeed News by email. “People in open relationships seem to take a lot of precautions to reduce their sexual health risks.”

The finding matters because people who think they are in monogamous relationships may face higher odds of an infection than they suspect, Lehmiller and other researchers told BuzzFeed News. And a stigma around open relationships that views such couples as irresponsible — even among researchers who conduct studies — may be skewing the evidence.

One in four of the 351 monogamous-relationship participants in Lehmiller’s survey said they had cheated on their partners, similar to rates of sexual infidelity reported in other surveys. About 1 in 5, whether monogamous or not, reported they had been diagnosed with an STD. Participants averaged between 26 to 27 years old, and most (70%) were women.

For people in supposedly exclusive relationships, Lehmiller said, “this risk is compounded by the fact that cheaters are less likely to get tested for (STDs), so when they pick something up, they are probably less likely to find out about it before passing it along.”

Psychologist Terri Conley of the University of Michigan told BuzzFeed News that the survey results echoed her team’s findings in a 2012 Journal of Sexual Medicine study that found people in open relationships were more likely to use condoms correctly in sexual encounters than people in exclusive relationships.

To bolster confidence in the results, Conley said, more funding is needed to test research subjects for STDs directly, rather than relying on their own notoriously unreliable self reporting of infections.

She compared just assuming that monogamous relationships are safer to assuming abstinence education will really stop teenagers from having sex: “Sure, abstinence would be great, but we know that isn’t reality.”

To put it another way, Lehmiller said, “there’s a potential danger in monogamy in that if your partner puts you at risk by cheating, you’re unlikely to find out until it’s too late.”

Sex researchers don’t want to criticize monogamy, Conley added, making funding a definitive study more difficult.

In a commentary on Lehmiller’s study in Journal of Sexual Medicine, Conley argued that sex researchers are “committed to the the belief that monogamy is best” and are “reluctant to consider contradictory evidence.”

“I’m not saying monogamy is bad,” Conley said. “What I found is that the level of hostility among reviewers to suggesting people in consensual non-monogamous relationships are more responsible is really over the top.”

Conley said she initially struggled to publish her 2012 study. When she changed the framing of its conclusion to find that “cheaters” in monogamous relationships were more irresponsible, the study was suddenly published.

“Even in a scientific review process, challenging researchers’ preconceived notions is perilous,” she wrote in her commentary.

Other relationship researchers disagree, however, saying that sociologists have cast shade on monogamy — finding declines in happiness, sexual satisfaction, and frequency of intercourse — for decades. “This is about as widespread a finding as one gets,” Harry Reis, a psychologist at the University of Rochester, told BuzzFeed News. He called the idea that social scientists are biased against studies showing the value of non-monogamous relationships was “poppycock.”

Sex researcher Debbie Herbernick of Indiana University echoed this view, saying funding is not an issue: “I’ve never seen much negative reaction or pushback.”

More critically, Reis said, reviewers might be dubious about the data collected on open relationships, given their relative rarity making reliable data collection difficult.

Although Lehmiller published his study, he agreed with Conley that a stigma still marks open relationships, even in science. “People, including many sex researchers,” he said, “have a tendency to put monogamy on a pedestal and to be very judgmental when it comes to consensual non-monogamy.”

Complete Article HERE!

No, Scientists Have Not Found the ‘Gay Gene’

By Ed Yong

The media is hyping a study that doesn’t do what it says it does.

A woman works with human genetic material at a laboratory in Munich May 23, 2011. On May 25, 2011 the ethic commission of the German lower house of parliament (Bundestag) will discuss about alternative proposals for a new law on the use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (Praeimplantationsdiagnostik) is a technique used to identify genetic defects in embryos created through in vitro fertilization (IVF) before pregnancy, which is banned by German legislation.

This week, a team from the University of California, Los Angeles claimed to have found several epigenetic marks—chemical modifications of DNA that don’t change the underlying sequence—that are associated with homosexuality in men. Postdoc Tuck Ngun presented the results yesterday at the American Society of Human Genetics 2015 conference. Nature News were among the first to break the story based on a press release issued by the conference organisersOthers quickly followed suit. “Have They Found The Gay Gene?” said the front page of Metro, a London paper, on Friday morning.

Meanwhile, the mood at the conference has been decidedly less complimentary, with several geneticists criticizing the methods presented in the talk, the validity of the results, and the coverage in the press.

Ngun’s study was based on 37 pairs of identical male twins who were discordant—that is, one twin in each pair was gay, while the other was straight—and 10 pairs who were both gay. He analysed 140,000 regions in the genomes of the twins and looked for methylation marks—chemical Post-It notes that dictate when and where genes are activated. He whittled these down to around 6,000 regions of interest, and then built a computer model that would use data from these regions to classify people based on their sexual orientation.

The best model used just five of the methylation marks, and correctly classified the twins 67 percent of the time. “To our knowledge, this is the first example of a biomarker-based predictive model for sexual orientation,” Ngun wrote in his abstract.

The problems begin with the size of the study, which is tiny. The field of epigenetics is littered with the corpses of statistically underpowered studies like these, which simply lack the numbers to produce reliable, reproducible results.

Unfortunately, the problems don’t end there. The team split their group into two: a “training set” whose data they used to build their algorithm, and a “testing set”, whose data they used to verify it. That’s standard and good practice—exactly what they should have done. But splitting the sample means that the study goes from underpowered to really underpowered.

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There’s also another, larger issue. As far as could be judged from the unpublished results presented in the talk, the team used their training set to build several models for classifying their twins, and eventually chose the one with the greatest accuracy when applied to the testing set. That’s a problem because in research like this, there has to be a strict firewall between the training and testing sets; the team broke that firewall by essentially using the testing set to optimise their algorithms.

If you use this strategy, chances are you will find a positive result through random chance alone. Chances are some combination of methylation marks out of the original 6,000 will be significantly linked to sexual orientation, whether they genuinely affect sexual orientation or not. This is a well-known statistical problem that can be at least partly countered by running what’s called a correction for multiple testing. The team didn’t do that. (In an email to The Atlantic, Ngun denies that such a correction was necessary.)And, “like everyone else in the history of epigenetics studies they could not resist trying to interpret the findings mechanistically,” wrote John Greally from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in a blog post. By which he means: they gave the results an imprimatur of plausibility by noting the roles of the genes affected by the five epi-marks. One is involved in controlling immune genes that have been linked to sexual attraction. Another is involved in moving molecules along neurons. Could epi-marks on these genes influence someone’s sexual attraction? Maybe. It’s also plausible that someone’s sexual orientation influences epi-marks on these genes. Correlation, after all, does not imply causation.

So, ultimately, what we have is an underpowered fishing expedition that used inappropriate statistics and that snagged results which may be false positives. Epigenetics marks may well be involved in sexual orientation. But this study, despite its claims, does not prove that and, as designed, could not have.

In a response to Greally’s post, Ngun admitted that the study was underpowered. “The reality is that we had basically no funding,” he said. “The sample size was not what we wanted. But do I hold out for some impossible ideal or do I work with what I have? I chose the latter.” He also told Nature News that he plans to “replicate the study in a different group of twins and also determine whether the same marks are more common in gay men than in straight men in a large and diverse population.”Great. Replication and verification are the cornerstones of science. But to replicate and verify, you need a sturdy preliminary finding upon which to build and expand—and that’s not the case here. It may seem like the noble choice to work with what you’ve got. But when what you’ve got are the makings of a fatally weak study, of the kind well known to cause problems in a field, it really is an option—perhaps the best option—to not do it at all. (The same could be said for journalists outside the conference choosing to cover the study based on a press release.)As Greally wrote in his post: “It’s not personal about [Ngun] or his colleagues, but we can no longer allow poor epigenetics studies to be given credibility if this field is to survive. By ‘poor,’ I mean uninterpretable.”

“This is only representative of the broader literature,” he told me. “The problems in the field are systematic. We need to change how epigenomics research is performed throughout the community.”

Complete Article HERE!