Hi there! Once again we meet in the second article of the reproductive health series. Today I’ll be spilling the tea on STIs!
Are you dancing in the sheets safely or rather strapped? If yes, good for you! If not, well here is an interesting fact. Globally a million new cases of STIs are reported daily which is strong enough to read and write about! Let’s spill the tea already, shall we?
Gone are the days when people waited for marriage to have sex. We live in an era of sex positivity. Naturally, it’s a part of life for many. Just like food, clothing, and shelter are basic needs, sex has become the new basic need especially for youths! Pornography is a click away, dating apps are a swipe away, and full frontal nudity is just a TV show or movie away. Two thirds of 18 year olds have had sex and by 25 more than nine in ten people will have sex.
It’s not until positive results knock that we realize the magnitude of the aftermath!
If you have or have had an STI, you are not alone. WHO estimates 376 million new sexually transmitted infections yearly. Escalating rates of the global crisis of STIs are crystal clear. The most vulnerable groups are youths, sex workers, and men having sex with men.
Several factors have attributed to the spikes in STIs including:
- Decline in condom use with many opting for pull out method which is a half assed method.
- Drug influence which makes it easier to engage in risky sexual behavior. Also, injection drug use increases the risk of an STI.
- Multiple partners because the more partners you have the more exposed you are to an STI.
- Alcohol use. While drunk, judgement is reduced hence you are more likely to be less discriminating in whom you choose to have sex with.
- Sponsor factor where young women engage in sex with older men for money. They are also less likely to negotiate for safer sex.
Aspects of sex like contraception, abortion (# shout your abortion) are publicly addressed yet STIs seems to be taking the hard line. Lack of transparency and conversation surrounds STIs! A new era has to dawn where people are no longer ill informed about STIs, but where people are getting the facts right about STIs!
More than 30 different infections can be transmitted through sexual contact. 8 of the pathogens carry the highest burden of STIs. Of these infections, 4 are currently curable: Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and Trichomoniasis. The remaining 4 viral infections are : Herpes Simplex Virus, HIV, HPV, and Hepatitis B.
You can get an STI by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with a person with an STI.
Some can be spread via non sexual means such as infected blood contact e.g Syphilis, or skin to skin contact with an infected area e.g Herpes. Most STIs can be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy and child birth e.g Gonorrhea, HPV, Chlamydia, Syphilis, Hepatitis B, and Herpes.
It is important to arm ourselves with STI symptoms which can be mistaken for run of the mill conditions like flu. Most importantly, a person can have an STI and not show obvious symptoms.
Common symptoms include:
- Unusual vaginal or urethral discharge. You may notice change in volume, color, consistency, or odor in your discharge.
- Bumps, warts, lesions, or sores near the mouth or genitals.
- Itching, swelling, or redness near the genitals.
- Pain during or after sex ,or during urination.
- Skin rash.
- Night sweats.
- Unexplained weight loss.
Chlamydia(silent disease) and Gonorrhea( hard to spell, easy to catch) often lurk without symptoms. Sexually active women under 25 should normalize yearly routine screenings for these infections because they can be asymptomatic.
Untreated STIs can lead to infertility, cervical cancer, ectopic pregnancy, neurological & cardiovascular diseases, still births,and increased risk of HIV three fold. Frequently, STIs are associated with stigma especially for women . Society still thinks of women as loose or damaged goods. Viral STIs hit people the hardest because they are challenging to get rid of! I get that it’s difficult to accept, but it’s no longer the dark ages when people died of STIs. Timely detection and treatment is crucial given the effects that come with untreated STIs.
If you don’t seek treatment, to prevent the aftermath then do it because you don’t want the effects deciding the rest of your life! For example, infertility comes with losing the ability to bear a child and you don’t know if you would want a kid in future. It’s time to hush the gossip and stigma! Do it for your kids, loved ones, or future! Having an STI should have the same stigma as Malaria, meaning none. Shame and judgement only makes people less likely to seek screening, treatment, and care that can save lives.
The 100% way against STIs is abstinence from sex! It’s okay to say no if you don’t want to have sex ! Plus it’s a bonus not to be at risk of an STI. It’s your body and you get to decide what you engage in sexually as long as it’s consensual.
However, it’s of utmost importance to dance in the sheets strapped; use a condom! Consistent and correct use of condoms is the only and most effective way against STIs. Why choose pull out method where mistakes can occur while the real deal is right under your nose? In case of a condom burst ,visit the nearest hospital. Unless and until, you and your partner discuss sexual history, get screened for STIs, agree on a mutually monogamous relationship, and both of you want pregnancy then, it’s okay not to use a condom.