The term sexually transmitted infection (STI) is used to describe over twenty different infections which are usually passed on from one person to another person by sexual contact. Sexual contact does not only mean intercourse. Some infections can be transmitted through hand to genital contact, or oral and anal sex. Sexually transmitted infections may cause trouble in any part of the body where intimate sexual contact has been made.
STIs are more common and more severe now than they have been in the recent past. In addition to the more familiar bacterial infections (such as gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia), the contraction of viral infections has increased dramatically. The most common sexually transmitted viral infections are known as the four H-viruses. They may be transmitted through sex and last a person's entire life. The H-viruses are:
- Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
- Herpes Simplex Virus
- Hepatitis B Virus
- Human Papilloma Virus (including genital warts)
No cure exists for these infections caused by viruses. In the case of HIV, the infection can lead to death.
Preventing the spread of infection is the best way to reduce the numbers of STIs. In general, the things you can do to protect yourself from HIV will also protect you from gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes, genital warts, and other STIs. Here are several things you can do to protect yourself from STIs:
- Abstain from all sexual activity with another person
Be sexually intimate with only one person, who is only sexually intimate with You (this is called mutual monogamy), when both of you are known to be Uninfected, and when trusting each other to be faithful is realistic and practical
Abstain from all sexual activities that could possibly result in the exchange of Infected body fluids (such as blood, vaginal secretions, semen, and saliva) Including vaginal, anal and oral sex, and also abstain from wet kissing when lips, Gums or other tissues are raw or bleeding
- Do not share injection equipment or needles of any kind
Be sexually intimate only when latex condoms, dental dams, rubber gloves, Or other barriers are used to prevent exchange of semen, blood, and vaginal Secretions (a spermicidal lubricant may be beneficial at the time of sex)
You may feel embarrassed and scared if you think you have been exposed to an STI, but asking for information and getting treatment are better than worrying and getting sicker. It is also extremely important that you talk to your partner about STIs and sexual histories. Even if it is uncomfortable to do, it can save your life. In some cases, it can even improve your relationship, like in the following case.
"I fell in love with a girl and just prior to having intercourse she told me she had herpes on the outer lips of her vagina. We did not have intercourse that night. Later, as we grew closer, I came to trust her. We decided that we could cooperate in taking precautions to prevent me from getting herpes. We used condoms every time. We had a beautiful relationship. I never got infected. Her conditions actually made our relationship deeper and closer because we trusted and cooperated with each other."
If you are not comfortable enough with your partner to talk about STIs, you should not be having sex.
I Don't Know Him Well Enough to Look!
A patient in a clinic had herpes and genital warts. When asked if her partner had any warts or lesions she replied, "I don't know him well enough to look." Although she knew this man well enough to have sex with him and to get two STIs from him, she didn't feel she knew him well enough to look at his penis.
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