Tag Archives: STIs

The History Of Condoms

Condoms have been around in one form or another since ancient times. They have since become the most widely available form of contraception and when used properly can be up to 98% effective at preventing pregnancy. They are also the most important tool at our disposal for preventing the spread of STIs. If you have 8 mins take the time and check out this very engaging and entertaining documentary on The History of Condoms:

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The Most Painful Side Effect Of Genital Herpes Is Stigma

Most people know what herpes are. There’s the kind that gives you unsightly and painful cold sores on and around your mouth and there’s the kind that does so on and around your genitals. Herpes are extremely easily transmittable, requiring only skin to skin contact, with condoms being an ineffective form of prevention. About 1 in 6 Americans aged 14-49 have genital herpes causing them some pain and discomfort but more than anything else, embarrassment.

Perhaps the most devastating side effect of genital herpes is stigma. The stigma associated with herpes is absolutely brutal, especially considering the fact that it is non-lethal and, beyond it’s unsightliness, is harmless. It’s true, many people’s first herpes flare up can be painful or prolonged but we forget that the shame associated with herpes can cause significant emotional damage to many people who have the virus.

Sadly, herpes is incurable at this point in time. If you contract it, you have it for life. But there is something that can be done about herpes. The world at large can stop giving such an enormous fuck about it. Beyond the actual outbreaks, it’s such a non-thing, but even reading this I’m sure some of you are still completely turned off by the idea of herpes as though it were some giant mark of uncleanliness. “People with herpes are dirty sluts,” is the general consensus and in our society it is acceptable to openly mock them both in our personal lives but also, in some cases, in the media.

The shaming and the stigma surrounding herpes is one of the saddest consequences of the low level of sexual education amongst adults. It is so common, that when we speak flippantly and hurtfully about it in our social groups, the chance that someone present has herpes is quite high. Could you imagine being that person?

Herpes and HPV are so, so common. Most sexually active individuals have at least one of the two, the one’s with herpes and the strains of HPV that cause warts just happen to be the unlucky ones who have to explain their STIs to their partners (or worse, hide them) in hopes that they won’t run for the hills or shame them publicly. Imagine what effect this would have on a person’s confidence and sex life.

We need to educate ourselves on the realities of herpes and HPV and stop this culture of stigma surrounding them. We need to eradicate sexual shaming in all its forms, not just shame about orientation or how many partners one chooses to have, but the shame about the real consequences of simply having sex, because the only way to protect against herpes is abstinence. The only reason you don’t have herpes is because of dumb luck, and who knows, herpes can lie dormant and symptomless, it could be you that is giving herpes to the very people that you are shaming. Just think before you speak about herpes, are your words contributing to the worst side effects of this virus or healing them? There isn’t a cure for herpes, there is a cure for stigma.

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Penicillin, Not The Pill, May Have Sparked The Sexual Revolution

Most of you probably know the standard narrative of how the sexual revolution of the 60’s and 70’s came about. The birth control pill became available, everyone got on board and started having sex without fear of unwanted pregnancy. Hooray for sexual freedom! But a new theory could turn all that on it’s head.

According to the statistics, it was actually around the 1950’s that people started engaging in more and riskier sexual behaviour, more teens started to get pregnant and rates of illegitimate children rose. People were having more sex with more people in the 1950’s than in previous decades. These rates only continued to grow in the 1960’s and 70’s and were again increased by the advent of The Pill but the initial spike came years earlier than the birth control pill.

In the early 20th century, syphilis was an epidemic, comparable to the AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s and 90’s. It had the ability to cause blindness, dementia and even paralysis, and by the mid 1940’s had been contracted by approximately 600,000 Americans alone. The rate of syphilis deaths in the late 1930’s was almost as high as the rate of AIDS deaths in the mid 90’s and there was a 1 in 100 chance of a random sexual partner having the infection.

Enter: mouldy bread. Penicillin, a drug derived from bread mould proved to be a highly effective treatment for syphilis. By the end of WWII it was being widely used and by the late 1950’s syphilis was at an all time low. Around the same time, gonorrhea and unwanted pregnancies were starting to spike and continued to increase through the advent of The Pill and the sexual revolution. The increase in sexual promiscuity and freedom seemed to have begun much earlier than previously believed. There is no doubt that The Pill was an important factor in the free love movement but it is likely that penicillin was the real game changer.

In 2000, antiretroviral treatments for HIV/AIDS made it possible for carriers of the infection to have undetectable viral loads, meaning that it was far less likely for them to transmit the infection to their partners or suffer from the ill effects of AIDS. This seems to have changed the game once again, making HIV/AIDS a much less deadly STI. Much like in the case of penicillin, after the introduction of this kind of treatment, the rate of risky sex increased and there has actually been a marked spike in HIV transmission rates over the past decade or so.

I love it when a long held belief is questioned. It’s interesting to me that the 1950’s, a time most consider highly puritanical, was in fact an age of increased sexual promiscuity. But honestly, the theory makes sense to me. I never really got that the advent of The Pill could bring about a free love revolution, always in the back of my mind was the question, “What about all the STIs they must have contracted? Why doesn’t anyone talk about them?” (Of course, social and political factors were at play and helped create the sexual revolution as well). The Pill would have ushered in a new age of unprotected sex, sure there would be fewer pregnancies and HIV hadn’t come about yet, but still, it never seemed to add up for me, until now.

 

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Pubic Lice Are Becoming Endangered Due To Brazilian Waxing (How Deforestation Is Killing Yet Another Animal Species)

Pubic lice, known colloquially as crabs, were once a thriving species. As long as humans have been living, these six legged companions have been joining them, from the dawn of agriculture, through the rise and fall of empires, through all the ups and the downs. But something is killing the world’s population of pubic lice, something we know all too well. Brazilian waxing.

Brazilian waxing is the barbaric act of completely removing the pubic lice’s natural habitat for no other reason than aesthetics. Women and men routinely have their entire pubic region waxed leaving a baren and inhospitable wasteland for crabs. Since 2008, Sydney Australia’s leading sexual health clinic hasn’t seen one single case of pubic lice in women and has seen an 80% decrease in cases amongst men.

All joking aside, this probably isn’t the worst thing ever. Pubic lice used to be extremely common, extremely contagious and are a real itchy pain for everyone who has them. So good riddance I say! That being said, let’s not forget that waxing the pubic area can cause micro tears in the skin. Micro tears are little microscopic cuts and abrasions on the skin caused by the waxing process and having these open sores, as microscopic as they may be, can put you at a higher risk of contracting and transmitting other sexually transmitted infections. So by eliminating the habitat of one fairly benign STI (sexually transmitted infestation?) we could be opening ourselves up to far more malignant ones. Something to think about before going for that wax.

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Could Gonorrhea Become Incurable In Our Lifetime?

Gonorrhea is the second most common STI that one can contract. It’s symptoms include but aren’t limited to pain while urinating, discharge, itching, swelling and the potential for infertility in women. It is not a fun thing to have but thankfully it is very treatable. If you find yourself with gonorrhea, it’s likely that a doctor will prescribe you some antibiotics, you’ll take them and the gonorrhea will be dealt with. Can you see where I’m going with this?

As with any illness treated with antibiotics, the potential for an antibiotic resistant strain of the illness is always present. Unfortunately, the first cases of antibiotic resistant gonorrhea have recently been found in North America. There have already been cases found in other parts of the world, but let’s be honest, if it’s not happening here, North Americans don’t care as much about it. Here’s what was found:

In a study released Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a group of scientists led by Vanessa Allen of Public Health Ontario, found that 6.7 percent of patients with gonorrhea at a Toronto clinic still had the disease after a round of cephalosporins, the last effective oral antibiotic used to treat the disease. Of 133 patients who returned for a “test of cure” visit, nine remained gonorrhea-positive. This is the first time cephalosporin-resistant gonorrhea has been found in humans in North America.

When cephalosporin doesn’t work to treat gonorrhea, an injected antibiotic called ceftriaxone has been shown to be effective. The problem is that it’s only a matter of time before a strain of ceftriaxone resistant gonorrhea comes along. At that point there will be no way of treating the illness, incurable gonorrhea. Shitty.

I don’t know what the takeaway is here. Practice safer sex I guess. Take all your antibiotics if you’re ever prescribed them. Let’s hope that science can come up with something because I wouldn’t wish incurable gonorrhea on my worst enemy. Wear protection, aim for good, open and honest communication with all your sexual partners. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to them about their sexual history maybe you shouldn’t feel comfortable having sex with them. Sorry for the bummer everyone.

Via US News 

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HIV Disclosure Laws, Not Necessarily A Good Thing?

I was reading Dr. Justin Lehmiller’s most recent blog post oh The Psychology of Human Sexuality entitled “Are Laws Criminalizing HIV Transmission Making Us Safer?” The laws that he’s referring to are the ones that make it a legal requirement to disclose one’s HIV status to all of your partners. Now, to me, that sound’s like a no brainer; HIV is a deadly and highly contagious disease that has caused widespread damage across the globe. People who have it should have an obligation to disclose their status, right?

Well there are a couple of problems with making disclosure a legal thing. As Lehmiller states, “research has found that the sexual behaviors of HIV-positive individuals are no different in states with criminal transmission laws than they are in states without such laws.1,2Thus, there is no evidence that these laws even achieve the goal of promoting greater disclosure and safer sex.” So, first off, these laws just don’t seem to work. I mean that’s the hope for laws, right? That they’ll create an incentive for people to behave in a way that they might not if the law wasn’t in place. Well, that’s not happening with disclosure laws.

Another, more serious problem with disclosure laws is,

they could potentially reduce STI testing and treatment for some individuals by worsening the stigma associated with sexual infections. Some people may steer clear of testing because they know that a positive diagnosis would fundamentally alter their sex life and make it more difficult to find partners in the future. These persons may think that by remaining in the dark, they can carry on with their lives however they want, and if they end up infecting someone else, they can always claim ignorance as their defense. Beyond that, these laws may give HIV-negative individuals a false sense of security by placing responsibility for stopping the spread of the disease of those who are HIV-positive. To the extent that these laws lead people to falsely assume that their partners are negative unless they say otherwise, we may actually be undermining public safety. Instead, shouldn’t we be giving people the message that sexual communication is a two-way street and that it is not wise to make assumptions about other people’s sexual history?

Now, boy oh boy is this a sticky subject. I would highly recommend reading the article, it’s not that long. I’m not educated on the subject enough to have a meaningful opinion about it but Lehmiller raises some arguments that I just wouldn’t have thought of previously. It’s funny when something you think is completely uncontroversial is shown to you in a new light. Something to think on. I’ll leave you with his final sentence which echoes the sentiment that I often leave you with:

Going forward, it is important that the laws catch up with the science and that we do a better job of educating the public about the nature of STIs and the value of open and honest sexual communication.

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Scientists Working On Crazy New Discrete Female Condom Made Out Of Nano-Fabric…Or Something

Admittedly, this one is a little over my head. Scientists at the University of Washington published an article detailing their new idea for a female condom that protects against both unwanted pregnancy and HIV. It uses a method called electrospinning which is basically nano-knitting. Its a way of using an electric field to create extremely fine fibers with varying degrees of strength, shape and solubility. Because they are soluble and so versatile these fibers may turn out to be the best delivery method for contraceptive medicines.

So basically they make a really thin condom but its make up is able to both physically stop sperm and release chemicals that can kill sperm and stop the spread of STIs. Now, not everyone is super trigger happy to put a bunch of anti-HIV drugs in their system but presumably people who’s partners are HIV positive are going to love this idea and also it would stand to reason that they wouldn’t all have to have a chemical component if they also create a physical barrier.

The fibers can be made to dissolve quickly to create an immediate barrier or over the course of a few days in a sort of slow release birth control kinda way. If this thing goes into development (and it looks like it will because Bill and Melinda Gates have already thrown a million bucks at it) it’s impossible to know if people will actually use it. The major up side is that this is a contraceptive that protects against STIs that is in the hands of women and, as I’ve said in the past, this is something that women should take advantage of.

New advances in the field of sexual health are always interesting but not necessarily worth holding your breath for. There are ways that are available right now to take control of your sexual health, not the least of wich is educating yourself and communicating with your partners. So until the nano-bots are swimming through our bloodstream and eating up our disease we should probably get to know what is available to us in the here and now. Future sex will have to wait for the world of tomorrow true believers.

Via University Of Washington

 

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WTF Is Trichomoniasis?!

Most of us have heard of chlamydia and syphilis and herpes and gonorrhea and all the other lovely STIs that are available but fewer of us seem to have heard of Trichomoniasis or ‘Trich.’ It’s symptoms can look a bit like gonorrhea or chlamydia what with the uncomfortable, possibly odorous genital discharge. The reason why fewer people are likely to have heard of trich is that it isn’t regularly tested for in STI screenings. The CDC says that about 3.7 million people in America have it, or roughly 1% (#OccupyTrichStreet). Of that 3.7 mil, however, only about 30% show any signs or symptoms. In fact, of the curable STIs, trich is considered the most common!

So, the most common, curable STI is also the one that seems to be the least talked about? Here’s an other bummer about trich, though it is quite rare, this particular STI can sometimes be spread by jacuzzis and sharing wet towels. As with many other STI’s it is possible to transmit trichomoniasis without showing any symptoms of your own. Contracting trich also increases your risk of contracting HIV and delivering premature babies.

The way to find out if you have trichomoniasis is to go to a physician and get a physical exam. This exam is really simple, although perhaps a bit less comfortable for men due to the narrowness of their urethra (as anyone who has had a cotton swab in their urethra can attest). Treatment is no biggie either, just take an antibiotic for half a week and boom, you’re done.

So, if trich is so common, and easily treatable, why is it that we don’t hear about it as much as all the other STIs? Seriously, I want to know. Is it just me? Does everyone else know all about trich and I’m asleep every time it’s mentioned? Knowledge is power, and now you know about trichomoniasis. It is prevented by proper condom use and is totally curable. If it turns out that you’ve contracted it, let your previous partners know, so that they can tell their doctors and get it dealt with. It’s really not that big of a deal if you know what it is, and as I said, now you know.

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This Just In: Old Age Doesn’t Protect Against STIs

Your Grandparents are having sex. Just sit with that for a sec.

Your Grandparents are having sex…and it sounds like a lot of them are doing it wrong.

People from their 50s to their 70s are having more sex than that demographic used to have, and with the increase in senior’s sexual activity has also come an increase in STIs amongst retirees. But it’s not just that STI rates have just increased, they’ve doubled! Let me just say right now that your “Alzheimer’s” is not an excuse for why you “forgot” to wear a condom.

Seniors are contracting Syphilis and Chlamydia at a rate that is higher than the average, with the rate of Chlamydia contraction having tripled since 2000. HIV rates in this cohort are soaring also and the rates of infection continue to skyrocket when focusing on arrangements in which a lot of seniors live in close proximity, such as seniors housing communities. To be honest this is making retirement homes sound a lot more appealing…well except for the Syphilis.

So what’s causing this upsurge in senior STI rates? We don’t really know. Not a lot of people have studied senior’s sexuality. As far as we’re concerned, our parents definitely don’t have sex anymore and our grandparents have probably never had sex, right? So why study something that doesn’t happen?

Some of the rise in STI transmission amongst older adults can be attributed to the fact that postmenopausal women are no longer worried about getting pregnant so are engaging in higher risk sexual activity, and men are taking advantage of the myriad erectile disfunction meds on the market, making intercourse a possibility. Also, postmenopausal women are less able to self lubricate and the friction from intercourse can cause small tears in the vaginal tissue, thus making the women more susceptible to STI transmission.

Think about it for a second, the sex ed you received growing up was probably pretty mediocre. Now imagine what kind of sex ed your granny got. Is it any wonder seniors are contracting STIs at such a staggering rate?

Via EmpowHer

 

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Female Condoms: The Wonder Contraceptive That No One Takes Srsly

The Female Condom (FC)is a pretty alien looking thing. Let’s be honest it looks like an empty intravenous bag or something equally unsexy. But if we’re being honest, male condoms aren’t particularly sexy looking either. So why do so few people use female condoms?

They are quite literally the only HIV/STI prevention device that puts the power of protection squarely in the hands of women. The problem, as silly as it seems, is that they’re big and ugly. It’s true. Women and men alike don’t like to use FC because they aren’t discrete and have a big ring hanging out and around the vulva.

What’s not being said about this ugly ring of synthetic material is that it is a highly effective form of HPV an Herpes prevention. HPV and Herpes are both spread through skin-skin contact and traditional condoms just don’t prevent their spreading. Oh and the other thing about that ugly ring on the outside…it can feel really good when it starts rubbing up against your clit during intercourse. So there!

An other barrier keeping people from using the FC is that…well…they don’t know how to use it. We suggest that if you are considering starting to use FC, to grab a few at your local clinic or drug store and spend some time alone or with your partner learning exactly how to insert and remove them and what feels best for you.

Female Condoms empower women to be in total control of their bodies in the sexual arena. They also allow for greater STI protection for both partners and might even be more pleasurable. So get yourself educated about this alternative to traditional contraception. You might have just found your new favorite way to be safe and have fun.

For more information on the Female Condom and Female Condom 2 please check out FC2SF and the Planned Parenthood websites. They are really great sources of information and tutorials.

 

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