April is STD Awareness Month, though I think every month should be. After all, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 20 million new STD infections occur each year in the U.S. They cost the healthcare system almost $16 billion in direct medical costs. Plus, there are over 110 million total sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in U.S. men and women. That’s a ton of infections that could have been prevented. Since April’s almost up, have you made yourself aware of STDs yet?
The CDC wants healthcare providers and individuals to do three things: Talk. Test. Treat. I agree, especially since so many STIs and STDs don’t have symptoms. Scary, right?
Plus, rates for three common STDs — chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis — have all increased at the same time for the first time in almost a decade. Perhaps this is because sex seems to be more accessible than ever before (like with all the dating apps out there). Or perhaps not enough people are getting educated about sex and how STIs and STDs are transmitted. Or perhaps people are in denial and living with a “It won’t happen to me” mentality. But, even with the increase in how easily one can get sex, we can still be safe about it.
And if you have an STD or STI, know that you're not alone. The CDC estimates that half of new STD infections occur in people between the ages of 15 and 24. And, that about 25 percent of sexually active adolescent women have an STD.
STDs Versus STIs
What’s the difference between an STD and an STI anyway? They’re similar, yet different. Someone could have a sexually transmitted infection, but it may not show symptoms or make the switch to a disease. But, that doesn’t mean it won’t become a disease. It also doesn’t mean you’re not contagious.
Some people think you have to have many sexual partners to be at risk. In reality, though, it only takes one partner. I know a guy who got married in his 20s, and his wife was the first woman he had sex with. They stayed married for over 10 years. But his wife had gotten HPV from the guy she dated before him, so my guy friend got it, too. His wife had told him about it, and now he tells women about it before they get too close, so to speak. Point being, be honest with your partner(s), too, and be sure to ask someone about their STI and STD status, as well.
It’s funny how some people get caught up in the number of sexual partners someone has had when, in reality, what matters is what happened with even one partner.
Your Options For Getting Tested:
OK, so does STD Awareness Month mean you should go out and get tested? Yes. I know, I know, maybe you’re embarrassed. But just think — you’re doing a good thing, for yourself and partner(s), so what’s there to be embarrassed about? Plus, it’s not like your doctor’s office or a clinic will shout your name for all to hear and say, “(Insert-your-name-here), are you ready for your HIV test?”
Plus, there are so many free and reduced-rate clinics you can go to, like Planned Parenthood (where men can go as well!). Tinder, too, even got onto the know-your-status train by adding a Health Safety section, wherein you can find an STD clinic locator through Healthvana — and get tested for STDs and HIV for free. I think that’s priceless for easing your mind and finding out once and for all if that no-condom slip-up resulted in chlamydia.
In addition, you can even do an STD test through the mail via myLAB Box, without ever leaving your house. They send you five-minute test packages, and then you get lab-certified results — and free physician treatment consultations for users who receive positive results. MyLAB Box also allows for extragenital testing — screening of the rectum and throat in addition to a genital-only examination — which other at-home testing kits do not do, aka some STDs may be glossed over.
And have no fear, many STIs and STDs are treatable if you go get tested and treated for them. If you don't know where to go get tested, you can always go to the CDC’s website and find a local place to get quick, confidential, and free STD and STI testing done.
The Myths To Stop Believing
So now you know where to get tested, but what are some of the myths that may be preventing you from going and doing so? For instance, “Testing once gives you a clean bill of health”—true or false? Considering that each sexual partner has a different sexual past, this is def false. Plus, some STI results take longer than others to be detected, some even up to three months after exposure. Crazy, huh? “STDs are something to be afraid/ashamed of”—true or false? False, with a capital “F”! A recent study found that men are less likely to get tested for STIs than women—4 4 percent of men have never gotten tested versus 30 percent women.
Here are some more myths to stop believing ASAP, because your sex life will be better for it.
Images: Fotolia; Giphy; myLABBox