Sexual Health

Most people enjoy sex, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, if you are sexually active, you want to make sure you follow the best sex health practices.

This allows you to have fun while having sex and avoid the stress of getting diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

In America, many people are embarrassed when discussing or learning about sex. This can have a negative effect on sexual discourse, which is unfortunate. There is nothing wrong with having sex, and problems are significantly more likely to occur if you do not have the proper information about sexual health. If you are having sex, you should understand the steps you can take in order to stay safe and healthy. This is important for your own well-being, but it is also important for the well-being of your partner.

The Prevalence of STDs in America Today

Before learning how to protect yourself from STIs, it can be useful to understand the scope of the problem. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), infections are on the rise in America. There are three diseases that have seen a particularly dramatic rise in the affected population:

  • There were 4.7 percent more Chlamydia cases in 2016 than there were in 2015.
  • There were 18.5 percent more Gonorrhea cases in 2016 than there were in 2015.
  • There were 17.6 percent more Syphilis cases in 2016 than there were in 2015.

This news is unfortunate, but on the other hand, the number of HIV cases in America have decreased recently, by eight percent from 2010 to 2015. This is good, but a little over one million people are still infected, which is why it is important to take some commonsense steps to avoid being infected yourself.

An STI is not a death sentence, the way it may have been in some previous decades. There is medication you can use to either control certain infections or cure them altogether. However, if you do not have STIs, you will want to engage in safe, sanitary practices. They will make your life healthier and easier.

How to Prevent the Spread of Disease

The CDC recommends a few different methods for reducing your chances of getting infected. The most obvious is abstinence: you cannot get a sexually transmitted infection (STI) if you are not having sex. That said, sex is natural, and abstinence-only education has proven ineffective in schools, which shows that it is not always the answer people are looking for. If you want to have sex, there are several preventative measures you can keep in mind.

Having a monogamous relationship with one partner allows you to significantly reduce the risk of getting infected. You will need to talk with your partner before having sex for the first time. This will allow you to learn your partner’s sexual history and understand if additional steps need to be taken to ensure you are safe from infection. Similar to this point, if you are not ready for a monogamous relationship, it is worth noting that the more sexual partners you have, the higher your risk will be.

There are two preventative methods that work no matter how many sexual partners you choose to have. The first is getting vaccinated or taking preventive medication. Vaccines are not available for all forms of STIs, but they can help you avoid getting various strains of HPV. Similarly, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) helps reduce the chances of HIV infection by as much as 99 percent. The other method is using protection. Condoms significantly reduce the transmission of STIs and should therefore be used during sexual activity.

How to Get Tested for STIs

Not all STIs come with warning signs, which makes it difficult to prevent infection. You may feel fine, but whenever you have sex, there is a risk that you are getting an infection. Even if you have been practicing safe sex, this is no guarantee that you have not been given an STI.

Although it is important to follow best practices when it comes to sexual health, the only way to be sure you do not have an STD is to get tested. The best way to get this test is to go to a doctor. The CDC recommends getting tested every year if you are sexually active. If you are exhibiting any symptoms, you should get tested sooner. These symptoms vary based on the disease, but some of the most common ones are:

  • Discomfort while urinating
  • Genital discharge
  • Fever

The type of test you are required to take will depend on the diseases you are looking for. Your blood and urine may be tested.

There are a number of tests available for various STIs that you are able to take at home. These can be a good solution if you do not want to go to the doctor’s office to get tested. However, you should be prepared to have a higher rate of false positives. If your home test says you have a disease, you will want to go to a doctor as soon as possible in order to confirm the test. The home tests are good for noticing potential problems, but do not panic if you get a positive. You simply need to treat the situation with the urgency and importance it merits, getting the test validated by a professional.

What to Do If You Are Diagnosed With an STI

It can be difficult to hear that you have been diagnosed with an STI. However, it is important not to shut down if you have been diagnosed. Instead, the first action you need to take if you have been diagnosed is to inform past and present sexual partners. This information is important for them to have, as it allows them to get tested and find out if they have gotten the STI. As upsetting as it may be for all involved, it would be significantly more upsetting for them to discover the truth after the infection has progressed and becomes much harder to treat.

Once you have done this, you need to look out for yourself and your own health. Your doctor will likely have recommendations for how to proceed, depending on which STI you are experiencing.

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