Sex

It’s true: the lat­est data is out, and the num­bers are trending in the wrong di­rec­tion. So, how can you stay healthy while be­ing sex­u­ally ac­tive?

Glamour (South Africa) - - Front Page -

Wait just a sec­ond

– STDS are on the rise?

Since 2011, there’s been an HCT (HIV coun­selling and test­ing) cam­paign in SA, and there’s even a des­ig­nated STD Aware­ness Month ( yes, April). So safe sex is the norm now, right? Um… wrong.

“STDS seem like some­thing in ad­verts for pre­scrip­tion med­i­ca­tion – not some­thing that touches my life. My friends and I don’t think about them,” says Beth*, 25, an art di­rec­tor.

These sen­ti­ments came up again and again in in­ter­views. But, news­flash: for the first time since 2006, ex­perts have seen a rise in STDS chlamy­dia, syphilis and gon­or­rhoea. So, first up, why are things get­ting worse?

We’re us­ing con­doms less

Though con­doms aren’t fail-safe, they of­fer sig­nif­i­cant pro­tec­tion against STDS like HIV, chlamy­dia, syphilis, gon­or­rhoea and even her­pes. Yet we still don’t grab them of­ten enough. In 2013, just 15.2% of women un­der 45 who used con­tra­cep­tion chose con­doms – that’s down a smidge from 16.4% of women sur­veyed in 2010.

We’re re­ly­ing on other birth con­trol meth­ods more

“There’s also been a big in­crease in the use of ‘set it and for­get it’ con­tra­cep­tion, like IUDS,” ex­plains Dr Maura Quin­lan, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of ob­stet­rics and gy­nae­col­ogy. These meth­ods are great at pre­vent­ing preg­nancy, but do noth­ing to stop STDS. So if you’re in a non-monog­a­mous re­la­tion­ship, you’ll need a con­dom, too.

We’re not hav­ing ‘the talk’

“A lot of pa­tients say, ‘I can’t use con­doms with this guy – it’s too com­pli­cated with our re­la­tion­ship, so I’ll just get tested,’” says ob-gyn Dr Katharine O’con­nell White. “I get it – con­doms bring up trust is­sues; the con­ver­sa­tion can be awk­ward – but re­ly­ing on test­ing isn’t the op­ti­mal way to go.” Chlamy­dia, for ex­am­ple, can dam­age your fal­lop­ian tubes even be­fore an in­fec­tion is de­tected, mak­ing it harder to get preg­nant, Dr White says. “It’s so much bet­ter to prevent an STD in the first place.”

We think that some stds aren’t that se­ri­ous

Many women have learnt that hu­man pa­pil­lo­mavirus (HPV) is su­per com­mon, and that a wo­man’s body can of­ten kick the in­fec­tion with­out treat­ment. Kayleigh, 23, an Etsy.com shop owner, says she and her friends cat­e­gorise the virus as “less se­ri­ous” than other STDS: “It’s not as big of a deal as her­pes, for ex­am­ple,” she says.

Not true, says Dr White: “Med­i­cally speak­ing, it’s hard to clas­sify any STD as ‘no big deal’ verses ‘a very big deal’. HPV could lead to cer­vi­cal can­cer. Her­pes is the gift that keeps on giv­ing be­cause it can lead to painful out­breaks and will re­quire tough con­ver­sa­tions with part­ners; it likely won’t kill you, but those things are sig­nif­i­cant,” Dr White ex­plains.

We aren’t be­ing re­al­is­tic

The take­away, doc­tors agree, is this: don’t be ter­ri­fied by STDS, but do be re­al­is­tic about the risks. “We need to get to a place where sex is awe­some and con­doms are the de­fault,” says Dr White. “When you go into a pub­lic pool, you wear a swim­ming cos­tume – it’s what you do. You floss be­cause you don’t want to lose your teeth – it’s what you do. And con­doms? Wear­ing them should just be what you do, too.”

“we need to get to a place where sex is awe­some and con­doms are the de­fault.”

You can put your trust in this lit­tle guy.

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