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When sex gets dirty: the harm of sexually transmitted infections

Carelessness and lack of knowledge have helped the dangerous spread of sexually transmitted infections.


By Yves Saint James Aquino, M.D.


A lot of movies and TV series have used sex as a usual plot catalyst because, as we all know, sex sells. The reality, however, can be less-than entertaining. Sex isn’t just a punch line or a plot device, especially when casual sex, along with the diseases that come with it, results in serious health problems.


You feeling risky?

A person’s risk of catching STIs depends mostly on sexual behavior and lifestyle, and how the following dangerous risk factors may be present:

    Starting sexual activity at an early age can lead to more aggressive sexual behavior in the long-term. Also, the younger you are, the less you are concerned about consequences. 

    Having multiple sexual partners also puts you at a high risk of transmitting infection. 

    Drinking alcohol or using illegal substances can lower your inhibitions, making you more likely to take risks. 

    Being infected with an STI also increases the chance of getting another type of infection.


The common diseases

Despite the prevalence of STIs, most people, especially younger ones, remain unaware of the risk and consequences of such diseases, except for the most popular type: AIDS or acquired immune deficiency syndrome. According to the Department of Health (DoH), one of every four teenagers and young adults will get an STI, even if they know how to protect themselves. Other STIs include gonorrhea, syphilis, genital herpes, HPV infection, among others.


For your protection

Abstinence, or not having sex at all, assures you of 100 percent protection. But for those who choose to be sexually active, here are some tips:

    Use latex condoms. Condoms protect genitals from shared bodily fluids, which can carry the organisms responsible for STI. This may not protect you 100 percent, but it is the best protection against STIs. 

    Practice monogamy. Since promiscuity is a risk factor, having just one sexual partner (who is also monogamous) protects you from infection. 

    Learn the symptoms. Knowing the symptoms can help you determine if your sexual partner has an STI.

Get the help you need. Even without any signs or symptoms, if you are involved in risky sexual practices, it is important to have regular medical check-ups to determine the presence of STI. Many of the STIs can take weeks, even years, before symptoms show. Visit your local health clinic, a private doctor, or hospital clinics to have yourself checked. Some of the tests may include blood work or urine test, while others may involve culturing body fluid or discharge from the genitals or open sores.

For more basic facts on different sexually transmitted infections, check out the full article on the February 2011 issue of HealthToday.

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