Updating the blog here to pull old entries from the pros/e/yes archives…in their original order. This project is simply a unification of my personal blog (with a LOT of NSFW entries) and my professional blog.
See that lovely image there? That is chlamydia. Chlamydia is the fastest-spreading sexually transmitted infection in the United States and around the globe. An interesting point about chlamydia is that it affects females three times more frequently than males…specifically in the 15- to 24-year-old age bracket. This is, in part, a diagnostic matter. It is also, in part, a treatment matter…or lack thereof.
Even setting aside all the politics around women’s health, many young women receive more frequent genital health services than men do…and more routinely. Annual pap and pelvic examinations are recommended for young, sexually active women…and also recommended for women over 21 who are not sexually active (for continuity of care purposes, with respect to cervical cancer screening).
In my personal opinion, I think part of the problem sits right there. Young men do not get checked as routinely. And what is frustrating about that is that too many of the don’t even know they can get screened — at Planned Parenthood, at their local health department, at sliding-scale and free screening clinics.
This frustration surfaced in me about a month ago, and came back to visit last week. *makes face* A young man approached me and began asking questions about very specific STIs. After about the 4th question, I looked at him, and plainly asked, “Have you had unprotected sex in the past month?” (Yes.) “What are your symptoms?” (Not really sure, mostly a slight burning when I pee.) We talked for a while, I showed him a few images (and I DO recommend teenagers and young adults google images of STIs to know what they look like), because what I was hearing, my first thought was chlamydia.
I am not a physician, of course, and I don’t have super powers to see people’s genitalia, much less what is in their blood. I told the young man I suspected that he probably had contracted chlamydia, but the only way to know would be to get screened. That was a month ago. Last week, he gave a call and let me know that he got screened…and sure enough, right in one. He was treated with a course of antibiotics…and should be clear when that is finished.
Now, this young man is one who claims that condoms “are uncomfortable,” that he can’t find “the right size”…and I asked him if his dance with an STI changed his perspective of the importance of wrapping his shit up. Whaddya know…? He’s been looking at different condoms (brands, sizes, materials, etc) and has begun buying them and stocking them. Shocking, I know.
Earlier, I said that I see part of the problem as diagnostics, and part of the problem as a matter of treatment. Another problem with chlamydia is that it is often silent; meaning, it manifests with few or no symptoms. People contract it and spread it without even knowing they’re giving a gift that keeps on giving. That is where diagnosis and treatment matter…getting tested AND treated matter. There is NO shame in going and getting tested…regularly, if you’re sexually active, and not in a monogamous relationship. In fact, that is the responsible thing to do. Furthermore, if you test positive, as this young man did…you need to contact whomever you have had unprotected sex with so that THEY can get treatment also.
Chlamydia is an infection…not a virus. It responds to antibiotic therapy, and it goes away. However, if one half of the equation gets treated and the other does not…re-infection WILL happen. For women, this is a particularly troublesome issue. Repeated infections of chlamydia (and other STIs) increase the likelihood for her developing pelvic inflammatory disease (or PID) – and every subsequent infection increases that likelihood exponentially.
Pelvic inflammatory disease is no joke…it is the leading cause of ectopic pregnancy, which can be deadly.
For men, while complications from chlamydia are rare, they are rather nasty, too. Epididymitis is not pleasant, for sure…and chronic epididymitis is something I don’t think any man wants…much less to increase the possibility of becoming sterile.
Seriously, folks…get tested regularly…at least once every six months if you’re sexually active and not in a monogamous relationship. And…use condoms! Every single time…learn to use them correctly — use them consistently — each and every time.
And if you DO test positive for an STI, refrain from any and all sexual activity until you have been treated. If you contract a virus that is treatable but not curable, learn the facts about that STI, and the preventive measures necessary to prevent sharing that “gift” with others.
With that…Happy Hump Day!