Posts Tagged ‘stds’

h1

genital herpes = huge threat

October 14, 2010

hearing from a friend about her friend whose girlfriend cheated on him, contracted genital herpes, and then gave it to him (drama, drama) led me on a steadily more horrifying research trail. forget about the obviously alarming but treatable STDs—apparently one in five people (and another site stated one in four) have genital herpes. that shit doesn’t go away.

reading those stats, my heart thumped hard in my chest.

i never knew it was so prevalent. worse, I didn’t know half of the other alarming traits about herpes which have since wreaked havoc with my hypochondria-addled brain. some fun facts:

  • you don’t need to have sex to get herpes. not even oral sex. skin-to-skin contact is enough. kissing is enough. (fuck).
  • building on that first point, using condoms may not help you since it may not cover your partner’s entire infected area
  • women are four times as likely to get herpes from a male partner than the other way around (can’t find where i read this, but i’m certain i remember it correctly—it’s burned into my brain at this point)
  • most people do not even realize they have herpes because they are asymptomatic. and if they don’t know, you definitely don’t know
  • even for those who do exhibit symptoms, they don’t have to be having an outbreak to infect you
  • symptoms vary person-to-person, and they often resemble other issues—bug bites, ingrown hairs, the flu, UTIs, yeast infections, other STDs
  • testing for herpes is not very clear-cut. if you have sores on your genitals, it’s far easier to come to the correct diagnosis by taking a sample and testing it. the problem is that many people never get sores, and herpes breakouts only occur a few times a year for those who do. blood tests can be helpful, but they only test for herpes antibodies created to fight the disease—meaning that if you test too early, those antibodies won’t be present. apparently it can take as long as three months from the date of infection before antibodies are made (scroll near the bottom). finally, there are a lot of false-positives and false-negatives for these tests (and these tests are expensive)

let’s break all that information down to its scary and shitty conclusion: you can be careful, never sleep with strange, heck never even sleep with someone, and still get herpes. in fact, you could have gotten both of your boyfriends tested before sleeping with them (what i did), and they may still have this disease because the tests are not clear-cut and timing is essential. great. i’ve now spent most of the day checking out my girl parts in a hand mirror trying to figure out if that’s razor burn or herpes. unfortunately, i’ve only ever looked at myself one other time so i can’t tell if the landscape is different.

that brings me to three other observations:

one, we can’t just go around having sex anymore. forget sexual needs and safe fuck buddies and the whole bit—with at least 20% of the population infected, having sex with someone who hasn’t been tested (and tested correctly and probably multiple times), is playing russian roulette with your sexual well-being.

and also with your psychological well-being: two, there is a major stigma associated with having genital herpes. i would feel so dirty and unlovable if i had it, which is why a lot of people with the disease fail to tell their sexual partners. and yet, apparently somewhere between 20 and 25% of the population has the disease. these are people we know, people we’re screwing, people getting married and having kids. these people might be you and me. so why is there such a cloud over the disease, and why don’t we know more about it?

which brings me to number three, why is our sex education so crappy? here i am thinking i’m being so safe—limited sex to my two boyfriends, rarely had oral sex and used a condom where i didn’t trust the guy as much, got both my boyfriends to submit to an STD test before i would sleep with them—and it’s not enough. and honestly, most of the people i know haven’t been as careful as i am. and these are educated people! i only know a handful of people who have ever even taken a test. telling us ‘use condoms’ isn’t enough and preaching ‘abstinence only’ is a travesty of public health. worse yet, i have never heard that STD tests themselves are unreliable. without that information, we could be walking around with false confidence in our sexual health and infecting strangers, boyfriends—people we love.

i feel like i should go get tested. i did between boyfriend 1 and boyfriend 2. except that with the expense (probably between $100-200 bucks) and the embarrassment of having to go to an STD testing place, i really, really don’t want to. i wish i was still a student and could just go to the student health center. that’s a lot more private than having to walk into planned parenthood, and a heck of a lot less expensive. i know that doesn’t sound very adult, but you don’t have to be or act like an adult to have sex. that’s the problem.

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