How Do I know if I have an STD/STI?

When it comes to getting it on we prefer to think about the most thrilling aspects. Namely the pleasure experienced through orgasms. That thing we seek out that makes you feel so damn good when executed properly. Although there are copious individuals who are sexually enthusiastic we must, "watch out" Lauryn Hill once melodically suggested, because statistically we are largely irresponsible when it comes to sex. If you were told that your pleasure is affected by your health what would be your first reaction? Confused? Inquisitive? It's natural for us to relate an active sex life with our own happiness. The pleasure is implied. However, how often do we take our actual health status into consideration? Sticking with that applied thought process, how often do you equate someone's status with their desirability? Is that also the reason you risk not having that 10 minute conversation or planning a date to the health department? Ignorance may keep you dumb-happy, but it doesn't eliminate or negate truth. The truth is STDs can be as silent as the DADT approach you use to navigate your friendships/relationships when there is something amiss but you want control of the situation.

What data shows is that we are less cautious and more negligent with our sexual health than we care to believe. For example, if you aren't showing symptoms how likely are you going to get a check up, especially if you are not already getting the recommended testing once every 3-6 months? STOP What if you're thrown for a loop and your most recent/current partner said they tested positive for ANYTHING? In retrospect, we begin to regret the occasion in a sense. Habitually, humans think in "if...then" patterns: "If I used a condom then I wouldn't be so paranoid right now. If I had seen something suspicious then I wouldn't have taken it there." Our actions become emotional. The data implies that we only seek care after we've discovered we've been burned/infected.

When putting yourself out there in anyway that means using discernment. Sex is natural, we know this. Do we know what else is natural? Infections, viruses, & diseases. They are just as much a part of nature as humans having sex. Humans try to rationalize taking risks by creating and perpetuating myths. There are myths around sex that make it easy for people to prey on others and letting many more believe their naivety is justified. Here are some prominent myths that circulate the social stratosphere when sex is in the air:

Myth: No rash or sore means you're not contagious,
Well actually, HSV 1&2 (Herpes) can be transmitted during the shedding phase, with people who are asymptomatic shedding at the same rate as people who show symptoms. Also, chlamydia is often asymptomatic when concentrated in the womb (uterus).

Myth: "Pulling Out" will prevent contraception and/or getting a STD.
You may think so but STDs can be in blood, saliva, breast milk, and simple skin cells as well as vaginal mucous & sperm or semen. Premature ejaculation (or pre-cum as we like to call it) also happens before a man knows to pull out. So whether they have a lesion or not, withdrawing the penis before ejaculation can still pass an infection to you and get you pregnant.

Myth: Peeing before and after sex can prevent infection
Pee is a lot of things. It's warm, removes waste, it's sterile. An antibiotic or vaccine isn't one of them. It may seem logical that a sterile fluid should be able to clean bacteria and germs. Urine can prevent UTIs in the urinary tract since you pee from the urethra. However, STDs infiltrate the sex organs and fluids which means once it's made contact it has completed its mission well before you've had the sensation to urinate.

Ways to know if you're infected or not:

Masturbation may prevent you from making a rash decision to have sex with someone before you know enough info about their sexual history. It also strengthens core muscles and lets you perform when you want to. Like exercise that enhances your physique and physical health, masturbation enhances performance and pleasure and serves as a litmus for your sexual well being.

How? You're more familiar with your body's sensation when you orgasm, if you feel pain of any sort it's insight that things aren't functioning regularly. Kind of like sustaining an injury or nursing a cold affects your workout; you know because your body doesn't feel the same and you'll need a remission to get well.

Friction tends to rub you the wrong way, causing irritation. That irritation can lead to breaks and tears in the skin inviting all types of infections to colonize your body. Something that prevents that, and feels very good when doing so, is using lubrication. Lubricants reduce friction making penetration more comfortable and stroking feel smoother. It also can come in (sugarless) flavors to add taste during oral sex. Water based lubricants are safe to use on the outside and inside of all condom types as well as either side of a dental dam. DO NOT USE OIL-BASED LUBE WITH CONDOMS. THEY WILL BREAK DOWN THE LATEX, making them totally ineffective.

How? If the lubricant burns or irritates you while in use you can deduce that you're having a reaction to the lubricant itself or that it's causing discomfort because of a pre-exisiting infection that's being disrupted by the ingredients in the lube. 

Check Your Genitals
This absolutely means getting comfortable with your body. Pay attention to the feeling you have when you urinate and look at yourself from your pubic bone to your anus. Use a mirror and examine. Do you see bumps, bruises, rashes or skin grafts? Pus or discharge? If so, don't panic, think about what you already know about your body then build from there. 

How? Consistently checking your body and genitals makes you self aware of your physicality and more able to accurately surmise if there's something unusual occurring within your body. Knowing your body also makes it easy to talk to the doctor or clinician when getting a check up.

Speaking of which.

Get Regular STD Check-Ups.
If you aren't the type to masturbate, have an aversion to lubrication and completely disregard the prerequisite of taking a thorough look at your own body you absolutely must do this. As should everyone. Regularly going to a clinic or doctor for check ups is actually the only fool proof way to become aware of your status. In most states in the US there are health departments that offer free STD/HIV testing and accuracy is upwards of 99%. 

How?  The clinicians take blood, genital swabs and cultures to test them specifically for sexually transmitted infections and diseases. Note, though, that if you are looking to be tested for HPV, *women must have a PAP SMEAR pelvic exam and *men can only be tested if they have visible warts (lack of warts DOES NOT mean HPV free). 

Now, with this information you can understand that STDs are stealthy and we can decide whether or not we want to be actively engaged in our sexual health because it's directly connected to our sex lives. Infections are kind of like people. Things can seem to be operating smoothly but you never really know where you stand with them until you've been given that affirmation. Physical results from a physician is your sexual health affirmation. 

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