World Sexual Health Day Is For Lovers
A big part of preventive healthcare is checking in annually to see if everything is being taken care of. On September 4th, we’re utilizing World Sexual Health Day to remember that sexual health is also part of our overall well being. The thought of a physical or getting an STI (sexually transmitted infection) test alone can be totally scary, but what’s even more scary is ignoring signs that can have serious impacts if they go untreated. It’s time to step up and take control of our own health. After all, we want to continue living a long, prosperous, and sex-filled life.
Sex is great. Sex is f*cking awesome. But we do need to understand the repercussions associated with it, and I’m not just talking about pregnancy. A lot of people joke about STIs, but the truth is they are much more common than we think. According to the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA), one in every two sexually active people will contract an STI by age 25. See? They are super common, but that doesn’t mean that we should dismiss them. For the nearly 20 million new STIs that occur every year, only about 12% of people ages 15-24 get tested annually. A fun way to learn about these infections is through a good ol’ game of STI jeopardy. That way you can at least recognize if something’s looking a little off, even though there are infections that show no signs at all. Confusing, I know. It’s time to destigmatize STIs and change that, for the sake of you, your partner(s), and your overall sexual happiness.
Before you have sex, even if it’s that wild and spontaneous sex in the bathroom of a divebar, you want to communicate some boundaries. It takes only a few seconds to vet someone of their sexual health history. If this is someone you know and trust, you have every right to get boning. If you’re feeling uneasy at all, it’s okay to leave the bathroom and meet back up with your friends at the bar. I mean, pornstars are required to practice safe sex and disclose this information, so why shouldn’t we? It’s all for the sake of a longer, and more pleasurable, sex life. And that’s something we can all get behind. Getting tested together can also be an interesting date night idea. Just saying.
So you got tested, and you have an STI. That’s okay, so don’t freak out. Of course, follow your health practicioner’s advice for treatment and ask any questions you may have. A lot of STIs have no future effect once treated, others may stick with you for life and require maintenance. Heck, there’s even some that your body fights off naturally. HPV (human papillomavirus), for example, will infect 80% of sexually active people at least once in their lives (ASHA) and most strains are completely unthreatening. HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), however, can require daily medication to avoid future infection or leading to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). All these big words can sound intimidating, but don’t jump to any conclusions. Talk to your doctor and know that whatever you have, you’re not alone. Trust me, your doctor has seen it all, especially where the sun don’t shine. And if wearing a rubber is your safest bet, there are some awesome condoms that feel invisible out there.
Communicate Some More
If you are being sexually active, whether that be with a significant other, steady FWB, or random hookup buddy, you need to tell them about your STI. It can actually be illegal (depending on state law) to withhold this information from them as it can be considered negligence. Also, it’s just a dick move. We’re all adults here. Decide how you want to approach this situation depending on your partner and make sure to communicate the facts clearly. When you come off confident, because again, this happens and it’s totally normal, it will put your partner at ease too. Prepare yourself for different reactions and open the topic up for discussion. Consider it a chance to learn more about each other and be proud you did it. It can be quite stressful, but in the end there’s no wrong way to do it, as long as you’re doing it.
Donna is a Volonté contributor and freelancer who lives in San Francisco with her understanding husband and not-so-understanding teenage sons. Her work has been published in The Journal of Sexology and she is currently writing a book on love languages.