When did it go from being STD’s to STI’s? Am I the only one that missed the memo? I guess I am an excellent example of why information needs to be shared across generational lines. It was a conversation with my 21-year-old daughter that enlightened me on this new terminology. In case you are anything like me, let me say STI does not stand for “sexually transmitted incident”. STI stands for “sexually transmitted infection”.
According to the Center for Disease Control, there are about 20 million new cases of sexually transmitted infections in the United States every year. 20 million!!! I don’t know about you, but that seems like a huge number to me! According to the World Health Organization, more than 1 million sexually transmitted infections are acquired daily around the globe! Daily = every day! So, it seems to me that we definitely need to be having more conversations about STI’s.
Other than the obvious potential consequence, death, sexually transmitted infections can have long term negative effects on a woman’s health and ability to reproduce. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- STIs like herpes and syphilis can increase the risk of HIV considerably.
- HPV infection causes 570,000 cases of cervical cancer and over 300,000 cervical cancer deaths each year.
- STIs such as gonorrhea and chlamydia are major causes of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and infertility in women.
Parents, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the good old Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided some statistics that suggest we cannot keep our head in the sand and act like all of our beautiful little cherubs are taking our advice when we encourage them to wait until they are married to have sex:
- Half of all STIs occur in people 25 years of age or younger.
- One in four new STI cases occurs in teenagers.
- Young people (age 15-24) have
- five times the reported rate of chlamydia of the total population,
- four times the rate of gonorrhea, and
- three times the rate of syphilis.
In my years on this earth, I have come to realize that empowerment is about sometimes facing the uncomfortable truth. As women, young and old, why are we not taking the steps necessary to protect ourselves a little better from STIs? One plain and simple truth is when you are in that hot and heavy moment, the last thing on your mind is the possibility that you may walk away with something more than you bargained for. Another contributing factor is the discomfort we feel around conversations about sex. Although sex is natural and something most of us desire, we often perceive conversations about it as unnatural. I cannot remember having one conversation with my mother about sex, and I am a 49-year-old woman with three children. Hell, I can’t even sit through a sex scene in a movie with my mother. I hold my breath and morph into a statute-like being while hoping and praying that the scene is not one of those long and drawn out, leave nothing to the imagination, scenes. Like the one I suffered through when we went to see Queen and Slim together.
That discomfort meant it took a lot for me to evolve and learn to effectively communicate with my daughters about sex. For the longest time, I preached the beauty of your body and how you needed to save it for the right one. Over the years, I realized those conversations were not very helpful to my daughters, and they only sat through them out of respect for me. So, I switched it up a little. While I talk to them about the beauty of their bodies blah blah blah, I have added some other things like:
- No one is going to take care of your body like you.
- Even if you believe you have found the right one, it is still your responsibility to protect your body. Why? Because there can be some serious negative consequences to your failure to do so.
- The door is always open for you to talk to me even though I might pass out at some point during the conversation.
But here’s the thing. These conversations should not be limited to our teenagers. I have noticed that there are a lot of single women like me out there in the world. Being single does not equal abstinence. So, we need to make sure we are aware and cautious and treating our bodies like the temples that they are. This is not to suggest that single women should not be free to choose who they want to have sex with. I am merely suggesting we should be protecting ourselves in the process. I don’t know about you, but no orgasm is worth a death sentence for me.
What can you do to protect yourself if you are not practicing abstinence
- condoms. I would recommend that women keep some handy just in case their potential partner is not prepared.
- female condoms. Unlike male condoms female condoms:
- can be inserted 8 hours before sex
- are great for people who are allergic to allergies
- can be used with all types of lubricants
What can you do if you suspect you have an STI
Since I am still old school when it comes to certain things, if you are sexually active, I would highly recommend that you run to your doctor if you suspect you have an STI. Let me also say, I highly recommend that you get tested as often as your doctor recommends testing once you become sexually active. However, for those looking for alternative ways to find out if they have certain sexually transmitted diseases, it seems at-home test kits are available for HIV, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia. They also have at-home test kits for Urinary Tract Infections! WHO KNEW??? For those curious minds like me, here are a few links for you:
Oraquick HIV test in home kit allows you to take an HIV test in the privacy of your home and get the results within 20 to 30 minutes.
myLAB Box at Home Test for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea Screen This is not an instant result test. You have to mail the samples you collect to a lab that conducts the testing, but it is still a good alternative for those that do not necessarily want to go to their doctor for testing.
AZO Urinary Tract Infection Test Strips allow you to test for a UTI at home.
The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.