Health Class: Catch the Feels, Not STDs

Julianna French

February, the month of love and STDs, has flown in on a balmy breeze. Now is the time of year when most people begin panicking because they’re not in a relationship and feel as if they have to be. Those already in a relationship may begin to feel pressured to do something big or to take the next step. Either way, the scent of pheromones is in the air and can cause people to go a little stir crazy. By ‘stir crazy’, I mean they start doing the sideways tango. Hooking up. Making love. Having sex. Feeling uncomfortable? Yeah, talking about sex makes people feel uncomfortable and I’m far from done talking about sex, specifically sexually transmitted diseases and infections.

Remember that scene in Mean Girls where Coach Carr tells the students that if they have sex, they’ll get pregnant and die? That’s not exactly what happens when you have sex, but you can catch a sexually transmitted disease or infection (STD or STI) which can be rather uncomfortable. An STD is an STI that is symptomatic, though most people use the two interchangeably. The American Sexual Health Association reports that young adults, such as ourselves, are among the most likely to contract an STD with one in two people contracting one before the age of twenty-five. STDs are spread through the exchange of bodily fluids with an infected individual. Thankfully, there are ways to prevent the spread of STDs.

The one surefire way to prevent an STD is to practice abstinence. To practice abstinence means to refrain from sexual activity. Sexual activity includes vaginal, anal, and/or oral intercourse. Not everyone practices abstinence, and for those who are ready for sexual activity or are already active, the center for disease control and prevention (CDC) offers ways to remain safe. They’re not foolproof methods, but they will significantly reduce your risk of catching/spreading STDs.

One such method is to reduce the number of partners you have. This is simple statistics. The fewer partners you have, the lower your chances of being exposed to an infected individual, and the less likely you are to become infected yourself. This method merely reduces your risk of catching an STD, it does not prevent it. Just like with pregnancy, you can have sex once and still catch an STD. What the CDC suggests is having one monogamous partner that has tested negative for STDs. If you’re only having sex with one other person, and you’re both clean, you’re in the clear. Lastly, don’t be silly; wrap your willy. Condoms provide a barrier between partners and can help prevent the spread of STDs by limiting possible contact with bodily fluids. The problem with condoms is that they can break and they only provide protection within a limited area of the body.

STDs are easy to catch and easy to spread. Most people are unaware that they have one until they become symptomatic. By then, they could’ve spread it to a number of people. Next time you’re in for your annual physical, make sure to ask the doctor to run a few tests. If you’re uncomfortable talking with your normal health care provider, Planned Parenthood offers STD testing. An apple a day keeps the doctor away, and a condom a date keeps the viruses away. Class is dismissed.