How should someone get tested for herpes? What do test results mean? Get answers to these questions and learn the basics of herpes testing with the infographic below (also available as a PDF download).
Archives for August 2015
Whether you’re having sex or not, below are some tips to ensure every young adult can have a healthy, safe, and satisfying life – or to simply prepare yourself for when the time comes!
1. Get to know your sexual boundaries. Whether it’s through online research, talking about sex with friends, or experimenting with masturbation, find out what is and isn’t for you. Ask yourself:
- “Am I ready for sex?”
- “What kind of sex am I comfortable with?”
- “Do I want to ‘explore’ in college?”
2. Talk to your partner about consent and ways to ensure you both feel safe while engaging in sexual activity. Learn what consent means and how to practice it in everyday life—without killing the mood.
3. Educate yourself. Ask your RA or counselor where to find resources if you find yourself in an unsafe or uncomfortable situation. Find out who your college’s Title IX coordinator is and don’t be afraid to report an incident or intervene on behalf of a friend if you fear they might be in an unsafe situation.
4. Get tested! Sexually transmitted infection (STI) screenings, contraception, and sexual wellness visits (pap tests, breast and prostate exams, etc.) are all necessary to a healthy and enjoyable sex life. If you had sex in high school, now is a great time to get tested. It’s important to go for routine STI screenings, especially if you’ve been with a new partner.
5. Locate your college’s sexual health center or find a local clinic online that provides similar services. Check out the services covered by your college or personal insurance, or see if there are state programs that provide free or low-cost services.
6. Ask your health professional about contraception options and determine what’s right for you. Talk to friends about their experiences with various forms of birth control, but remember that choosing contraception is a personal choice.
7. Protect yourself! Regardless of the gender of your sexual partner, it’s essential to protect yourself against STIs and unwanted pregnancy. Condomfinder.org is a great resource for finding nearby locations where you can get free condoms.
The American Sexual Health Association strongly supports the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) decision to empower women and their healthcare providers by approving Flibanserin, the first drug to treat low sexual desire in females.
Hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD, also known as low sexual desire) is the most commonly reported type of sexual dysfunction in women. Until today’s FDA decision there were no medical treatments available for the condition, leaving many women and medical professionals frustrated and puzzled at the lack of options. Speaking on the impact HSDD, Deborah Arrindell says “What I’ve heard from women is despair, anxiety, loss of confidence, loss of self worth, troubled relationships, and families in crisis. Women deserve to have desire, arousal, even pleasure. Clearly the FDA heard these women and today’s decision provides long overdue relief.”
That’s not to say that Flibanserin is a proverbial magic pill. ASHA CEO Lynn Barclay believes it’s really about choices: “There is seldom a one-size-fits-all answer to the many challenges real people face in achieving and maintaining sexual health and satisfying sex lives. We believe BOTH men and women as well as their healthcare providers should have choices in addressing sexual dysfunction. We also believe that women—and men—can be trusted to decide for themselves about using an FDA-approved and health care provider-prescribed treatment option.”
Barclay adds that sexual health should not be seen as separate from our overall health, as each impacts the other. She says “This is about a woman’s wellbeing, her quality of life.” She notes that a woman’s sexual health affects her partner, too. “You’ve heard the saying “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”? Well, as grammatically imperfect as that may be, it makes a good point. Let’s make sure mamas, aunts, sisters, and women just like me everywhere have a complete menu of choices. We deserve it, we are worth it, and in the end we’ll all be better for it.”
Each August, National Immunization Awareness Month provides an opportunity to highlight the value of immunization across the lifespan. At ASHA, we focus on three important vaccines that can help prevent sexually transmitted infections—vaccines for human papillomavirus (HPV), Hepatitis B and Hepatitis A.
HPV is very common. Most sexually active people have HPV at some point in their lives. The infection is usually harmless and the body most often clears it in a short time. But sometimes, HPV does not go away. In a few people, high-risk HPV and related cervical cell changes last for many years and can lead to cancer if they aren’t found. Being vaccinated against HPV can lower the chance a woman will develop cervical cancer.
HPV can also lead to other types of cancer, including cancers of the penis, anus, or oropharynx (back of the throat, including base of the tongue and tonsils). Low-risk types of HPV can cause genital warts.The types of HPV that can cause genital warts are not the same as the types that can cause cancer. HPV vaccines can help prevent these diseases too.
There are currently three HPV vaccines available:
- Gardasil® is vaccine available for both males and females. Developed by Merck, Gardasil® is close to 100% effective at preventing infection associated with HPV types 6 and 11(types associated with 90% of all genital warts) and types 16 and 18 (types associated with 70% of all cervical cancers, and many anal, vulvar and vaginal cancers).
- Cervarix®, developed by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is a vaccine just for women. This vaccine is also close to 100% effective at preventing infection associated with HPV 16 and 18 (associated with 70% of all cervical cancers). Studies suggest Cervarix® also offers cross-protection against other “high risk” HPV types.
- Gardasil 9® was approved in December 2014. The new vaccine covers nine HPV types: the two low-risk types that cause most cases of genital warts (HPV 6 and HPV 11) along with seven high-risk types (HPV 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58) found in a number of cancers, including about 90% of cervical cancers around the world as well as most anal, vulvar, and vaginal cancers.
Experts recommend that all females between the ages of 9 and 26 get an HPV vaccine. About half of all new infections are diagnosed in girls and young women between 15 and 24 years of age, so early vaccination is important. Males are at risk for HPV and related diseases, too, so boys and young men are also recommended to be vaccinated.
Hepatitis B virus is transmitted through direct contact with blood, semen, or vaginal secretions.
Hepatitis B can be transmitted through unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex. In adolescents and adults, this is the most common mode of transmission. It can also be transmitted by injecting drug users who share needles or other injecting equipment contaminated with HBV-infected blood.
Hepatitis B can cause chronic infection, cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer, and even death. The good news is that hepatitis B is preventable through vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends hepatitis B vaccination for:
- Sex partners of anyone who has hepatitis B
- Anyone who is sexually active but not in a long-term, monogamous relationship
- Those treated for STD/STIs
- Men who have sex with men
- Others recommended for hepatitis B vaccine include:
- All infants and children under age 19 who have not had the vaccine
- Injecting drug users who share needles
- Those living in households with someone who has hepatitis B
- Anyone whose work places them in contact with blood
- Those with HIV or chronic liver disease
- Individuals in correctional facilities
- Travelers to areas with a high prevalence of hepatitis B
Hepatitis A virus is transmitted primarily through oral contact with feces (oral-fecal contact). This includes contaminated food or water sources but also sexual contact, especially oral-anal sex. Like hepatitis B, hepatitis A can also be prevented through vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends hepatitis A vaccination for:
- All children
- Men who have sex with men
- Illegal drug users