Doctor, what is this red thing on my……?
In improvisational theatre – like in the show ‘Whose line is it anyway?’-there is a warm up game called ‘pass the clap’. The game works like this. Everyone stands in a circle and hand claps to another player by first making eye contact. The exercise develops confidence, empathic observational skills and trust. In the outside world, passing the clap is less fun.
According to the Centre for Disease Control in the states, there are 700,000 new cases of Gonorrhoea, or the “clap” every year. Worldwide, it is rampant. Gonorrhoea is not easy to spot (pardon the pun) because in men, the only symptoms are burning when urinating, and a yellowish penile discharge. For women it’s even more ambiguous. Fever and general tiredness, irregular menstrual bleeding, genital itching. So, you could be having a low day OR you could have Gonnerhea. This long-term STD that is spread bacterially, affecting a female’s cervix, a male’s urethra, or the throat in both sexes, which means that it’s transmitted by vaginal, oral, and anal sex. If the thought of a sexually transmitted disease in your throat makes you vomit a little into your mouth, listen up. This disease can also cause a very aggressive form of arthritis and, in the old days, lead to infertility and death. Nowadays, treatment and prognosis is easier and better. IV anti biotics and drugs like erythromycin eye drops will solve the problem. An easier option? Always use a condom with a new or temporary partner. Always.
Another fun way to spend your weekday morning is to sit in your doctor’s office waiting for the results of your Hepatitis B tests. This little bugger can also be sexually transmitted. It affects more than 1.25 million Americans every year, and will scar the liver, cause causing cirrhosis and liver cancer. Like our friend Gonorrhoea, the symptoms tend to be a bit vague. Muscle pain and fatigue, nausea and a distended stomach could easily be a bad curry or a dodgy whelk (Harry Potter reference with a nod to JK. Rowling) but when your face and eyes turn yellow. Get thee to a physician. Heptititis has some serious long term implications. This is not a disease to play games with. If you have unprotected sex, or share a needle, or do anything else on the sharp edge of the envelope, be aware. Hep B is the family member that came to stay for a week, and ended up living in your garden shed for 20 years. Again. Wear a love glove until you’ve both had blood work done, I don’t care what reassurances are made in the heat of the moment.
Syphilis, the one that Henry the Eighth had that he passed onto his kids (all except Elizabeth but then she was made of seriously tough stuff) is another STD you are ignoring but shouldn’t.
Syphilis is caused by a bacterial infection of the genital tract, known as Treponema Pallidum. Syphilis and is transmitted when direct contact is made between the small, painless sores on the mouth, rectum, vagina, or around the genitals in areas not protected by latex condoms. Babies can also get it while in their mama’s womb. Even when there are no sores, the disease is still present. Syphilis symptoms are rare, however, the most telling are sores or lesions on and around the genitals, as well as hair loss, sore throat, fever; headache; and a white patchy skin rash. Syphilis is old skool. It has been with us forever but is enjoying (?) a resurgence as part of the retirement village sexual revolution (see http://mygreynomads.com/health/sex-please-were-british) for details. Having sex is fun. Leaking yellow syphilitic pus down your face –ala Bloody Queen Mary- is not. If you are banging away at someone new, how about suggesting a romantic date for two at your local health clinic followed by dinner, a bottle of wine, and a quick stop off at the local convenience store for a packet of ‘French letters’? So French. So chic.
Chlamydia is another delight that affects a man’s penile urethra and a woman’s cervix. However, often those who have contracted Chlamydia don’t show symptoms for months or even years, which explains why it’s the most common and rampant STD. If you do show symptoms, you’ll feel pain during intercourse and have a discoloured, thick discharge from the vagina or penis. And my, what a turn on that is. Penetration, that most violent yet delightful of acts, is to blame. Stick something with Chlamydia on the tip into something else and before you can say ‘love you long time’ it’s all over, red rover. Chlamydia is tricky to spell, but easy to treat. In fact it can be easily cured with antibiotics. Literally, a 7 day course of pills and badabing-badabong. All done. Such is modern medicine. Of course, nothing is free. Re-infections can occur and you will need to keep your smexy time to yourself for about 7 days after treatment. And if you simply CAN’T do that, then rehab is the answer, not so much the medication….. Just sayin’
The biggy these days is HPV or Human Papilloma Virus. It affects roughly three-quarters of the sexually active population and a staggering one-quarter of sexually active women, which is why there is a North American vaccine to protect young women from certain types of HPV that are linked to genital warts and cervical cancer. HPV is transmitted through genital contact—via vaginal and anal sex, and also oral sex and genital-to-genital contact. Most times HPV doesn’t show any symptoms until it’s far advanced, but genital warts as well as RRP, a condition where warts grow in the throat and eventually cause breathing difficulties are common. Yay!! I hear you say. Funsies. Let’s find out more. Well, rubber. I will say it again until it sinks in. Your daughter or your grand-daughter will get the vaccine for HPV, you will not. If you get this disease, whether you are female or male, it is because you were careless and thought more about the moment than the long term. By all means, live in the moment. But be real and pony up for the latex. Until you are certain, until you’ve read the bit of paper with the stamp on it. Until then, expect a load of questions from curious youngin’s trying to get their head around that a) you are sexually active (eeeeeeeeew!!!!) and b) you were too dumb to heed caution.
The ‘Big One’ of the day is AIDS. Remember when it was an automatic death sentence? No longer. HIV is transmitted via the exchange of body fluids as we all know. Semen, vaginal secretions, blood, or breast milk can give you AIDS. Within a month or 2 of contracting HIV, about 40 to 90-percent of those afflicted suffer from flu-like symptoms including fever, fatigue, achy muscles, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, headache, skin rash, dry cough, nausea, rapid weight loss, night sweats, frequent yeast infections (for women), cold sores, and eventually, pneumonia. Luckily, many individuals who are diagnosed early can live a long, productive life with HIV thanks to a combination of highly active anti-retroviral drug therapy, which prevents to progression to AIDS. I myself personally know of 3 people who are living long and productive lives in spite of being HIV positive. In the 80’s, when AIDS hit, it was completely devastating. When you had HIV, you would get AIDS and you would die. End of story. This is not the case anymore. But even though it is no longer the evil that it once was, you don’t want to get it, and believe me, you can.
Just because you are straight, and she said she was clean, does not make you immune. The person you have a ‘real connection’ with could be Typhoid Mary and you might not even know. Why throw caution to the wind? Are you ACTAULLY Wolverine? I don’t think so. Do everyone a favour and play safe. She, or he, may seem completely innocent, but I’m guessing that this is not their first time to the rodeo so, again, wear protection until you are sure. Really sure.
And last but by no means least, the lonely cousin of the STD’s. Herpes. Herpes comes in two forms, named – conveniently- 1 and 2. Painful sores or lesions on your mouth or genitals may indicate herpes, a viral STD that comes in two forms HSV1 (herpes of the mouth) and HSV2 (herpes of the genitals). Herpes is transmitted skin-to-skin—for instance, from genital to genital, mouth to genital, or mouth to mouth contact with an infected individual, even when they don’t have visible sores. Even though herpes symptoms can be treated with antibiotics, the virus never goes away and reoccurs typically 2 to 4 times per year. In my world, people WITHOUT herpes tend to be a little rarer than those with. But this is not true of everyone. If you are disease free, good for you, and if you want to stay that way, be practical, be sensible and above all else, be real. Sure, you know where you’ve been. The same cannot be said for your partner. Better to be safe than forever sorry. Invest in some rubber, You have little to lose, and nothing to gain.