According to the WHO definition sexual health is a state of physical, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality. It requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.
Education plays on of the most important roles in the provision of all aspects of sexual health care by informing and educating about sexually transmitted diseases(STDs) and safer sex.
The availability of testing and treatment is another fundamental pillar of sexual health.
What are the most common STDs?
- Chlamydia: is very common and can be missed, particularly in women because the bacteria that causes it doesn’t always create symptoms. It is transmitted by oral, anal, or genital contact with someone else who has it.
- Gonorrhea: similar to Chlamydia, it is caused by a bacteria and can often be asymptomatic. It is transmitted by oral, anal, or genital contact with someone else who has it.
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV): this virus causes genital warts, although the lesions may not appear in everyone who has it. It’s highly contagious and easily transmitted during sexual contact or even by skin-to-skin contact. When genital warts are visible, diagnosis can be made from inspection. Additional or regular testing can include biopsy or colposcopy in women.
- Syphilis: Syphilis is a bacterial infection passed from one person to another by oral, anal, or genital contact. In men, the first sign of syphilis may be a sore on the penis. In women, the first sign may be a sore around or inside the vagina. You might not even notice the sore, because syphilis sores don’t hurt. The sores go away after three to six weeks.
- Herpes: There are two types. Type 1 has traditionally been associated with oral herpes and type 2 with genital herpes, but recent research has shown that most genital infections are also caused by type 1. Herpes is most commonly transmitted via contact with sores, but in some cases can be transmitted when the infected person has no symptoms at all. A person may have either strain of the virus but never show any symptoms, or may have an “outbreak” with painful sores near his or her mouth, genitals, or anus.
- HIV: is a viral infection that can be transmitted sexually, by having unprotected anal or vaginal sex or via blood (sharing needles or coming into contact with an open wound or sore). It is only extreme rare cases in which it can also be transmitted by contact with other body fluids.
- Hepatitis B: Hepatitis B is also a viral infection, it’s spread when people come in contact with the blood, open sores, or body fluids of someone who has the hepatitis B virus. It can cause serious liver damage.
- Hepatitis C: is a viral infection that is transmitted through contact with blood or through skin exposure (sharing needles or coming into contact with an open wound or sore). Very uncommonly, hepatitis C can be contracted by having sex with someone who has hepatitis C This infection can cause chronic liver disease and liver cancer.
What is STD Screening?
Having a screening test done means that you will get tested for infections even though you are not showing any symptoms. It is highly important to screen for sexually transmitted diseases since they may have important consequences on health and fertility when not treated properly. There are no exact recommended tests or times to get tested but it rather depends on your lifestyle and risk level, but as a general rule, if you are sexually active it is advisable to have regular check ups.
When to get tested?
If you’ve had unprotected sex or want to start having sex — vaginal, anal, or oral — with a new partner, it’s a good idea to get tested.
The test results will be reliable if you wait for the following period after having a risky sexual encounter.
- For gonorrhea and chlamydia --> 2 weeks.
- For syphilis --> 1 week to 3 months.
- For HIV, hepatitis C and B --> 6 weeks to 3 months.
If you identify yourself among the following situations a different check-ups time is needed:
- You’re involved in risky sexual contact. For instance, your partner has a chronic or long-term disease, such as HIV or hepatitis C or B, it’s important to be tested more frequently. If you’re in an open relationship, or you aren’t sure that your partner is monogamous, those are also reasons to be screened regularly. Generally, that means about every 6 months or more depending on your personal situation.
- You have high-risk sexual behavior. High-risk behavior includes intimate contact with a sex worker, IV drug user, men who have sex with men, having multiple partners, or anonymous partners. In all these cases, you’re at higher risk for coming into contact with STDs and should get tested after contact.
- You have symptoms. This is a good time to have a discussion with a doctor or approach a clinic. Your symptoms and history will allow you to make the best choice about the most informative tests, and if diagnosed you will get the proper treatment.
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