Scientists have released evidence of a new gonorrhea "superbug" -- one resistant to all forms of antibiotics that are currently available for treatment.
Although many observers from the scientific community have called this an "alarming" development, few are surprised. Gonorrhea is one of the world's most common STDs, and it has shown a notable tendency to mutate in order to survive antibiotic treatment.
Although gonorrhea is not fatal -- yet -- it can cause serious health complications if left untreated, and can leave women unable to bear children.
This news only serves to reinforce the importance of knowing how to identify STDs when you suspect you have one, and perhaps more importantly, the importance of having safe sex.
The topic of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) is an unpleasant one. Also known as sexually transmitted infections (STI) and venereal diseases (after Venus, the Roman goddess of love), the reported cases of STDs have been at epidemic numbers for years.
Despite having become more controlled in North America, AIDS is still a terrifying prospect, and it's only one of many STDs out there. The major publicity surrounding AIDS has left us slightly more ignorant about other STDs, which may not be deadly but do pose wider threats. The major problem with any STD is its sneaky capability to go unnoticed. The symptoms can range from chancre sores, to painful urination and discharge, to flu-like aches and pains. Many men and women carry STD bacterium or viruses for years without visible symptoms, and unknowingly pass them on to their sexual partners.
Here is an overview of STD symptoms and treatments so that you're a little more well-informed on how to protect yourself and your partner.
There are two types of sexually transmitted infections: bacterial and viral. The biggest difference between the two is that infections of a bacterial nature respond to antibiotic treatments. Viral infections do not have cures.
Here is a breakdown of two of the most common STDs, their symptoms, and their respective treatments.
♦ Bacterial STD
Chlamydia is contracted through oral, vaginal or anal contact or by touching your eyes after touching the genitals of an infected partner.
Symptoms in men and women: Painful urination, penile/vaginal discharge or sore throat from oral contact.
Gonorrhea is a bacterial STD that presents differing symptoms in men and women.
Symptoms in men and women: Men often experience pain while urinating and penile discharge, while a full half of all women experience no symptoms at all. Untreated gonorrhea in both men and women can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease. Women run the risk of compromising their fertility.
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♦ Viral STD
An acronym for acquired immune deficiency syndrome, AIDS is an outbreak of symptoms and infections that result from the damage done to the immune system by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
AIDS may initially be asymptomatic or the patient may experience flu-like symptoms, which may disappear for many years before the development of full-blown AIDS.
AIDS is symptomized by fever, weight loss, fatigue, diarrhea, and opportunistic infections such as rare forms of cancer (Kaposi's sarcoma) and pneumonia (PCP).
Treatment consists of a combination of antiviral drugs, protease inhibitors and other drugs.
Everyone who has ever been -- or will ever be -- sexually active is at risk. Abstinence is the only true form of protection against these infections.
Thought condoms were the only form of STD prevention? Think again...
♦ Control Methods
Latex condoms are effective in blocking nearly all sexually transmitted organisms. Improper use is a common reason for failures in using condoms to prevent STD transmission. Condoms that are made from animal skins (lambskin) are not as effective in blocking STD organisms, as they contain pores that can sometimes allow transmission.
Animal skin condoms are good when used with latex condoms for people with latex-sensitivity allergies. In such cases, double doming is used with the latex on the top or bottom, depending on which partner has the allergy.
Oral Sex Barriers
Use a condom for fellatio and a dam (a square piece of latex rubber used by dentists during oral surgery) for cunnilingus.
Avoid High-Risk Behaviors
Any unprotected sex is high-risk behavior. Any activity that puts you in contact with another person's semen, vaginal secretions, anus or blood is considered high-risk. Activities include unprotected penetration of the vagina, anus, fisting, and anilingus (rimming). Oral sex is considered outercourse, but as some infections may be transmitted this way, protection is recommended.
For the creative-minded, this is not the same as abstinence. Outercourse refers to all sexual activities outside intercourse or penetration. Activities include touching, kissing, rubbing, massage, mutual masturbation, oral sex, and using sex toys (if cleansed properly).
Many couples decide to get tested for STDs before becoming sexually involved. Whatever the scenario, if you are sexual active, you should be tested regularly by your physician. Furthermore, if you have had an experience where you believe you may have been at risk for an STD, see your doctor right away.
If you are in a sexual relationship, whether it's a long-term commitement or one-night stand, you need to communicate with your partner. If you are mature enough to share your bedroom, be mature enough to share your thoughts. Talk about the issues, your concerns and the preventions you plan on taking together. It is usually a good idea to discuss this before, as communication usually becomes less comprehensible as the moment heats up.
Have Fun With Prevention
Many people see STD prevention as a drag. Men complain that condoms don't feel good and women say that it ruins the spontaneity of the moment. But keep in mind that there's a lot more at stake than just a lost moment; using prevention can be manipulated into something erotic. With all the different types, styles and colors of barriers, prevention can be playful. It also gives couples a chance to grow more intimate through discussion and to be more creative in sex play.
Be playful with each other, and always have fun.