STDs: Removing the Stigma

STDs: Removing the Stigma

It’s not always comfortable talking about STDs, which you may also hear referred to as STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections). Who wants to gab about gonorrhea?

While you don’t have to draw attention to your latest herpes flare-up, it shouldn’t be quite so taboo to talk about it—generally speaking.

Perhaps if we started being open and honest about STDs from an early age, we wouldn’t feel so awkward delving into this “TMI” topic. Sure, schools teach students the technical stuff, but there’s a difference between studying for a quiz and making the subject matter part of real everyday education.

Today’s teens and young adults are savvier than ever, including when it comes to sex. With the internet available 24/7, their interest is piqued and it’s up to parents to inform them responsibly. Talking with your children about STDs won’t make them more likely to have sex. However, teens and young adults who discuss STDs with their parents are more likely to make healthy choices as a result.

Safe sex—it’s more than a slogan

Safe sex (or safer sex) is always the way to “do it”, even if one trusts their partner’s word about his or her status.

Discussing safer sex with your children before they experience it themselves is the only way to go. Because too late is, well, too late.

There are plenty of resources out there, from books to YouTube tutorials. Some parents may be embarrassed to address the topic but there’s no shame in protecting your child. Talk to a healthcare professional if you need help with an approach or the information itself.

Discuss topics like condom use, birth control, and abstinence—the ultimate in safe sex.

STD testing and treatment

You should also let your child know when and where to get tested for STDs. At vybe, we offer convenient, confidential STD screenings. Using blood and urine specimens, the samples will help diagnose many common STDs, including HIV.

There are many treatment options available today for a number of common STDs. So, let them know that it’s not a “death sentence” or a dreadful existence. The peace of mind aspect of knowing your status is empowering. Let them know that they can bring along a friend or partner and get tested together.

Explain that once they become sexually active, they need to be routinely screened at an STD-testing clinic. Teach your children to take an active role in their sexual health and encourage them to have private discussions with a medical professional.

The scoop on STDs

If your children are sexually active, they’re at risk of contracting an STD—plain and simple. It’s important for your teens to know what an STD is, how they’re spread, and the different types of STDs they may encounter. Common STDs your child should be aware of include:

  • Chlamydia: This is the most prevalent STD in the U.S., spread by vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Some folks see no symptoms at all, while others experience genital discharge or pain while urinating. Treatment with antibiotics (since it’s a bacterial infection) can wipe it out but get tested again 3-6 months later to be sure you’re clean.
  • Gonorrhea: Like chlamydia, gonorrhea is spread similarly and is also a bacterial infection. Women are more likely to see no symptoms at all, but some experience vaginal discharge. The fellas may feel pain in the testicles, and both genders may have irritation in the throat and/or anus. This infection can lead to infertility if left to linger. Antibiotics are prescribed for treatment.
  • Syphilis: Syphilis can “sneak up” on someone, as it can take as long as three months before symptoms show. Ulcers or sores can pop up, leading to organ and nerve damage if left untreated. This STD is obviously more concerning than the previous two, so if you suspect you may be infected, see a doctor who can prescribe something right away.
  • Herpes: Herpes has no cure at all, but managing symptoms is the strategy. Blisters in the genital and anal area occur during outbreaks, so refraining from sexual activity to avoid passing it along during these times is smart, even with a condom.
  • Trichomoniasis: This one is essentially a parasite passed along from genital-to-genital contact, with women being more susceptible to catching it. Some people find no evidence of symptoms, while others are burdened with soreness and itching or burning, even a stinky discharge. Antibiotics can solve the problem.
  • HPV: You’ve seen the commercials for the vaccines, but what do you really know about HPV (Human Papillomavirus)? Worldwide, it’s the most common STD, since there are more than 200 strains going around. Most bring on no notable symptoms, while other strains cause genital warts. Some people with HPV get cancer—particularly cervical cancer (in women). Vaginal, anal, and oral sex and even skin-to-skin contact (without penetration) can transmit the virus. There’s no cure but treatments are available.
  • HIV/AIDS: Vaginal and anal sex can transmit HIV from one partner to the other. A positive HIV test result does not mean AIDS is inevitable. Progress in this area has changed dramatically over the decades, and treatment options have been successful for managing HIV, even making it undetectable in the blood, in many cases. Talk to your vybe provider about PrEP, which can help prevent HIV.

STDs sound scary, but when your children are well-informed and take proactive measures to stay safer, they can keep themselves healthy. Teach the younger generation about the “birds and the bees” with real information that’s age-appropriate. Practice safer sex and get tested regularly. When health is on the line, no amount of pleasure is worth the worry.

For more information on ways to prevent STDs or for confidential STD testing services, contact your closest vybe location. You can also start with an online doctor visit, which may result in a referral to a vybe clinic for testing.