One last thing before you run off for the summer: sexually transmitted infections are real.
You may think, “This girl isn’t the type of girl who would have an STI, right? And, if she did have one, she wouldn’t be trying to sleep with me, right? If I see any warts, obviously, I’ll stop!” That’s not good enough.
If you or your partner have an STI, you may not realize it. Many people with STIs show no symptoms.
And STIs are scarily common. One in four people in the U.S. have had an STI, according to the New York State Department of Health. There are 19 million new infections in the U.S. every year, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
So when you’re off having a summer fling, keep these common STIs in mind, and use a condom every time, until you and your partner are exclusive and tested.
“Don’t have sex, because you will get chlamydia, and die.” Famous words, but not quite true.
Chlamydia often has no symptoms, but when it does, they tend to be mild. Things you might say if you have chlamydia: “It hurts when I pee”; “What’s that gross stuff coming out of my penis/vagina?”; “Ouch, my balls kind of hurt”; and “Ugh, but I’m not supposed to get my period until next week.” Left untreated, chlamydia can lead to chronic pelvic pain or infertility in women.
Chlamydia is treatable with antibiotics, though, so the good news is that you won’t die.
Gonorrhea is a great example of why you need protection for oral sex, too, not just intercourse and anal. Kind of a bummer, but so is gonorrhea. If you’ve come down with the clap, you might find yourself thinking: “It hurts when I pee.”; “Weird yellow/green/white stuff is leaking from my private parts.”; “I’m not supposed to be bleeding right now.”; “My balls are weirdly swollen”; “My ass itches”; or “It hurts when I poop.”
Gonorrhea, like chlamydia, is treatable, though certain strains are becoming drug resistant.
This one is kind of cool because it’s caused by a tiny parasite. But, it’s also an STI, so that’s not so cool. If you’ve got trich, you might think: “It hurts when I pee”; “That discharge isn’t supposed to be there”; “It itches in a place inappropriate to scratch in public”; or “Wow, my vajayjay smells nasty.” Trich is another STI that can easily be cured with an antibiotic.
Someone who has contracted syphilis might think, “I hope that’s an ingrown hair and not syph.” If the STI had progressed to its second stage, they might start to think, “I should probably get these weird red thumb nail–size sores on my body checked out.” and “I’m achy, feverish and feel terrible.”
Syphilis is also treatable with antibiotics. Left untreated for an extended amount of time, though, syph can literally make you go insane.
In the U.S., one in six people ages 14 to 49 have genital herpes. Most of them don’t know it, which is just scary. Someone with genital herpes might think: “I have itching and burning in uncomfortable places, this is no fun, and “I really hope that red bump is an ingrown hair and not herpes. It’s probably not herpes.” The bad news is that there’s no cure for herpes, even though it is treatable, to an extent. The good news is that its symptoms are pretty mild.
HIV is scary. It can’t be cured, and it leads to AIDS. Treatments are constantly improving and can be very effective, sometimes preventing the development of AIDS for decades. A few weeks to a month after a person contracts HIV, they may experience flu-like symptoms. (Or, sometimes, no symptoms.) Because colds are so common, these symptoms are easy to brush off, so people likely won’t suspect HIV unless they are tested.
The moral of the story is that if you’ve ever had unsafe sex, go get tested. It’s probably covered under your insurance. And always use a condom unless you and your partner are exclusive and tested.
Armstrong is a member of the class of 2016.