Protect Yourself From Sexually Transmitted Infections

You should be aware of some nasty bacterial infections. A common one, especially among college-age women, is Chlamydia. Untreated, this infection may cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can lead to infertility. Gonorrhea can do the same. Fortunately, these infections can easily be treated with antibiotics, especially if diagnosed early.

Your doctor can diagnose them quickly with a one-day DNA swab test that can be done during your pelvic exam. Even easier, the test can be done using a sample of urine! Syphilis is also an STI that requires a blood test to diagnose, but it too is easily treated with an antibiotic injection.

So what can you do to avoid all these charming bugs? Here are some suggestions:

* Minimize your number of lifetime partners. Know this: The earlier you become sexually active, the more likely you will be to have a greater-than-average number of partners-so consider delaying your first sexual experiences.
* Chose your partners wisely. Your partner should be someone you trust, one who is honest and open with you about previous sexual experiences. A worthy partner will be willing to get tested prior to becoming intimate and be willing to take a suppressive pill (acyclovir or valacyclovir) if he or she has ever had a herpes outbreak.
* Get tested. HIV can be detected easily with a blood test, and some places offer a rapid oral swab test. Tests for Chlamydia and gonorrhea are as simple as peeing in a cup. Herpes is tougher to screen for because many of us may have a positive blood test but are not really infected with genital herpes; it's more easily diagnosed during an actual herpes outbreak. HPV testing can be done from your Pap smear but if you're positive for HPV the only therapy for it is ongoing surveillance of the cervix for cancer by your gynecologist.
* Use barrier protection at all times. After reading this article, you might even consider wearing a full-body suit of latex! Seriously, though, always use a condom - there are male and female versions.
* Keep your guard up. Drinking too much alcohol or using other mind-altering substances may lead to a lapse in your powers of reasoning and you may forget to use protection. If this happens to you, get over it, see your doctor for testing, and consider taking the Plan B pill (also called the day-after pill). And don't let it happen again!
* Don't forget contraception. And don't foolishly assume that your chosen method of contraception-an IUD, The Pill, and so on-will protect you against STIs. It most certainly does not prevent transmission of any of these diseases.

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