The Importance of Safe Sex

March 2, 2019 by Monica Duvall, MD

In celebration of National Condom Week (4/14-4/21), a reminder about the importance of safe sex is due.   Last year, the CDC reported that rates of Syphilis, Chlamydia, and Gonorrhea in the U.S. had all increased for the fourth straight year.  Forty-five per cent of the new Chlamydia cases were found in young women—a particularly alarming statistic, as this infection can lead to infertility if unrecognized/untreated.  Genital herpes is estimated to have a prevalence of 1 in 6 Americans, with women far outnumbering men in new cases.  And the HPV virus, as we all know, can lead to cervical dysphasia and even cancer in infected women.   All of this points to the importance of awareness and preventive measures in limiting the spread of various sexually-transmitted infections.   First of all—know your/your partner’s risks. Higher-risk populations for contracting STIs include men who have sex with men (MSM), those with new or multiple sexual partners, those who live in an area of high STI prevalence, and those who exchange sex for drugs or money.   Second—consider preventive measures you/your partner can take before you become sexually active.  The HPV vaccine series has proven very effective in reducing infections with the viral strains that the vaccine is designed to prevent.   Hepatitis B infection can also be prevented though vaccination.  Individuals with genital herpes can reduce the likelihood of transmitting the virus to their partners by taking a daily suppressive medication.  And certain high-risk individuals can take pre-exposure antiretroviral prophylactic (PREP) medication regularly to ward off acquiring HIV from an infected partner.  If you do decide to become sexually active, using condoms consistently and getting tested regularly are paramount.  Condoms are not 100% effective at preventing STIs, so the importance of regular screening cannot be underestimated—be safe!

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