Sexual health is a broad topic and goes beyond matters related to sexually transmitted infections (STIs). However, STIs form a special component of sexual health. Those afflicted with STIs can suffer grave reproductive health consequences, ranging from chronic pelvic pain to problems with fertility. It is in your interests to guard yourself against STIs, and to seek prompt treatment if you ever get infected.
There are certain categories of special risk groups for STIs, like adolescents and sexual health workers. But everyone who engages is sexual activities of whatever sort is at risk as well. We are talking of infections like gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, and HIV among others. Some of these infections, like gonorrhea, will have suggestive symptoms. Other infections, like chlamydia, tend to ran a silent course without any symptoms. Either way, consequential damage to the reproductive system can be horrific.
Your best bet against STIs is prevention. The next best thing is routine screening, and prompt treatment if an infection gets diagnosed. There are many things you can do to guard yourself against STIs. If you never ever engage in sexual intercourse, then you will not get predisposed to STIs. But that’s hardly practical for the majority. But knowing you are uninfected, and only having sex with a partner who is also uninfected gives you some guarantee. If unsure about your partner’s status, then you need a measure of protection. Use condoms, or don’t have sex with them.
Be open to STI screening within defined intervals. You could choose an annual screening depending on your sexual habits. You only need to provide a sample of urine to screen for some STIs, and a blood sample for others. Best to get both you and your partner screened at the same time. Once you screen negative, it’s your duty to maintain safe sexual habits forthwith.
If you unexpectedly get diagnosed with some affliction, you must promptly adhere to the prescribed treatment. You must also take precautions not to infect others, either by abstinence till cured or by use of condoms. You should also make efforts to get your recent sexual partners screened and treated as appropriate.
Longer term complications of STIs can have a major impact on your reproductive function. Be open to your gynecologist about previous STIs. Delays in conception may imply damaged fallopian tubes or sperm transport channels, necessitating assisted conception. Pelvic inflammatory disease (known as PID) can result from STIs, leading to ongoing chronic pelvic symptoms which can be difficult to cure. Some infections like HIV may not necessarily be cured and will warrant adherence to long-term medication.
You have plenty of reasons to avoid STIs. The most basic preventive measure is to practice safe sexual habits. Short of that, you’ll just put yourself at risk of avoidable and long-term reproductive health problems.
Article by: Dr. Murage