Not sure if you guys have heard the news, but sexually transmitted infections are on the rise at the College of William and Mary. Seriously, the Health Center has been kind enough to provide us with a tally of how many students on our campus have cases of chlamydia, herpes and even HIV. We’ve all had some version of the “don’t have sex, you will get pregnant and die” talk with our high school health teachers, parents and older siblings. While those conversations can be helpful, there’s certainly a lot of misinformation that is bound to get passed around. So, with the help of the handy dandy internet, I’m coming at you with some cold, hard facts about how to keep your cooch or dangle clean and supreme.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know the best way to prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted infections and disease is to practice abstinence. And if abstaining from sexual encounters is your thing, then I salute you. There’s a lot of benefits to abstaining from sex, but the biggest one would certainly have to be avoiding any pesky case of crabs or gonorrhea. I know that abstinence isn’t for everyone, though. So let’s look at a couple other helpful tips from the good ol’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC points out the importance of one preventative measure that I, personally, take for granted. Vaccinations are pretty much a requirement to attend any university, so it’s easy to forget about how vital they are once you’ve left the doctor’s office and removed the Band-Aid. But vaccines are key when it comes to preventing things like human papilloma virus. HPV doesn’t have a cure, so if you want to avoid the warts and lower your chances of getting cervical cancer, I suggest biting the bullet despite any fear of needles. The CDC website recommends getting all three shots of the HPV vaccine before you become sexually active, and while I don’t know a lot about the spread of infectious diseases, I’d say the CDC probably knows what it’s talking about.
In my research – aka reading a bunch of brightly-colored infographics – I’ve also come across a few tips about condom use that I didn’t know about before. It’s no secret that condoms are important for preventing pregnancy and the spread of STIs, but did you know that there’s a bit of technique to this whole condom business? For one, please never use two condoms at once. I don’t know if the doubling up was ever actually a thing or just a horror story told by teenagers. Either way, it’s not a good idea.
And you know what else isn’t a good idea? Keeping a condom in your wallet for forever. Condoms can withstand the thrusting of a peen but not the wear and tear of sitting in your back pocket or purse for weeks on end. Replace regularly, or, better yet, just keep ‘em in your bedside table drawer. Here’s a new one for me: avoid “natural” condoms at all cost. I didn’t know these still existed, but apparently you can still purchase condoms made with animal skin. This entire concept is an immediate turn off, but if you’re eyeing animal skin over latex, listen up. Animal skin might help to prevent pregnancy, but latex does a much better job at keeping HIV at bay. So please, for the sake of you and the animal, stay away.
As for my final word of advice: get tested! I know peeing in a cup or getting some bloodwork done can be an unpleasant experience. As someone who has cried throughout both processes, I get it. Trust me. The only way to know if you have any chance of spreading STIs is to get tested regularly. Personally, I get tested yearly when I see my gynecologist. If that’s not an option for you or you simply don’t possess the vagina necessary for seeing a vagina doctor, our very own Student Health Center offers up STI testing that is subsidized by the Student Assembly. So, come on down to your on-campus healthcare provider with your significant other, your friends, your hallmate or ridin’ solo to get tested and maybe grab a condom or 10 while you’re there.
I know STIs are scary, but having the knowledge to protect yourself and your partners is one easy thing you can do to arm yourself against the clap and other diseases and infections.
Dr. Mallory Walker is a Behind Closed Doors columnist who has her M.D. from Google University.
Herpes is one of STIs which should be controled and managed. – MPWH