Did you know that April is National STD Awareness Month? That’s right, this is the time to discuss and develop healthy sexual habits that we can put into practice for the rest of the year (or, rather, for the rest of your life). Have a burning question about an STD? Been putting off a visit to the doctor? This is your month to make time for sexual health. In order to best take advantage of this annual period, I have compiled a list of 5 ways to observe (celebrate?) STD Awareness Month:
1. 1. Have a discussion with your partner about STDs.
If you’ve never had a discussion about STDs with your partner, now is a good time to do so. Let him/her know about your sexual history and past experience with STDs (if any). Ask him/her for the same information. Being honest about your sexual past can help build trust and confidence in your relationship.
2. 2. Have a discussion with your family and friends about STDs.
Ignorance is mostly to blame for the spread of STDs. Creating awareness about STDs can help prevent the transmission, and may reduce the social stigma associated with them. Maybe you are ashamed to tell your family you contracted herpes. This may be a good time to let them know about your affliction, so that they can be more supportive and understanding of your situation. Although I don’t go around telling all my friends I have herpes, I’m glad I’ve told the handful I have. Most of them also have an STD and we are able to compare notes on our experiences. For the ones who don’t, I’ve become a herpes/HPV resource, helping them make more informed decisions.
3. 3. Get tested.
It is wise to get tested for STDs each time you have a new partner or at least once a year. I have my annual exam coming up, as I felt anxious after finding out that my new partner claims to have been with over 100 women. (Yikes! He then harped on me for having a fraction of his amount! Same old double standard, patriarchal bullshit…) Some diseases take up to six weeks to be detectable, so if you have recently started seeing someone, you may want to wait a little while before going in for exams. If you’d like to be tested for everything (herpes, HPV, HIV, syphilis, Chlamydia, crabs, gonorrhea, hepatitis - those are the big ones) you must specifically ask for each test to ensure that they are done. Otherwise, you may think you were tested when you really weren’t. Additionally, bear in mind that HPV can only be detected from Pap smears in women.
4. 4. Try a new type of condom.
Don’t listen to the Pope…what does he know about sex anyway? Condoms are cool and should always be used, especially with new, unknown, or non-committed partners. If you’re getting bored of the standard clear-white condom, try some of the colored and/or textured condoms. There’s also a fun assortment of lubricants out there, which can help prevent condom breakage and enhance pleasure. Hell, go crazy and try out a dental dam if you’ve never used it before. You may find it’s more comfortable than you had imagined, and will give you that extra protection (for both the giver and receiver) during oral sex. Remember that condoms don’t protect you 100% from STDs.