From sexually transmitted infections to erectile dysfunction, it’s time to lift the taboo on sexual health
Sexual health is nobody’s go-to dinner table conversation topic (in the most part), but it’s important to be open about sexual health in order to protect ourselves and others from preventable conditions. By discussing sexual health more openly, we can remove the taboo from conditions that may otherwise be buried due to shame.
With that in mind, here are 4 sexual health conditions you should know about.
HIV is a serious health concern that damages the cells of the immune system and weakens an individual’s ability to fight off other infections. When your immune system has been severely damaged by the HIV virus, it can lead to AIDS, which is extremely serious.
AIDS cannot be transmitted from one person to another, but HIV can. It is found in the body fluids of an infected person, including semen, vaginal and anal fluids, blood and breast milk. Living with HIV is possible and is not the death sentence it was a few decades ago, as treatment is now available to keep the infection under control and stop it from passing to other people.
There are also preventative measures that can be taken, such as wearing a condom during sex and newly developed medications such as PEP and PrEP. These are offered to men who sleep with men at sexual health clinics, as they are at greater risk of infection.
Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections in the UK, passed on through unprotected sex. Both men and women are recommended to get tested once a year and when you have unprotected sex with new or casual partners.
The symptoms of chlamydia include pain when urinating, unusual discharge, painful testicles or a painful stomach. Wearing protection during sex is the most important step to preventing a chlamydia infection, and it’s also important to get tested regularly. If you do contract a chlamydia infection, you should contact a sexual health clinic or your GP, who can assess you and may then prescribe a course of antibiotics such as doxycycline for a week or azithromycin for three days.
Erectile problems are very common, particularly in men over 40. It’s usually nothing to worry about, but if it happens regularly it could be a sign that you are suffering from erectile dysfunction. Erectile dysfunction can occur as a result of poor diet, tiredness, or mental health concerns like anxiety and depression. It can also develop in response to issues between you and your partner.
There are certain lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of erectile dysfunction, such as losing weight if you’re overweight, stopping smoking, following a healthy diet, exercising daily, and trying to reduce stress and anxiety. You can also take effective medication such as sildenafil, which is proven to help with erectile dysfunction symptoms.
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Like chlamydia, gonorrhoea is an STI, this time caused by bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It is spread through unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex, and can also be passed from a pregnant woman to her baby. Symptoms of gonorrhoea include discharge from the penis or vagina, pain when peeing, and bleeding between periods for people who menstruate. However, around one in 10 men and half of infected women do not experience any symptoms. That’s why it’s very important to get tested.
If caught early, gonorrhoea can be treated with a single antibiotic injection, and most of your symptoms should improve within a few days. You should avoid having sex until you receive confirmation that you are no longer infected.
Understanding more about sexual health concerns can stand you in greater stead for protecting yourself and others.