Updated: Mar 1, 2019
What should you be careful about in the month of love and why is STI contamination on the rise?
February is considered the month of love and fun, with Valentine’s day and carnival being just around the corner, it's important to keep these few tips in mind to avoid making the month of love turn into the month of uncomfortable conversations with your significant other and medical appointments.
According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), although teenage pregnancy remains a problem, the numbers have steadily reduced over the past few decades. On the contrary, the STI's prevalence is on the rise. In the US alone, episodes of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis have undergone a 15.1%, 5.1%, and 2.8%, increase in 2018 respectively. In Brazil, the same trend can be observed, still, the results are not as reliable since the data is scarce and hard to obtain given the lack of federal government interest in the matter.
According to Dr Márcia Cardial, of the Brazilian Federation of Associations of Gynecology and Obstetrics (Febrasgo), STI's have become a sort of taboo in the country and the risk of contamination is often minimized. It is estimated by the state secretariat of São Paulo that incidents of syphilis have increased by 603% in less than 6 years. The CDC states that the group most responsible for this boom in STI's are the youth (15-24 year-olds), as they account for 56% of the gonohrea cases and 65% of the Chlamydia incidents.
According to specialists, the problem seems to be the stereotype that has been created over the ages that contracting a sexual disease is only possible if someone is considered "promiscuous", which in fact is not true. Gynecologist Mauro Romero, president of the Brazilian Society of Sexually Transmitted Diseases states that "any sexually active person, regardless of age, social class or sexual choice, can contract an STD just by practicing unsafe sex". Another issue with the younger generations is that they weren’t alive at the time of the HIV/AIDS outbreak from the late 80s, making it seem like sexually contracted diseases are a nuisance from the past, which it certainly is not.
The only way to halt the exponential growth of these infections is through education and the breaking of these long-established stereotypes. To truly address this issue and search for a solution we must, in a joint effort, end this taboo.
There are various ways to prevent contracting an STI. The CDC advises using condoms in every sexual experience. You still can get certain STDs, like herpes or HPV, from contact with your partner's skin. Remember to get vaccinated against STI's (if there is a vaccine available). For example, HPV is the most common type of STD and can be prevented by a fast, safe and effective vaccine. Furthermore, having a communicative relationship with your partner and talking about preventive measure should also help. It might be uncomfortable to start the conversation but your health needs to be put first. Also, remember that birth control pills are not enough; although it can prevent pregnancy it will not protect against STIs. If you are sexually active you should also get checked periodically for STIs - Many STIs have no symptoms but can still cause health problems. If the result is positive remember that getting an STI is not the end! Many STIs are curable and treatable!
Bernardo, André “Doenças Sexualmente Transmissíveis Não Param De Crescer.” Saúde é Vital, Saúde é Vital, 3 Apr. 2018, saude.abril.com.br/bem-estar/numero-de-infeccoes-sexualmente-transmissiveis-nao-para-de-crescer/.
"The Lowdown on How to Prevent STDs." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, n.d. Web. 22 Jan. 2019.
Hawksworth, Dulcinea. "STD Numbers Escalating for 14- to 24-Year-Olds in Will County." Stone Mountain-Lithonia, GA Patch. Patch, 06 Feb. 2013. Web. 22 Jan. 2019.