Epidemic: Women Please Speak Up About STIs

Ladies, it’s 2017 and we need to be talking about sexually transmitted infections with our partners, no matter how embarrassing or nerve-wracking it might be. If you haven’t been initiating these dialogues with whoever you’re sleeping with, now’s the time to start.

While it might seem crazy to think that women aren’t communicating with their partners about sexually transmitted infections, it’s more of a reality than you might think. This lack of communication has led to a huge STI surge, with more people than ever contracting STIs. The most common

In fact, recent statistics show that not enough women are communicating with their partners at all about these infections and it’s actually leading to an epidemic — with more people than ever contracting STIs including chlamydia, genital herpes, gonorrhea and syphilis.

According to 2015 statistics released by the CDC, millennial women aren’t addressing the issue of STIs with the partners they are bedding. An overwhelming 40% of women answered “I don’t know” to the question, “Was your most recent partner tested before you became sexually active with each other?” If you think that’s worrisome, statistics of women with STIs reflect this lack of conversation around the topic. Cases of infections are at an all-time high in the US, illustrating that young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are the target demographic to acquire 50% of new STIs.

If that isn’t shocking enough, here’s another shocking reality, brought to us by a 2017 Cosmopolitan survey: 58% of women said yes, they’ve been tested for STIs within the past year, but only 33% of men say the same.

This means even heterosexual women who do take initiative with their sexual health are still at great risk of infection. Being personally proactive about STI prevention is not enough. By avoiding conversations about STI testing, we are now, more than ever, opening ourselves up to the likelihood (or possibility) of infection. In order to stay on top of an STI diagnosis — though it seems like it should go without saying — everyone needs to get tested frequently and be completely honest about their status. If only 33% of men have been tested for STIs in the last year, that leaves a shockingly large percentage of untested, possibly infected men. That chunk of untested men could pose a massive threat to the sexual health of our society as a whole. How crazy is that?

As one person gives an STI to another, the infection rate grows exponentially. Many forego using condoms when they’re on birth control but since B.C. doesn’t protect against sexually transmitted infections, this decision just might put you at risk. Furthermore, not even condoms prevent against STIs 100% of the time. While some of these infections are transferred through fluids (which is prevented by large part with a condom), conditions like genital herpes, human papillomavirus infection, syphilis, and chancroid, which are transmitted by skin-to-skin contact, may not be averted by the use of the condom. Instigating these conversations before sexual contact has become all the more important.

For the cherry on top of an already-alarming cake, this high percentage of untested people is combined with a tiny percentage of people who are honest about their sexual history (testing included). For women, only 33% cop to being honest with their partners about never being tested; comparatively, only 11% of men are likely to admit that they’ve avoided the big test. Like, shouldn’t that be illegal or something?

In case the numbers do not make it clear enough, things need to change regarding communication with our sexual partners. The statistics make evident that silence in the bedroom has consequences. In this case, these outcomes are physical and in some situations, can be life-changing or fatal. If all it takes is a simple, but sometimes squirm-inducing conversation to revert this statistic, why would that even be a question? If all it takes to ensure your sexual and reproductive health is in tact is an open and honest dialogue, it seems silly to avoid it.

As the number of sexually transmitted infection cases continues to rise, it begs our society to become more upfront and vulnerable with our partners. One-third of people admit they have either had an STI or don’t know if they’ve ever had one, an alarmingly large ratio that needs to change. If you don’t know if you’ve ever had an STI, shouldn’t that be an indicator that you need to get tested? Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to sexual health. Instead, ignorance leads to the increase of an already staggering statistic; a snowballing epidemic that we ourselves have the power to change.

So what happens if we don’t talk about STIs with our partners? Well, untreated sexually transmitted infections can cause myriad issues with long-term consequences. According to STDCheck.com, various untreated STIs can cause infertility, an increased risk of contracting HIV, miscarriages, ectopic pregnancy, and transmission of the virus to unborn children.

For more resources on the symptoms and potential treatments for STIs, as well as advice about how to talk to your partner about STIs, check out the CDC.

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