April Reminds Us of Epidemic Power: It’s STD Awareness Month
today at 8:34 pm
BY SANDRA GUY
We’ve become only too well aware of how quickly infections can spread in a COVID-paralyzed world.
April — with its designation as STD Awareness Month — gives us a chance to consider sexually transmitted diseases, their causes and their effects on our immune systems.
A healthy immune system can help protect you from bacteria and, to some extent, communicable diseases, but the best defense calls for getting vaccinated, experts say. After all, it’s always best to keep your immune system strong with a healthy diet, regular exercise, keeping stress at bay, and maintaining intentional habits such as refraining from sugary soft drinks, cigarettes, vaping, refined and processed food, and too much alcohol.
The most common STD can be prevented by a vaccine. That’s HPV — the human papillomavirus — that can lead to six types of cancer later in life. That’s why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the HPV vaccine for people ages 9 to 26. Children who get the first dose before age 15 need two doses, while those ages 15 and older require three doses.
It’s important because the vaccination is most effective before young people start having intimate relationships, experts say. HPV is spread through skin-to-skin contact such as anal, oral or vaginal sex with someone who has the virus.
Other sexually transmitted diseases are caused by microorganisms that survive on the skin or mucus membranes of the genital area, or are transmitted through blood, semen or vaginal secretions during intercourse.
They include AIDS, Chlamydia, genital herpes, genital warts, gonorrhea, syphilis, venereal disease and some forms of hepatitis. The most common are herpes, genital warts, Hepatitis B, chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea and HIV/AIDS.
Though scientists have found that proteins in the immune system can target the bacteria that cause chlamydia, the research concluded that the proteins are not strong enough on their own to stop the infection.
Experts say that, besides getting vaccinated, staying safe requires these practices:
- Use latex condoms for the entire sex act. If you use a lubricant, it should be water based. Avoid condoms with nonoxynol-9 because it can irritate a woman’s vagina and cervix and increase the risk of an STD infection.
- Don’t share underwear and towels.
- Wash before and after sexual intercourse.
- A newly reconsidered status during COVID: Abstain from sex or casual relationships.