As societies begin to open up to regular jobs and activities, there is an increase in people socializing outside their homes. Some socialization will be for school and work, others will be for friendly social gatherings. However, any time you mix people together and add a little alcohol, then suddenly — voila, you have the combination for some sexual adventures possibly developing.
And with an increase in sexual activity, that means there’s the chance of unwanted outcomes, from unexpected pregnancy to sexually transmitted infections (or STIs). According to a report by NBC News, public health experts fear an explosion, not from COVID-19, but from sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HPV, and more.
Public health experts worry that after more than a year in isolation, people will “let loose” like never before and disregard safer sex practices. Some public health experts call summer 2021 the “hot vax summer of love” due to the high vaccination rates, the reopening of society, and people’s longing for human connections.
STIs can lead to a wide variety of health concerns. From burning and itching sensations during urination or sex, to a discharge coming out of the urethra, HPV infections can lead to possible types of cancers, penile pain or vaginal pain, and if left unchecked, some could have serious health ramifications over time. The truth is that the pandemic only slowed down what was already a skyrocketing public health crisis. But if people behave as experts fear, the STI crisis could become unmanageable.
Symptoms Of Sexually Transmitted Diseases
To know if you have an STI, testing is required. If you experience any of the following symptoms, consult a physician to diagnose you as soon as possible:
- Unusual, sometimes “milky” discharge from the anus, penis, or vagina
- Pain while urinating
- Lumps, skin growths, or rash around the genitals or anus
- Unusual vaginal bleeding or bleeding during sex
- Itchy anus or genitals
- Blisters or sores developing around the genitals or anus
Even if you don’t have intercourse, unprotected oral sex can be a conduit for an STI. Therefore, it’s ideal to only engage in sexual acts with a monogamous partner or with condoms as protection. If you’ve recently (1-3 months) had unprotected sex, it’s best to contact your physician to be sure you’re not infected with a sexually transmissible disease.
Whether you’re getting a complete “work-up” done by your doctor, or looking for an over-the-counter option, getting an STI screening is easy to do and is covered under most insurance plans. For women, an STI screening should include a PAP smear as part of their examination. Over 50% of sexually active people have some form of an STI, with most infected being asymptomatic carriers.
The Silent HPV Risk
Asymptomatic carriers are people who can transmit a disease though they don’t exhibit any signs or symptoms associated with the disease. For example, COVID-19 is thought to transmit asymptomatically, as well as many STDs (such as the human papillomavirus, or HPV), a leading cause of cervical cancer in young people. HPV, in particular, will usually lay dormant without any active symptoms, though warts are the first sign of infection in some cases.
The main issue with HPV is that most of the time, there aren’t symptoms. While there isn’t a test for men, for women, testing may be the only way to know if you’re infected. Since HPV can linger for up to 24 months and has a primary effect on cervical cancer, it’s highly recommended that women under the age of 26 get an HPV test every year to two years while being sexually active.
Even though some cases don’t exhibit symptoms, common symptoms of HPV resemble those of other STI’s, including:
- Genital Warts
- Pain in the pelvic region
- Pain or bleeding during sex
- Unusual discharge during sex that has a strong, foul odor
While most of these symptoms are exhibited with women, most men can develop warts and be carriers or asymptomatic spreaders, making testing and screening so crucial for overall health. Protect yourself and your partners by getting tested regularly and practicing safe sex are the best defenses against an STI, especially HPV. As the “hot vax summer of love” heats up, be safe, get tested, and live well.