Tag Archives: STD

STD Mythbuster: Blue Waffle

Please enjoy the last contribution from our wonderful student intern…

A couple of weeks ago, I was facilitating a sexual health class with middle schoolers on viral STDs. I was asking the class to match the STD to its symptoms when a girl raised her hand.

blue-waffle9-290x200“What about blue waffle,” she asked.

“Blue waffle?” I thought I had heard her wrong.

“Yeah, it gives women discharge and makes it all blue and painful on the outside,” she responded.

Luckily for me, my supervisor was able to step in and explain to the class that “blue waffle” is an internet hoax. (READ: BLUE WAFFLE IS NOT REAL.) There are a number of graphic images circulating around the internet that accompany lists of bogus symptoms, and there are a whole host of bogus websites that appear to be real (but aren’t). The graphic images appear to be photoshopped.

Regardless of where the images come from, if you are perusing the internet for health information, always go to reliable websites and triple check your sources. Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s real or true. If you are looking for sexual health information and don’t stop by a well-known, reliable website like The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for verification, you’re doing your research the wrong way.

  • The majority of STD’s are asymptomatic (that means no symptoms).
  • If you are sexually active, or have multiple partners, always use protection and get tested for sexually transmitted diseases, and do it often.
  • Use lubricants to minimize tearing of the condom.
  • When in doubt, see a medical professional.

Sometimes we feel shy or embarrassed talking about sexual health issues with a doctor and the internet is a logical place to search for health information. This simply underscores what we aim to do at The Feronia Project, by providing you with medically accurate sexual health information.

Want more information about STD’s and safer sex? Check out the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Planned Parenthood to help you decide whether to get checked!

Or you can Ask the Sexperts! here at The Feronia Project.

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How is Syphilis Spread?

gytIf you thought that syphilis wasn’t an issue anymore, you’re wrong. Read on…

Primary Stage  
During this stage many people will notice a painless sore(s). The sores can appear on the penis, vagina, anus, rectum, and/or lips/mouth. The sore(s) usually take 3-6 weeks to heal and can go away on their own without treatment. It is important to note that an infected person should make sure they seek medical attention to ensure the infection does not go into the second stage. During this stage an infected person is contagious. The sore(s) spread from direct contact (aka: oral, anal, or vaginal sex).

Secondary Stage
During this stage someone may notice an unusual rash and/or sores in the mouth or genital area. The rash can also occur on other parts of the body. You could also develop a rash on the palms of the hands or bottom of the feet. Sometimes it is very noticeable and other times it can be so faint someone may not notice it. Other symptoms can include fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, patchy hair loss, headaches, weight loss, muscle aches, and fatigue (feeling very tired). The symptoms from this stage will eventually go away, but if they are not treated the infection can develop into the latent and late stages.

Latent and Late Stages
During these stages the infection can hibernate for years and not show any signs or symptoms. If someone had the infection for a long time it could move to the late stage and cause damage to internal organs, blindness, brain damage and potentially lead to death.

Can syphilis harm a pregnancy?
Syphilis can lead to a low birth weight baby that is born early, stillborn or cause severe birth defects. Women should be tested for STD’s during pregnancy and at delivery.

How do you test for syphilis?
A quick blood draw will determine if you are positive.

Can syphilis be cured?
Yes, thankfully syphilis can be cured with antibiotics, but the medication cannot reverse any damage that the infection has caused.

How do you prevent syphilis?
The only way to prevent syphilis is to not have direct contact with a syphilis sore. In other words, abstinence from oral, anal and vaginal sex. You can reduce your risk by always using condoms and barriers.

For more information on syphilis or to find a Planned Parenthood in your area.

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Everyone Loses When a Health Department Falsifies STD Records

When you get tested for an STD, the results are always confidential, and sometimes anonymous. If you test positive, most Health Departments have a program that will notify your past sexual partners that they might be at risk WITHOUT revealing your identity. Afterall, one of those past sexual partners is the one that gave you the infection. Tracking down past sexual partners can be difficult work, but it is important work especially considering the asymptomatic nature of most STDs. Many people pass on STDs because they didn’t know they were infected in the first place.

Syphilis bacteria

Syphilis bacteria

Syphilis was nearly eliminated in the not-to-distant past, but it is on the rise again. Considering this news, it is even more inexcusable that the Dallas County Health Department falsified numbers in the syphilis notification program in order to meet state goals. Investigators found the workers took names of people who tested negative and listed them as past sexual contacts in the files of people who tested positive for syphilis. This made it look like they had identified the person’s past contacts, but really the names they were inserting in the files had nothing to do with the person who tested positive.

Shuffling names around is one thing, but not properly tracking down and notifying the people that had potential exposure to syphilis spells big trouble for that community and beyond. STDs are a mobile as their hosts so the Dallas County Health Department didn’t just do their county a disservice, they’ve wronged us all.

Apparently, the movitvation for falsifying the records was so the Health Department could access federal dollars. And it seems this particular Health Department has a record for fudging the numbers. In 2008, former Dallas County employees were complaining they were told to falsify data for AIDS patients in order to keep federal dollars flowing.

Syphilis is curable, but when left untreated, has serious consequences. You can reduce your risk of syphilis infection by:

  • reducing number of sexual partners
  • always using barrier protection such as condoms and dental dams
  • getting tested regularly

Syphilis testing involves either a blood draw or drawing fluid from a syphilis sore. You can do an internet search for the Health Department near you or you can find the closest Planned Parenthood. We assure you that most STD testing sites do not fudge such important information.

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The App That’s Helping Syphilis Spread

dsc_0094-e1367819041812Some scary news is coming out of Onondaga County, NY. Between 2012 and 2013, the number of syphilis cases nearly doubled, and the smart phone app called Grindr is partly to blame. Grindr is a global positioning app that allows users to locate other users (within feet) who want to meet up. Many times, these meet ups turn into hook ups. The app is targeted to men who have sex with men, very similar to other apps like Tinder, which targets a more heterosexual base. Grindr boasts over 7 million members across 192 countries. You can see why health officials are concerned.

Health officials in the Syracuse area confirmed that nearly all the cases involved men, and more than 70 percent involved men who reported having sex with other men. Many of these men reported using Grindr (and similar apps) to find their recent sex partners. In case you need a refresher, syphilis can be deadly if left untreated by antibiotics. It is a bacterial infection, like chlamydia and gonorrhea, but left untreated, syphilis has much worse consequences. To learn about the symptoms associated with syphilis, please visit this CDC fact sheet.

This news is especially hard to hear considering that the U.S. was doing so well at reducing syphilis cases that the CDC officially ceased its Syphilis Elimination Effort just months ago in December 2013.

The Grindr website encourages its users to stay safe by getting tested and using protection, but only specifically mentions HIV and hepatitis. Here are two tips to keep you (sexually) safer when using meet up to hook up apps: 1- Know your status by getting tested often. If you’re testing positive, don’t spread the infection. 2- Use condoms. Asking someone you’re dating to reveal their status is one thing, but expecting a complete stranger to be honest about their status is completely unrealistic. And remember, given the opportunity, sexually transmitted diseases will spread, regardless of who you have sex with.

If you do test positive and aren’t sure how to tell your past partners, alert them anonymously with inSPOT. For testing, visit your local health department or Planned Parenthood.

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Paps, Condoms, and Pregnancy Tests: Dispelling Common Misconceptions

Birth-Control-WordsWhile working here at Planned Parenthood I’ve noticed some trends in common misconceptions about sexual health. This isn’t a surprise! Finding accurate information about sex and sexuality can be tricky. We don’t necessarily learn everything we should in school, and the media is more focused on what’s steamy or sexy than explaining the best methods for preventing sexual risk. So, I’m here today to answer some common questions and dispel some common misconceptions that I frequently encounter in our health center.

“So the Pap smear tests for all STDs right?”

It seems like there are a lot of misconceptions about which tests test for what and how. It’s a lot to keep track of. Generally, Pap smears are ONLY testing for the presence of abnormal (and therefore possibly precancerous) cervical cells. SOME health care providers will also include HPV testing, and some may do a chlamydia and gonorrhea test (either from a urine draw at the time of the appointment, or from a vaginal swab), but this isn’t a given. It is important to know that these tests are NOT guaranteed. For any appointment, you should make sure you clarify with your medical health professional exactly what you are being tested for.

“I had sex a couple days ago, will your tests tell me if I’m pregnant?”

If you have concerns about becoming pregnant or are anxious to try and conceive, waiting to take a pregnancy test can be agonizing. Within our own health center, the soonest our pregnancy test can pick-up the human pregnancy hormone (human chorionic gonadotropin or hCG) is 12 days after conception. There are two important factors to keep in mind here. The first is that conception does not necessarily take place right after intercourse. In fact, conception can take place up to seven days after intercourse. Second, the potential to get a positive result doesn’t mean the guarantee of an accurate result. An early first test doesn’t necessarily indicate that you aren’t pregnant; it could just mean that the hCG is not high enough in your system to be detected. Tests become significantly more accurate after a missed period, so even though it can be nerve wracking, the best route may be to wait for this signal from your body to test.

“So now that I’m on birth control, I don’t need to wear condoms right?”

One of the biggest concerns that people using birth control might have about penile/vaginal intercourse is getting pregnant. However, it is important to remember that there are other risks associated with having intercourse without a condom. Different forms of hormonal birth control and the copper IUD do NOT protect from sexually transmitted diseases. The choice to use or not use a condom is a personal one, but because birth control doesn’t prevent STDs, it is important to keep the potential for STD transmission at the forefront of your consideration.

If you would like to make an appointment, you can do so through our website.

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Sex and New Year’s: Resolutions for Health

2011-year-resolution-400x400It is hard to believe that 2013 has already come to a close! We’re two weeks into the new year and many of us are probably thinking about our New Year’s resolutions, or maybe more generally what changes we’d like to see in ourselves this year. We often hear about commitments to lose weight, to find love, to take on new creative endeavors, but what about commitments to our sexual health? The new year can be a great time to take charge of one’s sexual and reproductive health.

Are you looking for love in the new year? Why not also make a commitment to practice open and honest communication about sexuality (including sexual history, desires, turn-offs) in new relationships? Have you been putting off getting routine STD testing done? Use the new year as an impetus to get tested! Do you have some symptoms you’ve been afraid to get looked at, or concerns you’ve been putting off dealing with? Use this time of renewal and change to make a positive commitment to yourself and your health, and go see a medical professional. Any time is a great time to vow to focus more on your sexual health. You’ll always find caring professionals at your local Planned Parenthood.

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Didn’t Learn That in Health Class!: STDs and Stigma

The way we talk about sexual health is incredibly important. If we want to reach a place in our society where people can easily gain access to reproductive health care, we need to learn to talk about sex, sexuality, and our bodies in ways that facilitate this change. This is particularly important when it comes to talking about sexually transmitted diseases, as the stakes for breaking away from the shame-based fear currently associated with these infections are incredibly high.

hiv-stigma-cycleOftentimes individuals who have a sexually transmitted diseases face a great deal of ridicule within our society. This scorn is reflected in casual conversations, media representations, and unfortunately even in some education related to sexual health. Negative notions about STDs may portray individuals who have them as being dirty, sexually promiscuous, and irresponsible. This creates a mold in which only “certain types” of people get STDs. The problem with this logic is that research has shown that 1 in 4 Americans currently have an STD, with almost half of these infections taking place in the 15-24 year old age range. If you are engaging in sexual activity, and especially if you are having sex and not using a barrier method (such as condoms and dental dams), it is possible for you to contract an STD. Infections don’t differentiate between “certain types” of people.

It also is important to remember that one reason we hold such negative views about sexually transmitted diseases is because they are contracted during sexual contact. We wouldn’t publicly ostracize someone because they caught a cold, nor would we spread rumors about someone’s character because they contracted a nasty case of food poisoning. Promoting negative ideas about STDs and the people who have them is tied in with our culture’s negatives notions about sex. There ARE risks to having sex, just like there are risks to nearly any type of human contact. However, the current cultural shame around STDs doesn’t promote knowledge or understanding, nor does it propel people into seeking medical care. However, the best way to decrease infection rates and encourage more individuals to seek testing and treatment may just be to highlight the fact that an STD is an infection, and like other all infections requires professional medical help. If we work to remove the cultural stigma surrounding STDs we may be able to start a more genuine discussion about how STDs are spread, what can be done to prevent them, and what to do if you have an STD.

The first of this month represented World AIDS Day. In keeping with a focus on HIV and AIDS, there are some organizations that work to reduce stigma, and provide a great example of how we can communicate about STDss without relying on negative assumptions or misinformation. One such organization is The Stigma Project, which is a “grassroots organization that aims to lower the HIV infection rate and neutralize the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS through education and awareness via social media and advertising.” Another organization is The Sero Project, which is “a network of people with HIV and allies fighting for freedom from stigma and injustice.” Check ‘em out!

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5 Tips for Being a Good Support Person

Back again is one of the newest to the Feronia family. Her passion for reproductive healthcare and interest in making sex education easy to access and understand makes her a fabulous guest writer, and we’re excited to have her!

help a friendSo someone you’re close to has asked you to accompany them to a reproductive health care appointment. This loved one, whether they are a friend, a partner, or a family member, clearly cares about you! Maybe they are getting birth control for the first time, and are nervous about what the appointment will be like. Perhaps they have some symptoms they’re concerned about, and want a professional to check them out. It could be that they’ve decided to end a pregnancy, and really want someone there to support them during the process. The fact that this person has asked you to come with them shows that they probably trust you and feel safe around you! And in order to be the best support person you can, there are some basic points to consider when joining this person on their appointment.

1. Listen!

This is probably the simplest advice on the list, but also the most important. If the person you are there with wants to talk, listening is one of the most basic and important things you can do! It might seem like you have to coach your loved one or provide them with advice, but that’s not always the case. Hearing what someone is saying, and validating them by lending a friendly ear is a great and simple way to be a successful support person.

2.  Leave Your Judgments at Home 

People have a wide variety of opinions and views, and it’s something that makes each of us unique and interesting. However, when someone has asked you to join them in a support capacity at a sexual health related appointment, it is important to try to remove your individual opinions and focus on what your loved one needs. Our culture has a lot of baggage tied up in sexual health, and oftentimes individuals who are seeking reproductive health care can by hyper-aware of this. Who is going to feel the unfair stigmas of an STD more than someone who is seeking treatment for herpes for the first time? How much do you think a 16 year old who has missed her period and wants to go to the doctor to find out if she is pregnant fears our society’s negative views of teen pregnancy? When you are acting in a support capacity, it is important not to forget that you are there mainly to help that person feel stronger and more comfortable. Though you may have an opinion on whatever healthcare they are seeking, your role as a trusted individual to your loved one should come first.

3. Follow Their Lead

This point goes along well with listening and being non-judgmental. Try to follow the emotional lead of your loved one: if they are sad, don’t try to force them to be happy; if they are content or seem to be in a good mood, don’t try to force them to bring up negative emotions because you think that’s how you might feel in their situation. Asking someone who seems fine if they’re “really okay” over and over might seem like a good way to make sure you are keyed into their emotions, but you’re more likely to run the risk of making them feel uncomfortable or like they’re not having the “right” reaction to the situation. Nothing is wrong with trying to cheer someone up if they are feeling down, but attempting to joke over and over again may be frustrating for them. Sometimes it is okay for a person to be sad, and it can be important for them to work through that emotion. Let your loved one know that you are there for them, and put your attention on their emotional cues.

4. Don’t Take Over the Appointment

Chances are no one at the appointment knows your loved one better than you. However, it is important to remember that when the time comes they are the one who is going to have to be interacting with the staff at the appointment. You may sense that they are nervous or uncomfortable at the beginning of their appointment, but you need to let them answer questions from the staff, fill out their paperwork, and just generally settle into their visit. You may think you know everything about your loved one, but it is still important that the health care professionals they will be working with get to know your loved one and get all the accurate health and history information needed from them. (Note: At certain times during the appointment, you may not be allowed to go back with them and will be asked to stay in the waiting room.)

5. If You Need a Break, it’s Okay to Step Away

As mentioned earlier, lots of appointments in reproductive health care can be very emotionally charged. It is important for you to create a safe space for the person you are supporting, and to make sure you are not casting your judgments or unwanted emotions onto them. However, this doesn’t mean you need to suppress your feelings permanently. It is fine for you to excuse yourself to the bathroom for a moment to collect yourself, or to step outside when your loved one is with a provider. If you need a minute to feel sad, or angry, or anxious you can’t always suppress that, but it’s absolutely essential that you don’t take your emotions out on your loved one.

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STIs: The Facts About Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea - Hard to Spell, Easy to CatchApril is STD Awareness Month; we’ve already told you all about chlamydia, but today we’re making you aware of another common (and curable) STD: gonorrhea.

What Is It?

Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection that is estimated to infect more than 700,000 people in the U.S. every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

How Is It Spread?

Gonorrhea can be spread through sexual contact with the penis, vagina, mouth, or anus. Ejaculation does not have to occur for gonorrhea to be transmitted or acquired.

What are the Symptoms?

According to Planned Parenthood, four out of five women with gonorrhea have no symptoms, and one out of ten men have no symptoms.

When women have symptoms they may experience abdominal pain/pelvic pain, fever, bleeding between periods, irregular periods, painful urination, painful sex, yellowish or green vaginal discharge, vomiting, painful bowel movements, anal itching, sore throat, or pain and/or swelling in the genital area. Gonorrhea can also lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) and cause women to develop internal abscesses, chronic pelvic pain, infertility, and can increase the risk of an ectopic pregnancy.

When men have symptoms they may experience discharge from the penis, painful bowel movements, anal itching, pain or burning when then they urinate, and the need to urinate often, or a sore throat. Although it is less common, men can also become infertile when the infection goes untreated and develops into epididymitis.

Get Tested for STDsWhat is the Treatment?

Gonorrhea can be cured with antibiotics, but any damage caused by the infections may not be reversible. Both you and your partner must be treated and take all of the prescribed medication to ensure you do not re-infect each other again. Make sure that if you are being tested for gonorrhea, you are also tested for other STDs.

Where Can I Go To Get Tested? 

Check out your local Planned Parenthood to access affordable care for the prevention, testing, and treatment of STDs.

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