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By Saida Oliver, Woman's Life editor

Dr. John Hori of the Urgent Care Clinic of Waikiki said most men and women are not well informed of all the STDs, “They only think they can get gonorrhea or chlamydia. They don’t understand that there are many more diseases out there that there is no cure for, AIDS for instance.”

According to the National Women’s Health Information Center, women have a greater potential of contracting an STD then men.This is due to vaginal friction that occurs during sexual intercourse. The friction causes slight tears in the vaginal walls, which makes women more susceptible to infections and STDs including HIV/AIDS. Here are some common myths associated with STDs.

Myth No. 1: “I can not get a sexually transmitted disease because I have never gone all the way.”
All it takes is one sexual experience and it does not have to be intercourse. It is a misconception that oral sex is not sex. It is and it carries the same risks as intercourse.

Myth No. 2: “I don’t have any symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases, so I’m OK.”
Unfortunately, for women, the signs of STDs are hard to detect because the symptoms are not obvious. Symptoms that are discovered are commonly mistaken or confused with other illnesses, which result in misdiagnosis and delayed treatment. The best thing to do is to be honest with your doctor about your sexual history.

Myth No. 3: “I might have a sexually transmitted disease, but once I get medication, it will go away.”
The attitude that a doctor can prescribe pills to cure a sexually transmitted disease is dangerous. The National Women’s Health Information Center said that this nonchalant approach to safety is the main reason that the rate of STD transmission continues to rapidly increase. Not all STDs can be cured with pills. Antibiotics can treat STDs caused by bacteria. Viruses that cause STDs can not be treated by antibiotics. These diseases stay with you for the rest of your life and need continual treatment. The STDs caused by viruses include genital herpes, human papilla virus (HPV), cytomegalovirus (CMV), and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Myth No. 4: “I have some vaginal discharge and itching. I must have a yeast infection.”
It is a very common misconception yeast infections are the most common cause of vaginal discharge, but the most common cause is bacterial vaginosis, which is a bacterium that is not transmitted sexually. It is caused by a higher pH in the normal ecology of the vagina. Unless a doctor diagnoses you, do not self-medicate with over-the-counter products. This just delays the treatment you should have.

Myth No. 5: “I don’t need to use a condom because I take the pill.”
The pill and other contraceptives decrease the risk of an unwanted pregnancy, but does not protect you from STDs. Condoms, both male and female, if properly used, are the only protection against diseases besides abstinence.

Sexually transmitted diseases do not discriminate. Be careful and don’t risk yourself because your partner does not want to protect him/herself. It is important to remember that although condoms provide some protection, not all areas are protected and you are still at risk for contracting a disease through skin-to-skin contact.

Some symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases are:
• Painful and uncomfortable intercourse.
• Blisters, open sores, swelling, warts, or a rash in the genital area, on the sexual organ, or in the mouth.
• Burning or tenderness during urination.
• Chancre sores (painless red sores) on the tongue, throat, genital area and/or anus.
• Itching around the vagina and/or discharge.
• Swollen glands, aching muscles.
These symptoms should be taken seriously and checked out by your doctor immediately. They do not necessarily mean you have an STD, but they do indicate an infection of some sort. The sooner you know what is wrong, the sooner you can treat the problem.
Several health risks are associated with STDs:
• Infertility.
• Pregnancies fatal to the mother and the unborn baby.
• Cervical cancer, which is frequently caused by the STD HPV.
• STDs can cause harm to other organs in the body.
• STDs such as HIV/AIDS are fatal.
“ Just because you have not contracted an STD, do not think you are immune,” said Dr. Hori. “Wearing a condom is the best way to protect yourself besides abstinence.”
The male latex condom is the only method considered very effective. Polyurethane condoms are an alternative for latex-sensitive people. Lambskin condoms are not recommended for STD prevention because they are porous and allow the passage of HIV, hepatitis B, and herpes between partners.
According to a 1996 FDA panel, some vaginal spermicides that contain nonoxynol-9 may reduce the risk of gonorrhea and chlamydia. However, nonoxynol-9 may also cause tissue irritation, increasing vulnerability to some STDs.

Remember, if you are going to have sex, be safe. No matter who your partner is, make sure you and that person have been tested and are disease free. Using more than one method of contraception is the best way to prevent both diseases and unwanted pregnancies. Do not use a condom past the date on the package, and use a condom only once.


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