As tools to reduce risk for STI transmission, dental dams are not to be ignored.
Many consider oral sex to be a safer form of sexual activity compared to vaginal or anal intercourse. For this reason, they might put less emphasis on the use of latex barriers, such as dental dams and condoms, during oral sex. Unfortunately, this idea is misguided and can lead to the transmission of preventable infections.
It is generally true that oral sex presents less of a risk for contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) – but this risk is not trivial, especially when people are under the impression that they don’t need to use barrier methods during oral sex. Most sexually transmitted infections can be passed along by oral sex, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, hepatitis B, herpes (which can be transmitted back and forth from the mouth, as cold sores, to the genital region, as genital herpes), human papillomavirus (HPV), and HIV. Even pubic lice can be transferred from the genital region to eyelashes and eyebrows! Additionally, intestinal parasites are more likely to be transmitted via oral sex than through vaginal sex. A microscopic amount of fecal matter containing parasites can be infectious, and can be unknowingly ingested when present on genitals.
Seventy percent of adolescents who reported engaging in oral sex had never used a barrier to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections during oral sex.
Some bacterial STIs, such as gonorrhea and syphilis, can do permanent damage if not treated in time. Furthermore, gonorrhea of the throat is much more difficult to treat than gonorrhea in the genital or rectal areas. And some viral STIs can’t be cured (such as herpes and HIV), while others can cause chronic infections that have been linked to cancer (such as hepatitis, which is associated with liver cancer, and HPV, which is associated with throat cancer as well as cervical cancer and anal cancer). Continue reading
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The HPV Vaccine Controversy: Sex, Cancer, God, and Politics: A Guide for Parents, Women, Men, and Teenagers
by Shobha S. Krishnan, M.D.
Praeger Publishers, 2008
The HPV vaccine, released in 2006, was ripe for controversy, at least in places like the United States. Here there is a strong anti-sex undercurrent from certain segments of society, and fears abound that a vaccine that protects against a common sexually transmitted infection — especially one whose symptoms disproportionately affect females — would encourage sexual promiscuity among our nation’s teenage girls. In addition, there is a segment of society that is deeply suspicious toward vaccines, a fear that is often fueled by misinformation or misunderstanding.
The HPV Vaccine Controversy is an excellent resource for anyone considering vaccination, as well as those who have already been exposed to human papillomavirus.
While Krishnan’s book is an invaluable guide for anyone considering the vaccine for themselves or their child, it covers much wider territory than just the vaccine and its attendant controversies. The first half of the book is devoted not to a discussion of vaccination but to a thorough and accessible description of female anatomy (although apparently her claim about the teenage cervix is controversial), the lifecycle and transmission of human papillomavirus (HPV), cancer screening techniques such as the Pap test, and the slow development of cancer caused by HPV infection. It also has good information on genital warts, which are caused by certain strains of HPV (such as HPV-6 and HPV-11) that often get overlooked in discussions of their cancer-causing cousins (such as HPV-16 and HPV-18). This makes the book an excellent resource for anyone who has had an abnormal Pap test and has questions — the detailed descriptions of the various cervical-cell abnormalities and the different stages of cervical cancer will assist the lay reader in making sense of her diagnosis. Continue reading
Posted in Book Reviews, Sexual Health
Tagged cancer, Cervarix, cervical cancer, Gardasil, gential warts, HPV, human papillomavirus, Pap smear, Pap smears, Pap testing, sexually transmitted disease, sexually transmitted infection, sexually transmitted infections, sexulaly transmitted diseases, smoking, STD, STDs, STI, STIs, vaccination, vaccine, vaccines, virus
Gardasil is one of two HPV vaccines. It protects against two cancer-causing strains of HPV and two wart-causing strains.
You’ve probably heard a lot about the HPV vaccine, which protects against the sexually transmitted pathogen human papillomavirus — which itself can lead to cancers of the cervix, anus, throat, and more. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation about the vaccine, such as Michele Bachmann’s debunked claim that it causes mental retardation. But, even before Bachmann gave us her two cents, there have been plenty of falsehoods flying around about the HPV vaccine.
Myth: Vaccination against HPV will increase sexual promiscuity among vaccine recipients.
Fact: Studies show that this fear is unfounded.
A study published this month in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine contradicts this claim. In a group of more than 4,000 young females, there was no significant difference between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated in terms of number of sexual partners or the age at which sexual activity began.
There are around 150 strains of HPV, about 15 of which can cause cancer. Together, HPV-16 and HPV-18 cause about 70 percent of cervical cancers.
Besides, the vast majority of teenagers who choose abstinence do so for reasons other than a fear of contracting HPV. Additionally, HPV is one of many sexually transmitted infections (STIs); if fear of contracting an STI were the only factor in teenagers’ celibacy, a vaccine that protected against only one STI would not remove this fear.
(It might bear pointing out that when the HPV vaccine was approved for boys and men, fears about male promiscuity didn’t seem to run as rampant.)
Myth: Because the HPV vaccine only protects against two cancer-causing strains of HPV, it isn’t useful in cancer prevention.
Fact: The two cancer-causing strains of HPV that the vaccine protects against account for 70 percent of all cases of cervical cancer. Furthermore, Gardasil protects against two additional strains of HPV, which together are responsible for 90 percent of genital warts.
Posted in Sexual Health
Tagged adverse reactions, cancer, Cervarix, cervical cancer, colposcopy, cryotherapy, DNA, Gardasil, HPV, HPV vaccine, HPV-16, HPV-18, human papillomavirus, Michele Bachmann, Pap smear, Pap smears, precancerous lesions, promiscuity, sexually transmitted disease, sexually transmitted diseases, sexually transmitted infection, sexually transmitted infections, STD, STDs, STI, STIs, vaccine, virus
At Planned Parenthood, we’re passionate about women’s health, and indeed, our health care centers are well known for their top-notch services aimed at the female population. But not a lot of people associate Planned Parenthood with men’s health — despite the fact that we offer a wide range of services for men, ranging from those you expect (like condoms) to those you might not expect (like smoking cessation).
Planned Parenthood offers cancer screening and family-planning options for men, as well as an array of services that include cholesterol screening, diabetes screening, and even smoking cessation.
Sexually active people should be screened for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) — even if your partner has negative test results, that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear, so you can’t rely on your significant other to provide your STI screening “by proxy.” Especially because so many STIs are asymptomatic, it’s better to get yourself tested. We can screen and treat for STIs, as well as offer preventive vaccines for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and human papillomavirus (HPV). Most people associate the HPV vaccine, Gardasil, with females, since HPV is behind 99 percent of cervical cancers. But males can benefit from Gardasil as well. Not only will they be protecting their partners, but they will also be protecting themselves from the viruses that can cause precancerous penile lesions as well as the majority of genital warts and anal cancers.
Men’s services also include life-saving cancer screening — we can check you out for prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, or testicular cancer. We can also evaluate penile lesions, which might lead to penile cancer if left untreated. These might not be the kind of check-ups anyone looks forward to, but they represent the kind of preventive health care that can save your life — or just your money — down the road. Continue reading
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Tagged Arizona, birth control, cancer screening, Chandler, cholesterol, colorectal cancer, condoms, diabetes, family planning, Flagstaff, flu shots, Gardasil, genital warts, Glendale, Goodyear, HPV vaccine, men's health, men's reproductive health, men's services, Mesa, penile lesions, Phoenix, Prescott Valley, prostate cancer, quit smoking, Scottsdale, sexually transmitted infections, smoking cessation, STD, STD screening, STDs, STI, STI screening, STIs, Tempe, testicular cancer, thyroid, Tucson, urinary tract infection, UTI, vaccination, vaccines, Yuma
Healthy cervical cells as seen under a microscope. Image: National Cancer Institute
January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. The biggest threat to cervical health is human papillomavirus, or HPV, a virus that is transmitted through a wide variety of sexual activities. If you haven’t yet been sexually active, the best thing you can do to protect cervical health (whether you have a cervix or not) is to be vaccinated against HPV. If you have been sexually active, the vaccine could still be effective, assuming you haven’t already been infected with the strains of HPV against which it protects. And, if you are, or have been, sexually active and have a cervix, it is important to be screened with regular Pap tests (also called Pap smears). When caught in its precancerous stages, cervical cancer can be avoided.
The human papillomavirus may be tiny, but it packs a punch.
There are more than 100 strains of HPV, approximately 40 of which can be sexually transmitted; of these, 18 strains are thought to cause cancer. Chronic infections by cancer-causing HPV strains, such as HPV-16 and HPV-18 (which together are responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancers), can lead to the development of abnormal cells, which might eventually become cancerous.
In the United States, HPV is the most widespread sexually transmitted infection – 6 million Americans are infected with HPV annually, although most are asymptomatic and unaware they were infected. For most people, the infection clears up within 8 to 13 months, while for others, the infection can lurk undetected. If you are unlucky enough to develop a chronic HPV infection, then you are at increased risk for certain cancers — depending on the site of the infection, HPV can cause cancers of the cervix, anus, and other genitals, as well as the throat. Continue reading
Posted in Sexual Health
Tagged basal cells, basal keratinocytes, cancer, cervical cancer, Gardasil, HLA-DRB1, HPV, HPV vaccine, human papillomavirus, immune system, keratinocytes, Pap smear, sexually transmitted disease, sexually transmitted diseases, sexually transmitted infection, sexually transmitted infections, STD, STDs, STI, STIs, ubiquitination, vaccine, virus
This colorized scanning electron micrograph shows Giardia lamblia reproducing asexually. Image: Stan Erlandsen, CDC’s Public Health Image Library.
Most sexually transmitted infections are caused by bacteria or viruses, but some are caused by organisms that are classified as completely different lifeforms. Trichomoniasis, for example, is caused by a protozoan organism; protozoa occupy their own kingdom, separate from plants, animals, and bacteria. Intestinal parasites are often protozoan organisms, but can also include parasitic worms (which are members of the animal kingdom). They are spread through contact with fecal matter – and as such, they can be transmitted sexually as well as nonsexually. Intestinal parasites are usually transmitted by fecal contamination of food or water, and are most common in areas with insufficient sewage treatment and untreated water in the wilderness. Some pathogens, however, have low infectious doses, making their sexual transmission more likely.
What has eight flagella and can live in your intestines?
Oral contact with the anus, also called anilingus or rimming, is the primary means of the sexual transmission of these pathogens. Putting fingers or hands in your mouth after they have had contact with the anus is also risky. Other modes of transmission include oral sex, as genitals can be contaminated with feces, as well as sharing sex toys and other equipment. For these reasons, it is very important to use dental dams or latex gloves during contact with the anus; to clean the anus before engaging in rimming; to clean or use condoms on shared sex toys; and to use condoms or dental dams during oral sex. Continue reading
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Tagged amebiasis, amebic dysentery, amoebic dysentery, anilingus, beaver fever, binary fission, C. hominis, C. parvum, condom, condoms, cryptosporidiosis, Cryptosporidium, Cryptosporidium hominis, Cryptosporidium parvum, dental dam, dental dams, diarrhea, diloxanide furoate, dysentery, E. histolytica, Entamoeba histolytica, fecal matter, feces, flagella, flagellum, G. duodenalis, G. intestinalis, G. lamblia, Giardia duodenalis, Giardia intestinalis, Giardia lamblia, IBS, immune system, intestinal parasite, intestinal parasites, intestinal tract, intestine, irritable bowel syndrome, latex barriers, lesion, lesions, metronidazole, nitazoxanide, oocyst, oocysts, oral sex, oral-anal intercourse, oral-fecal route, parasite, parasites, protozoa, protozoans, rimming, sexually transmitted disease, sexually transmitted diseases, sexually transmitted infection, sexually transmitted infections, STD, STDs, STI, STIs, string test, ulcer, ulcerative colitis, ulcers, worm, worms
This scanning electron micrograph shows HIV particles (colored yellow) infecting a human T cell. Image: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health
In 2006, an HIV-positive man was diagnosed with leukemia. First he received chemotherapy, and when the cancer returned his doctor recommended a stem-cell transplant with tissues obtained from a bone-marrow donor. After finding an unusually high number of compatible donors, his doctor, Gero Hütter, had a simple idea that would change the course of HIV research. Dr. Hütter knew of a rare genetic mutation that confers immunity to many strains of HIV, including the strain that infected his cancer patient. And new blood cells, including immune cells, are manufactured by bone marrow. What if he could find a bone-marrow donor with this mutation? What effect would it have on the HIV infection?
Five years after his cancer diagnosis, the man, known as the Berlin patient and recently identified as Timothy Ray Brown, is in remission from cancer … and the most sensitive tests have been unable to detect HIV anywhere in his body, despite the discontinuation of antiretroviral drugs. Scientists are a cautious lot, careful not to make grand statements without qualifying them with words like “seem” and “suggest.” But more and more, researchers are starting to say that Brown could be the first case in which a cure for HIV was attained.
Human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, has been the focus of intense research since the 1980s, when it was identified as the causative agent of AIDS. Many anti-HIV drugs have been developed since then, though worldwide, less than a third of people who need the drugs have access to them. Those with access, however, have significantly improved health outcomes and longer life expectancy. Continue reading
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Tagged acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, acute myeloid leukemia, AIDS, Berlin patient, bone marrow, CCR5, CCR5 delta 32, CCR5Δ32, chemokine receptor 5, chimerism, gene therapy, genes, genetic engineering, genetic mutation, genetics, Gero Hütter, helper T cells, hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, HIV, HIV-1, HIV/AIDS, human immunodeficiency virus, immune system, immunity, lentivirus, leukemia, marker gene, mutation, R5 HIV, retrovirus, sexually transmitted disease, sexually transmitted diseases, sexually transmitted infection, sexually transmitted infections, STD, STDs, stem cells, STI, STIs, T cells, Timothy Brown, vaccine, virus, ZFN, zinc fingers nuclease