packets of individual condoms
Welcome to the second installment of “Over 90 Percent of What Planned Parenthood Does.” In this series we will highlight Planned Parenthood’s diverse array of services — the ones Jon Kyl doesn’t know about.
It’s National Condom Week! So it’s only fitting that the second installment of our “Over 90 Percent” series honors the humble condom, that mainstay of anyone’s safer-sex arsenal. By providing a barrier between body parts and reducing skin-to-skin contact, condoms dramatically decrease risk of acquiring a sexually transmitted infection (STI). On top of all of that, their use during heterosexual intercourse can keep sperm from entering the vagina, making them essential components in family planning. Condoms can be used in a wide variety of sexual activities — they can be worn on penises or put onto sex toys, and with a couple of scissor snips they can be converted into dental dams. They are inexpensive and widely available without the need for a prescription. If you need to replenish your condom supply, or if you’re using them for the first time, you can walk into any Planned Parenthood health center to pick them up.
Learning how to use condoms correctly will maximize their effectiveness. Are you aware of the finer points of condom use?
There are tons of contraceptive options for people with uteruses, from pills to IUDs, but condoms are one of the few options that people with penises have — although there is exciting research being done on expanding these options. If you are heterosexually active and capable of getting someone pregnant, using condoms consistently and correctly will allow you to take control of your reproductive future. In a given year, 2 out of 100 females whose male partners use condoms will become pregnant if they always use condoms correctly — with imperfect use, this number increases to 18 out of 100. Combining condom use with other birth control methods, like diaphragms, birth control pills, or IUDs, will dramatically boost the efficacy of your contraception. Continue reading
Posted in Birth Control
Tagged barrier method, barriers, birth control, condom, condoms, contraception, contraceptives, dildo, how to use a condom correctly, lube, lubricant, lubrication, Over 90 Percent of What Planned Parenthood Does, pregnancy, safe sex, safer sex, sex toy, sexually transmitted disease, sexually transmitted diseases, sexually transmitted infection, sexually transmitted infections, STD, STDs, STI, STIs, unintended pregnancy, unplanned pregnancy, vibrator
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
Posted in Sexual Health
Tagged abstinence, abstinence only, AIDS, barrier methods, barriers, cancer, chlamydia, condom, condoms, dental dam, dental dams, gonnorhea, hepatitis, herpes, HIV, HIV/AIDS, HPV, human papillomavirus, intestinal parasites, latex, latex barriers, liver cancer, oral sex, parasites, pubic lice, safe sex, safer sex, sexual intercourse, sexually transmitted disease, sexually transmitted diseases, sexually transmitted infection, sexually transmitted infections, STD, STDs, STI, STIs, syphilis, teenagers, throat cancer, vaginal intercourse, virginity, virginity pledge, virginity pledges
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
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
Posted in Sexual Health
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
Posted in Sexual Health
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
Most sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are caused by microorganisms – lifeforms that are too small to be seen without a microscope. Many STIs, however, are caused by viruses, which technically aren’t even alive. Rather, viruses are pieces of genetic information that are stored in protein capsules. When these capsules come into contact with a host cell, the genetic information is able to enter the cell and hijack its machinery so that the host cell manufactures copies of the virus, as well as potentially harmful viral proteins. Many well-known STIs, such as herpes and HIV/AIDS, are caused by viruses, but this month we will focus on two lesser-known viral STIs, cytomegalovirus and molluscum contagiosum. Your local Planned Parenthood health center, as well as other clinics, health departments, and private health-care providers, can help you get a diagnosis and treatment for these STIs.
Cytomegalovirus leaves granules inside its host cells called inclusion bodies, pictured here. Image: Public Health Image Library, CDC
The bad news is that most people are infected with cytomegalovirus (CMV) at some point in their lives. About 80 percent of the U.S. population is estimated to be carriers, about 4 in 10 Americans are infected with CMV before puberty (usually through contact with saliva), and adults can be reinfected through sexual activity. The good news is that among healthy adults, a CMV infection usually does not have any symptoms, though if they do they could seem like a mild case of mono. Being reinfected with the virus later in life also carries with it only a small risk for symptoms in healthy adults.
And back to the bad news: While an infection with cytomegalovirus usually does not have symptoms, if someone is infected while pregnant it can harm the fetus. About 1 in 100 U.S. babies is infected with CMV, but usually doesn’t show symptoms. Every year in the United States, around 5,500 babies are born with symptomatic cytomegalic inclusion disease (CID). Symptoms of CID vary, but the most severe include mental retardation and hearing loss. If the mother was already infected before conception, there is a 2 percent chance the virus will be transmitted to the fetus; however, if the infection occurs during pregnancy, this risk jumps into the 40 to 50 percent range. Continue reading
Posted in Sexual Health
Tagged CID, CMV, condom, condoms, cytomegalic inclusion disease, cytomegalovirus, cytomegalovirus retinitis, dental dam, dental dams, fetus, HCMV, Herpesviridae, herpesvirus, herpesviruses, HHV-5, HIV/AIDS, human cytomegalovirus, human herpesvirus-5, immune system, inclusion bodies, latex barriers, lesion, lesions, molluscum contagiousum virus, Poxviridae, pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, sexually transmitted diseases, sexually transmitted infection, sexually transmitted infections, STD, STDs, STI, STIs, virus, wart, warts
Trichomonas vaginalis, normally pear-shaped, flattens itself out after attaching to vaginal epithelial cells, maximizing surface area between parasite and host. The purple rod-shaped organisms are bacteria. Image courtesy of Antonio Pereira-Neves and Marlene Benchimol, Santa Ursula University, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Most sexually transmitted infections are caused by viruses or bacteria. STIs caused by viruses include herpes and genital warts, and the viruses that cause them aren’t even technically living organisms – they are pieces of genetic information that are able to infect a host cell. STIs caused by bacteria include gonorrhea and syphilis; bacteria are microscopic, single-celled organisms with relatively simple cell structures.
But some STIs are caused by other types of living organisms. Protozoan organisms are microscopic and unicellular, like bacteria; unlike bacteria, their cell structures more closely resemble that of the so-called “higher” life forms such as animals and plants. While protozoa are considered to be “animal-like,” they are not animals at all – they are single-celled organisms that reproduce asexually. When certain types of protozoans get into your body, they can cause infections – such as trichomoniasis, the most common curable STI among young females (as well as more females over 40 than previously thought). It is estimated that 7.4 million new cases of trichomoniasis occur annually in the United States; worldwide, there are about 170 million cases each year.
Trichomoniasis, colloquially known as trich, is spread by vaginal or anal intercourse, direct vulva-to-vulva contact, and other activities that involve passing secretions from one partner to another (e.g., sharing sex toys or mutual masturbation). Sexually active people can reduce the risk of contracting trichomoniasis by using latex barriers, such as condoms. Continue reading
Posted in Sexual Health
Tagged bacteria, discharge, flagella, flagellum, HIV, immune system, latex barriers, metronidazole, parasite, parasites, protozoa, protozoans, sexually transmitted disease, sexually transmitted diseases, sexually transmitted infection, sexually transmitted infections, STD, STDs, STI, STIs, T. vaginalis, tinidazole, trich, Trichomonas vaginalis, trichomoniasis, trichomonosis, urogenital tract, vaginal discharge
Treponema pallidum, the causative agent of syphilis, is seen in this electron micrograph adhering to a surface with the end of its structure. Image: Public Health Image Library, CDC
When syphilis first descended upon Europe, it was seen as a new plague, and anxiety and blame coalesced around this mysterious scourge. Was it a punishment from God? Was it introduced by a hated Other? Was it caused by the stars’ alignment or the presence of “bad air”? The panic it provoked foreshadowed the hysteria that surrounded the emergence of HIV in the 1980s, as syphilitics were discriminated against, feared, or thought to have received punishment for their “unbridled lust.”
We now know that syphilis is not caused by supernatural forces, foreigners, or “bad air,” but rather by a species of spiral-shaped bacteria called Treponema pallidum, which can cause infections in the vagina, anus, urethra, or penis, as well as the lips and mouth. It is mostly spread by sexual contact – vaginal or anal intercourse, as well as oral sex – in which one person comes into contact with a syphilis sore. These sores can be hidden on the cervix or in the vagina, urethra, rectum, or mouth, making it not immediately apparent that one is infected with syphilis. Syphilis can also spread to a fetus during pregnancy. Sexually active people can reduce their risk of contracting syphilis by using latex barrier methods such as condoms or dental dams. Continue reading
Posted in Sexual Health
Tagged antibiotic, antibiotics, antigenic variation, arsenic, bacteria, chancre, Great Pox, gummatous syphilis, latent syphilis, lesion, lesions, malaria, malaria therapy, mercury, Neosalvarsan, Paul Ehrlich, penicillin, primary syphilis, Salvarsan, secondary syphilis, sexually transmitted disease, sexually transmitted diseases, sexually transmitted infection, sexually transmitted infections, spirochete, STD, STDs, STI, STIs, syphilis, T. pallidum, tertiary syphilis, Treponema pallidum, ulcer
Sexually transmitted infections can be caused by viruses, bacteria, protozoans, and even animals. Bacterial vaginosis and chancroid are both infections caused by bacteria, which means that they can be treated with antibiotics. While bacterial vaginosis only affects people with vaginas, chancroid disproportionately affects people with penises. You can seek diagnosis and treatment for bacterial vaginosis and chancroid at a Planned Parenthood health center, as well as health clinics, private health-care providers, and health departments.
Bacterial vaginosis is caused by an imbalance of bacteria species in the vagina. Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Bacterial vaginosis seems to be most commonly caused by the bacteria species Gardnerella vaginalis. Scientists aren’t quite sure how this infection is caused, but risk seems to correlate with a change in sexual partners, having multiple sexual partners, douching, or using an intrauterine device; it can also occur in females who have never been sexually active. It is more common in pregnant women. There is no counterpart to this infection in males, although G. vaginalis can be found in their urethras; this raises the possibility that bacterial vaginosis can be sexually transmitted, in which case it could be directly transmitted between two females or indirectly transmitted from one female to another via a male.
Bacterial vaginosis seems to result from an imbalance in the vaginal flora (“flora” is a somewhat fanciful term for the bacteria that live in your body; under normal circumstances they are harmless and even beneficial). Vaginas usually are habitat to a population of bacteria called Lactobacillus, which produce hydrogen peroxide as a byproduct. When the number of Lactobacillus declines, G. vaginalis is able to move in on Lactobacillus’ old territory. The decrease in Lactobacillus and increase in G. vaginalis leads to a rise in the vagina’s pH. The new vaginal environment is less acidic and more alkaline; a vaginal pH of more than 4.5 is one criterion for the diagnosis of bacterial vaginosis. Another symptom includes a vaginal discharge that may smell somewhat fishy. There might also be genital itching or pain during urination. It is also possible not to have symptoms. Continue reading
Posted in Sexual Health
Tagged antibiotic, antibiotics, bacteria, bacterial vaginosis, chancroid, circumcision, discharge, douche, douching, erythromycin, G. vaginalis, Gardnerella vaginalis, H. ducreyi, Haemophilus ducreyi, intrauterine device, IUD, Lactobacillus, lesion, lymph node, lymph nodes, metronidazole, pelvic inflammatory disease, PID, pregnancy, pus, sexually transmitted disease, sexually transmitted diseases, sexually transmitted infection, sexually transmitted infections, sore, STD, STDs, STI, STIs, ulcer, uncircumcised, vagina, vaginal bacteria, vaginal discharge, vaginal flora, yogurt