Hey, Have You Heard Of Condoms?
LADYIST IS SEX ED FOR GROWN WOMEN. OUR SEXPERTS ARE ANSWERING THE QUESTIONS THAT HEALTH CLASS NEVER FULLY EXPLAINED. WHAT DO YOU WANT TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR SEXUAL OR REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH? ASK US HERE.
Of course you have. But we know that a lot of you don't use them consistently. We know this because Americans keep breaking our own records when it comes to sexually transmitted diseases.
Rates of transmission hit a record high in the U.S. for the fourth year in a row in 2017, with nearly 2.3 million diagnosed cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.
It doesn't have to be this way, as you know.
Used correctly and consistently, condoms can prevent many sexually transmitted diseases.
So please enjoy this prophylactic refresher. We know you know this stuff. But maybe you don't, because see above with those statistics.
A CONDOM IS MAYBE THE EASIEST THING TO FIND EVER
- Pick a store. Any store. Convenience, drug, grocery. You'll find one.
- If you hate stores, or would rather not deal with the cashier, buy them online.
- But like, you need one NOW? Postmates or Amazon Prime Now
- L.A. County will send you free ones.
- Also there's literally a #condomfinder
IS IT ON BACKWARDS?
YOU COULD REALLY, REALLY, REALLY GET AN STD
- California is slightly outpacing the rest of the country for the rates of the most common STD's.
- Between 2013 and 2017, the number of gonorrhea and syphilis cases in L.A. County nearly doubled.
- Chlamydia is three times more common among young women in California than it is among their male counterparts.
- Doctors are finding fewer antibiotics work to treat gonorrhea.
- In 2017, California only trailed Louisiana and Nevada for the rate of babies being born with syphilis. The disease puts infants at risk of serious deformity or illness, and it can kill them.
SOMETIMES NO SYMPTOMS ARE THE SYMPTOMS
So get tested.
The most common STD's have no symptoms. You can have syphilis, gonorrhea or chlamydia without seeing any symptoms in the short term, but over time they can cause major health problems.
Deborah J., a nurse practitioner for Planned Parenthood Pasadena and San Gabriel Valley, says that's why she recommends all sexually active adults "get a baseline" and get retested if you change partners.
"Then, get tested once a year or if you're concerned," she said.
You might be having unusual symptoms, or you're unsure about a sex partner.
"Maybe they may have other partners that you're not aware of," she said.
Deborah gives this advice to women who have sex with women, too.
"You're at lower risk [of contracting STD's], but you're not bulletproof," she said.
Nourbese Flint is policy director for the L.A.-based nonprofit Black Women for Wellness. She would like to see more STD testing included in regular checkups.
Some women feel stigmatized when they ask for STD screenings, she said.
"People feel a little judged," said Flint.
When young women ask to be screened for STD's, Flint said sometimes they get questions like, "Well, are you engaging in risky sex?"
Health care providers need more training on how to talk to their patients in a way that will make them feel safer to talk about sexual health, she said. And Flint added that doctors could do a better job of clarifying that anyone could have an STD and not be aware of it.
She works to empower young women of color to stand up for themselves when they feel judged in this way.
"I'm just trying to check for myself. Or I don't know what's going on. My partner may be with other folks. I just want to know," said Flint.
Once you're tested, if you do have a bacterial infection, like chlamydia or syphilis, it can be treated with antibiotics. Your sexual partners should also be treated, for everyone's safety.
"Sometimes what we see is the woman will have an infection, she will come in, get tested and treated, but then go back to the partner," said Lea Morgan, head of the HIV/STD program for Riverside University Health System. "Now, unless the partner's also tested and treated, that woman will be reinfected."
WRITE YOUR OWN "SEXUAL CONSTITUTION"
That means deciding ahead of time what type of sex you're willing to have, with whom, and with what precautions, and "sticking with that," Morgan said.
Every woman should ask herself two questions after being treated for an STD or having a test come back negative, Morgan said: "How am I going to stay that way? What am I going to do to keep myself healthy?"
Deborah J. added, "preventive maintenance is better than problem resolution."
She understands that insisting on condom use can be hard and recognizes that many women feel cultural pressure not to speak up about it.
"I think women are not given that opportunity often enough," said Deborah J. "We kind of feel like the man has to make the decision."
She recommends women always have a condom just in case, saying,"you never know when you're going to need it."
In some cases, being prepared can be complicated.
In her work with young Angelenos, Flint said young people often use condoms when they have them, but they can feel embarrassed trying to get them from under lock and key at a drug store.
She also commonly hears an attitude that going without a condom is a proof of loyalty.
"We're really in a relationship together, and I really trust this person," Flint said young people have told her.
She said she tells young women, "protecting yourself against chlamydia and gonorrhea is not about your love, it is about you protecting your health. If your partner really, truly loves you, they will be willing to engage in safe sex practices."
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