Shocking New Figures PROVE That We're Not Scared Of STDs Anymore

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STDs
Sex, Self

Are you using condoms? When was the last time YOU were tested?

As a kid of the 80s, I grew up with a very intense fear of AIDS. Before I was old enough to truly understand what sex even was, it had been driven into my brain that without protection, another term that I had yet to really grasp, sex would inevitably lead to death.

It was as simple as that in my head.

I think for my generation, the impact that the AIDS scare had on all of us at such a young age was the reason for safe sex becoming all but tattooed on our brains. We were forced to take sex education every year throughout high school, and each year the photos of symptoms for STDs in the textbooks got more and more graphic.

It was hard to rationalize how anyone could NOT want to use a condom to protect themselves from those horrifying photos of herpes laden vaginas becoming a reality.

However, if you've yet to experience a proper orgasm, you can't fathom the "heat of the moment" mentality. By the time I was in my mid-20's, I was singing a different tune when it came to safe sex. I was guilty of skipping the condom step of it all, and I was not alone.

New research shows that people, especially those between 18 and 30, just don't seem to be as concerned about contracting STDs (also known as sexually transmitted infections, or STIs*) as they used to be.

Not only did the study find that 20 percent of people will go to bed with someone who has an STI, but 39 percent of those people actively choose to NOT use protection when doing so. That's like walking into a bear's den, and saying, "It's cool. I got this."

Overall condom use has stalled, with only 1 in 3 of singles using them during sex.

Although shooting for a 100 percent usage rate is probably something you'd only find in a fantasy world, the fact is with only a third of people using condoms, we've seen a drastic jump in STD cases — a jump that will continue to rise as long as condom use remains secondary to passion.

Cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea have increased by 2.8 percent and 5.1 percent, respectively, between 2013 and 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2015 report. Syphilis cases also increased dramatically by 15.1 percent in 2014.

And according to Dr. Gail Bolan, Director of CDC's Division of Sexually Transmitted Disease Prevention, these numbers are just the bare minimum. There are still cases that go unreported, because chlamydia and gonorrhea don't have symptoms.

The thing is, having sex with someone who has an STD, if you use protection, doesn't have to be a bad or scary thing. Just because someone has an infection it doesn't mean that they should be locked away on an island and disregarded as a potential mate or lover.

I talked to two guys who have dated and/or been in relationships with people who are HIV-positive but have, and are, handling it responsibly.

"My initial thought was, 'f*ck, I knew there had to be something wrong.' Here there was this unbelievably adorable, sexy boy that I'd coveted for years coming on to me hard right after a breakup, and of course there had to be this one not-so-tiny issue to make it all more complicated," explains Jacob, 29. "But moments after that, I knocked some sense into myself, kissed him, and we talked about it for the next two hours."

Antoine also had his reservations when he met someone who was positive, but managed to put things into perspective: "Although I have positive family members and had a positive childhood friend, I had been rather fortunately untouched otherwise until I was 21, when a good friend and former lover was diagnosed."

Antoine's former lover's diagnosis put his life in a tailspin. It may have been his past, but sometimes the past has a way of catching up with us. It was only when he met someone in whom he was genuinely interested, who was forthcoming about his own positive status, that Antoine was forced to face his fears about his status, so he could proceed honestly with his new relationship.

Antoine was negative. He also gets texted every six months.

These particular cases are just two of thousands and thousands of stories of STI-free people who are in relationships with people who have a sexually transmitted infection. Whether people act responsibly in protecting themselves and their partner, or not, those with STDs no longer have a sign scrawled across their forehead that illuminates "BEWARE."

Is it because we're numb to the possible consequences? Or do we just not care because medicine will "fix" it?

Of course, there's the "it won't happen to me," factor.

As YourTango Expert Dr. Michael Aaron explained, "I think younger people are more likely to be risk-takers, as they may have a feeling of being 'invincible.'"

It's true. Who at 18 or 19 didn't think they could beat the odds of everything and rule the world?

"I think younger generations (Millennials especially) never had entire swaths of their friends decimated by HIV/AIDS when it was at its peak in the late 80's and 90's; they never had to deal with awful, sh*tty drugs that effectively drained the life from patients while barely keeping them alive; they didn't experience the intense political discord that HIV/AIDS caused when it was much more controversial, and community leaders refused to pay any attention to an increasingly awful plague; and because of current medication regimes that are only one pill, and that have fewer side effects, HIV is seen as a chronic but manageable condition that's just like any other similar condition, when most doctors agree that is not really the case," says Jacob.

With AIDS having been the "big" one for so long, and the sentiment now being so lax about it, it's easy to see how fears about other STIs have fallen by the wayside. Herpes and syphilis may be an inconvenient and embarrassing topic with a sex partner, but they're not going to put you in an early grave.

But, realistically, what about the personal fear for the health of yourself? Where does that come into play, if at all?

One would think that, for some, it would weigh rather heavily.

"I have mitigated my own fear by knowing what practices are safe, by trusting myself to be good to myself, and trusting my boyfriends to want the best for me, too. There is always a slight fear, and waiting for test results is never without a moment of tension, but it's also important to trust science, trust yourself, and trust that doing anything for love, responsibly, is also really important to staying happy," says Antoine.

It may seem terrifying at first to think of going to bed with someone who has an STI, especially if you've never had to deal with it up close and personal, but we need to realize that an STI is not a badge of shame. Perhaps, a badge of an error in judgment, but who hasn't occasionally messed up?

The concern is not the 20 percent who are going to bed with people who have an STD, but the 39 percent of them who are going to bed with them and not using protection. That's the percentage who need a major wake up call.

Medicine may have evolved when it comes to maintaining good health after an STI is contracted and vaccines are definitely a saving grace, but if you can avoid getting an STI all together, that's the way you want to go.

*In medical terms, infections are only called "diseases" when they cause symptoms. Having a sexually-transmitted infection, STI, doesn't always mean you feel sick or have signs of a disease.

 

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