|Valentine's Day Fact Sheet on Sexual Health|
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- February 14, 2009
CONTACT: Adina Nack; email@example.com; 805.493.3438
What do you plan to give your valentine this February 14: a bouquet of flowers, a heart-shaped box of chocolates, a candlelit dinner? Have you considered the gift that keeps on giving: a sexually transmitted infection? Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are infections that result from the transmission of certain bacteria or viruses during physically intimate acts. An STI may or may not result in a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that has noticeable symptoms.
Just in time for this romantic holiday, CCF's Adina Nack, a sociology professor at California Lutheran University, dispels STI/STD myths, updates us on the facts, and gives practical advice for how to avoid STIs 365 days a year. The idea is that for Valentines Day you can give love and keep your sexual well-being.
As Dr. Nack explains, "It may seem unromantic to raise the issue of STIs on a day that celebrates love and romance. But let's be realistic: love and romance tend to lead to sex in U.S. society today. And STIs have reached epidemic proportions in America, with 19 million new cases occurring each year. So what are the odds of contracting one of these infections? A 2000 study estimated that a third of Americans had contracted a STI by age 24."
In a fact sheet prepared for the Council on Contemporary Families, Dr. Nack, author of Damaged Goods? Women Living with Incurable Sexually Transmitted Diseases (Temple University Press, 2008), reviews six myths about sexually transmitted infections by updating readers on the research on topics ranging from "technical virginity" to what "safer sex" does and does not mean.
COUNCIL ON CONTEMPORARY FAMILIES VALENTINE'S DAY FACT SHEET ON SEXUAL HEALTH
What do you plan to give your valentine this February 14th: a bouquet of flowers, a heart-shaped box of chocolates, a candlelit dinner? Have you considered the gift that keeps on giving: a sexually transmitted infection? Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are infections that result from the transmission of certain bacteria or viruses during physically intimate acts. An STI may or may not result in a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that has noticeable symptoms.
It may seem unromantic to raise the issue of STIs on a day that celebrates love and romance. But let's be realistic: love and romance tend to lead to sex in U.S. society today. And STIs have reached epidemic proportions in America, with 19 million new cases occurring each year. So what are the odds of becoming infected? A 2000 report estimated that a third of Americans had contracted a STI by age 24.
This is why a holiday focused on love, romance, and seduction should also be a time to focus on sexual health. Researchers have discovered much useful information about STIs, but many people continue to avoid learning about these socially taboo infections. Whether or not sex is part of your plans for this Valentine's Day, consider these myths and facts about STIs:
1. Virgins do not have to worry about STIs.
2. Only certain types of people get STIs.
People often think that infections occur only to individuals who are promiscuous, irresponsible, immoral, or unclean. But STIs are "equal opportunity" pathogens, infecting a wide range of people, from "technical virgins" to those who have had many sexual partners. A 2008 CDC report said that 14-19 year-old females have a 20% chance of contracting a STI from their first sexual partner. "Screening" your partner for morality, responsibility, cleanliness, or even "virginity" will not eliminate STI risk.
3. People know if they are infected.
High-school health classes typically feature slideshow photos of the worst-case infections, leaving many thinking that the absence of an oozing sore or a cauliflower-shaped growth of warts means the absence of any infection. But in 2007 there were 1.4 million new cases of Chlamydia and Gonorrhea in the U.S. These infections are usually asymptomatic, but they may have serious consequences for women: pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), chronic pelvic pain, ectopic pregnancy, and ultimately infertility.
4. Regular annual medical exams and HIV testing eliminates the need to worry about STIs.
Do not assume that you are being tested for all STIs when you go in for your exam. A survey of US physicians found that less than one-third conducted routine STI screenings of their patients. Even of those tested, half of U.S. adults (18-44 years old) have only been tested for HIV and not for any other STI. Furthermore, there are no definitive tests for either human papillomavirus (HPV) or herpes simplex virus (HSV) in the absence of noticeable symptoms.
5. Condoms eliminate the need to worry about STIs.
HIV/AIDS public health campaigns and educational programs have succeeded in promoting the use of latex (male) condoms as the "safer sex" norm. And the correct and consistent use of condoms has been shown to be highly effective in decreasing the transmission of HIV and many other STIs. However, two medically incurable STIs, HPV and HSV, are transmitted by skin-to-skin contact, which can occur even when latex condoms are used correctly. Current estimates are that 50-75% of adult Americans have had genital HPV infections in their lifetime and about 20% have genital herpes infections.
6. Having the 'STI talk' is unromantic.
Contracting a STI, especially a medically incurable one, is far less romantic than even the most uncomfortable conversation about sexual health. Communicating honestly with one's partner about past sexual experiences and sexual health issues, sharing test results, and talking through the ways to incorporate healthy behaviors into one's sex life are the foundation of a healthy sexual relationship. Relationships often become stronger and more intimate - and they are certainly safer - when people find the courage to open up.
Setting the stage for a romantic and sexy Valentine's Day requires more than flowers, chocolates, or champagne. A sexually healthy celebration of love requires education, testing, and communication. Make sure you have the gift of knowledge on Valentine's Day.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Adina Nack is an Associate Professor of Sociology at California Lutheran University and author of the book Damaged Goods? Women Living with Incurable Sexually Transmitted Diseases (Temple University Press, 2008). For more information on this report and on the social and psychological impacts of STI/STD stigma, please contact Adina Nack at 805.493.3438 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit her online, www.adinanack.com.
FURTHER INFORMATION ON RELATED TOPICS:
On definitions of virginity:
On STI stereotypes:
On U.S. STI rates of infection:
On U.S. STI and HIV testing rates:
On testing for HSV and HPV:
On prevalence rates of HSV and HPV:
For the names of U.S.-based researchers who can discuss new findings about the impacts of sexually transmitted infections on intimate relationships, contact Stephanie Coontz, Director of Research and Public Education at the Council on Contemporary Families: 360.556.9223; email@example.com.
NOTE TO EDITORS: The above commentary is available for free and immediate use. If used, please contact Stephanie Coontz, above.
For further information on romance after sixty, including how to talk about condoms, contact Pepper Schwartz, Elsa and Clarence Schrag Professor of Sociology at the University of Washington; 206.910.7586; Pepperschwartz@hotmail.com.
For further information on gender traps when men and women are trying to talk about STIs, STDs, and safer sex, contact Virginia Rutter, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Framingham State College; 508.626.4863; firstname.lastname@example.org.
For further information on college sexuality and relationships, contact Paula England, Professor of Sociology at Stanford University; 650.723.4912; email@example.com.
For further information on sex, romance, dating and sexual decision making, contact Linda Young, Counseling Psychologist; 425.698.9008; LRY5@COLUMBIA.EDU; http://drlindayoung.com.
For further information on sexual well-being and healthy sexuality, contact Deborah Tolman, Professor of Social Welfare, Hunter College School of Social Work; 212.452.7178; firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT CCF: The Council on Contemporary Families is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to providing the press and public with the latest research and best-practice findings about American families. Our members include demographers, economists, family therapists, historians, political scientists, psychologists, social workers, sociologists, as well as other family social scientists and practitioners. Founded in 1996 and based at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the Council's mission is to enhance the national understanding of how and why contemporary families are changing, what needs and challenges they face, and how these needs can best be met.
To learn more about other briefing papers and about our annual April conferences, including complimentary press passes for journalists, contact Stephanie Coontz, CCF's Director of Research and Public Education, at email@example.com.
A 5-Part Teleseminar Series for Academics, Clinicians, and Anyone Else Who Wants to Learn How to Get the Media to Cover You and Your Topic!
CCF is a volunteer organization whose busy professionals contribute their time and expertise gratis. Click here to support our mission by making a donation to CCF. Your contributions will help to fund our annual conferences and publicize our research briefings.