It doesn't matter who your sexual partners are, what your choices are, or anything else. Every sexually active person is at risk of acquiring STDs. Believe it or not, 1 in 5 people in the US has a sexually transmitted disease or STD.
Well, that means that you have a 20% chance of encountering someone with an STD every time you introduce a new sexual partner to your life. Let's talk about sexually transmitted diseases in men and how you can prevent them.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are diseases known to spread through sexual contact.
These diseases are typically bloodborne or come from skin-to-skin contact. Symptoms of different STIs and STDs range from negligible to lethal, and not all of them have a cure.
It depends heavily on the disease. However, many STDs that cause skin conditions transmit through direct contact with a flare-up. This includes herpes, genital warts, and other diseases.
However, many sexually transmitted diseases are technically bloodborne illnesses. This means they spread through blood-based bodily fluids such as:
However, most STDs cannot be transmitted through saliva, sweat, or urine on their own. This is important to understand to help prevent the spread of these diseases.
There are more than 20 types of STDs and STIs that affect humans, and we won't get into them all. Here are some of the most common and how they affect men specifically.
Genital warts are exactly how they sound. Fortunately, they are not life-threatening, but they can be easily spread during sexual contact.
If you notice any changes to the skin around your genitals, contact your doctor immediately and schedule a test!
Herpes is one of the most common STDs in the world, but it still has no cure. Fortunately, symptoms are typically mild with sporadic flare-ups. These flare-ups can come as little as once every couple of years or as often as once a month.
Flare-ups will cause painful or itchy sores to form around the mouth, genitals, or anus. Fortunately, these flare-ups are often easy to treat with medications as prescribed by your doctor.
However, it's important to note that spreading herpes is easier than you may think. Contact between sores and the mouth, penis, or other open orifices can cause the disease to spread.
Note that it is important to determine whether it is ingrown hair or herpes!
Often referred to as "the clap," gonorrhea and its subvariants can range from causing no symptoms at all to having severe symptoms, which are different for men than women. Most notably, men with gonorrhea often experience:
If you have any of these symptoms or if you had sexual contact with a person who has gonorrhea, contact your doctor. Gonorrhea is easily spread between sexual partners. Avoid sexual contact until you have your test results.
We wanted to include this on the list because of the important role that men play in ending this devastating virus. HPV does not typically affect men's sexual health adversely. Instead, men typically act as carriers of this virus.
However, when transmitted to women via sexual activity, the disease is known to cause cervical cancer. This can also be passed down through generations of women, leaving more women vulnerable to developing cancer upon birth.
Fortunately, there are vaccines available for this disease, but you need all 3 doses to become immunized. If you haven't already been immunized from HPV, talk to your doctor right away, as it takes at least 18 months to become immunized.
The symptoms and subvariants of syphilis can vary from mild to extreme. Syphilis is the first STD on this list that has claimed thousands of lives, and cases are going up. Since 2015, syphilis cases have increased by 279%.
Different variants of syphilis can cause different symptoms. These symptoms can range from discomfort to neurological disorders. If you believe you may have syphilis, it's important to get tested right away.
All hepatitis variants can be transmitted through sexual contact. However, Hep B is the most common serious liver infection in the world, which is why it's on this list. Hep B causes serious liver inflammation that can lead to liver damage.
It can be spread through any bloodborne pathogen like HIV or syphilis, and it's infected more than 298 million people worldwide. For this reason, physical protection, especially with new sexual partners, is essential.
HIV is one of the most serious health risks of any sexually transmitted disease. After 40 years, it is still killing people regularly around the world. Unfortunately, HIV has claimed the lives of over 40 million people to date.
HIV is the virus that leads to the disease known as auto-immune deficiency syndrome or AIDS. The disease attacks your white blood cells and makes it difficult for your body to fight infections.
While AIDS was considered a "death sentence" only a couple of decades ago, it is now considered a "life sentence." This means that you will have it for life, but with the right treatments, medications, and lifestyle choices, you can still live a full life with considerable concessions.
However, there is great news. We have made incredible gains over HIV, and trial treatments are showing amazing results as we speak. Even better, we can all do our part to help slow the spread of HIV, which we will discuss later!
As of August 2022, monkeypox has only infected around 7,000 people in the US. However, it is spreading rapidly, and the effects of this virus are serious. Also, getting treatment for it is extremely challenging.
No, it is currently not one of the most common, but it is worth mentioning. Monkeypox is quickly making its way through the US, much faster than in other regions of the world. Most notably, it is primarily affecting men in the LGBT community.
If you are concerned about this rising trend, men can do their part to protect themselves and their community. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent the spread of monkeypox and all of the other diseases on this list. Let's talk about that.
We neglected to mention some other common STDs, such as pubic lice, which affect men and women in roughly the same way. While pubic lice can't be prevented with the use of condoms, there are still ways to prevent it from spreading.
Also, pubic lice aren't permanent, nor are they life-threatening. Using a combination of the tools listed below, we can all do our part to slow or stop the spread of some of the worst STDs, saving countless future lives. Here's what you need to know about preventing STDs and having safer sex!
Birth control and other contraceptives may be effective at preventing birth. However, there are only two forms of protection that help prevent STDs, and they are both physical barriers. These are dental dams and condoms.
Dental dams are used for oral sexual contact with women, as vaginal secretions (or possible skin lesions) can transmit the diseases mentioned above.
During penetrative sex, especially with someone new, condoms are essential. It doesn't matter if it's vaginal sex, oral sex, sex with another male, or anything else; penetrative sex poses a risk for STDs. Condoms (male or female) are by far your best protection during penetrative sex.
Also, don't forget to dispose of condoms properly. Always remove the condom, tie it, and throw it in the trash. Never flush condoms or litter them on the road, as you don't know who you could be contaminating.
Non-penetrative sexual activity or "outercourse" is a far better choice for STD prevention than penetrative sex, even with protection. This could include hand-to-genital contact, another type of sexual activity, or non-sexual intimacy.
Penetrative sex is far more likely to spread STDs. Fluids can transmit into (or out of) the urethra much easier during penetrative sex, even with the use of a condom. If you want to be safe, especially with the Monkeypox epidemic, try engaging in more non-penetrative sexual activity.
Limiting the number of sexual partners you have will dramatically reduce your risk of acquiring or transmitting STDs. If you have multiple sexual partners, consider limiting your sexual activity or engaging in non-penetrative activity with as many as possible.
If you use sex toys or other sexual equipment, make sure you clean these thoroughly. Certain diseases do not require penetration for transmission, especially if there is contact with lesions, sores, or rashes.
Always use the appropriate cleaners for your toys, and don't hesitate to clean yourself after engaging in sex, either!
As we mentioned, STDs are not only transmitted sexually. HIV, syphilis, hepatitis, and other terrifying STDs can be transmitted through blood. It's always best to assume that any sexual partner or exposure to blood-based bodily fluids has a disease.
Sharing needles, working in high-risk occupations, and exposure to any blood-based bodily fluid puts you at risk of STDs. Always follow general best practices, use personal protective equipment, and assume the worst.
STD prevention starts with skepticism. Without a doubt, the most responsible thing any sexually-active person can do to help prevent the spread of these STDs is to get tested.
Unfortunately, the secret weapon of many of these diseases is that they don't all cause symptoms. People can live with some of these diseases for years without knowing it. We can't prevent the spread if we don't know that we have a certain disease.
If you are sexually active and have been with more than one sexual partner within the last 12 months, or if you have any questions about your sexual health, there's no harm in getting screened for STDs.
Some STDs that we mentioned can be entirely cured. For example, pubic lice can be cured with a special shampoo and a razor. Gonorrhea or chlamydia has been cured in many patients with antibiotics, as prescribed by physicians.
However, some can only be treated. It all starts with testing, which can involve a simple swabbing or taking a blood sample, depending on the disease. From there, your doctor will tell you the necessary treatment for your condition.
For herpes, this will likely involve medication to help manage the symptoms. Herpes is a life-long condition to manage. There is no cure.
For more serious illnesses like HIV or Hepatitis, treatment will be more involved. This could include a series of medications, frequent check-ups, and more. No matter what you may have, the best thing you can do now is to get yourself tested!
Now that you know more about sexually transmitted diseases in men, you can do your part to help slow the spread. While 20 illnesses may not sound like a lot, only a few of them have caused serious damage around the world. Without cures, we all need to do what we can to slow the spread, especially with cases on the rise for so many of them.
Use protection, avoid direct contact when possible, and get tested if there's even a chance. It's better to be safe than sorry! Keep reading our blog for more information on men's health.