“Prevention is better than cure”; “Prevention is the daughter of intelligence”.
“The best protection for public health is prevention, not cleanup”; “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.
If there was one tip-of-the-tongue topic for utterances of proverbs and cliches, one could safely bet it would be – you guessed it – the topic of prevention. Age-old adages, however, seldom steer from truth and their credibility has been time-tested. Weaving that, with the subject of sexually transmitted diseases, here are a few non-medical-jargon tips on how to be a step ahead when it comes to sexual health.
Most of the time, simply sticking to the basics can work wonders. Diseases are but a deviation from the normal, and deviations can be averted by observing stringent hygiene, especially when it comes to keeping your privates healthy.
An everyday bath with soap should be made law, and a clause included regarding cleaning the genitalia.
FAQ: “Is there any particular method/product I should use to clean my privates?”
For males, all that is needed is to clean the penis everyday. The foreskin, if present, should be pulled back and cleaned. Crusts and depostion (smegma) that might have collected, should be removed. This takes minimal effort, since simple soap and water suffice, thank you very much.
A thorough wash with soap and water, to the groin and the area between the thighs, in females is sufficient to keep many STDs and UTIs at bay.
FAQ: “How effective is vaginal douching/washing?”
Vaginal douching and washing inside the vagina are not just unnecessary, but are even unadvisable since they wash away the “good bacteria” that guard it from harmful microbes and hence, infections. Special care must be taken during menstruation, or periods.
Diseases like hepatitis B, genital warts, cervical cancer, etc, are proven to be preventable by vaccines. So, after the compounder has charged you extra for prompting that “maybe the vaccines cause autism”, do yourself a favour and get the vaccines.
FAQ: “Is it compulsory to get vaccinated against HPV before a particular age or time? Does the effect decrease after I become sexually active?”
Immunisation against HPV (which causes cervical cancer and genital warts) should ideally be completed before one becomes sexually active. Hence, one should get vaccinated as early as convenient, after consulting a doctor.
FAQ: “Should men get vaccinated against HPV too? Men don’t get cervical cancer.”
Yes, indeed men don’t get cervical cancer. However, HPV refers to Human Papilloma Virus, which can infect men and cause diseases like penile warts and some cancers of the penis and anus. In addition, it can get transmitted to women during sex. Hence it is recommended for men to get vaccinated against HPV as well.
FAQ: “I’m currently pregnant and rounding up the vaccinations. Is it safe to get hepatitis B vaccine during pregnancy?”
Pregnancy is not a contraindication for Hepatitis B vaccination. Hepatitis B vaccination should be especially considered if one is at immediate risk of exposure to the virus or has recently been exposed to the same. After delivery, the newborn baby should also be immunised without delay. Contact your physician for the finer details.
Use of condoms (both male and female) prevents most sexually transmitted diseases, such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, HPV and even syphilis. Cervical caps, diaphragms, spermicidal jellies, etc. do not protect against STDs.
FAQ: “We use natural/organic condoms. Are those sufficient for preventing STDs?”
No, unfortunately. Natural condoms can work as contraceptives, but are not very effective when it comes to prohibiting disease causing microbes from crossing the border. Also, they have a higher breakage rate than latex ones.
Mutual monogamy: This is as literal as it gets, wherein two people mutually decide to indulge in sex with – and only with – one another. This limits the sexual exposure of both, hence limiting exposure to STDs.
Reducing the number of sexual partners, if not mutual monogamy (though less effective than the latter), also narrows the chances of contracting diseases.
Abstinence: Stolen fruits are the sweetest. Even as Adam and Eve submitted to temptation, so was the whole of humanity condemned to an interesting life here in the World, so to speak. That came not without disadvantages, unfortunately and so there are STDs. Hence, for those who want to stay natural or stick to tradition, abstinence from sexual intercourse is indeed one of the best ways to ward off such diseases. Na rahega baans na bajegi bansuri, anyone?
Above are some general guidelines on personal hygiene and maintenance of sexual health. Surprisingly, most infections may be curtailed by observing the simplest of practices as mentioned above, and the physician need not even come into the picture!
The sexual health awareness week observed by MTTN aimed at bringing to limelight, the common STDs prevalent in India. More importantly, we aimed to emphasise on the dire need of open discussions without judgement about one’s sexual health. Sexual health is an extremely important dimension of an individual’s health.
One must not be ashamed to talk about it with a trusted friend or a doctor, or even the public in general. If we’re not shame-faced while declaring we have an eye infection or while visiting the doctor for asthma or typhoid, that attitude should be extrapolated to STDs, be it candida or HIV/AIDS.
Ignorance leads to stigma and stigma breeds discrimination. Let us all strive toward education, and curb discrimination. Let us all strive for a day when “I contracted an STD” will be replied to, with “Here’s the doctor you must consult”, rather than gasps, rumours and humiliation.
Delve deeper into our series on STD Awareness.