I heard condoms DON’T protect against STDs. Is that true?

Someone asked us:

Hello Planned Parenthood! I am so happy you guys have a tumblr! This made my day! Quick question! I’ve been told that condoms only prevent pregnancy, not STD’s or STI’s. This is a bit confusing to me because I thought condoms protected against that stuff too! Could could explain this to me? I would really appreciate it! I hope you guys are around forever! <3

Yo that is one dirty, untruthy rumor! As a matter of fact, latex and plastic condoms are the ONLY form of birth control that can also prevents STDs

While using condoms is the absolute best way to prevent STDs if you’re going to be sexually active, it’s not a 100% guarantee. That’s why we call using condoms “safer sex” instead of “safe sex.” Infections like herpes and HPV, which are spread by skin-to-skin contact, may live on areas condoms don’t provide a barrier against (your scrotum, thighs, or buttocks, for example). So it’s possible whoever gave you the bad info simply misunderstood this little condom side note. 

They also may have been talking about lambskin/animal skin condoms, which only provide pregnancy protection and DO NOT protect against STDs. Condoms that protect against both STDs and pregnancy are made from latex, or types of latex-free soft plastics like polyurethane, polyisoprene, and nitrile. However, lambskin and other animal membrane condoms aren’t very popular anymore. The vast majority of condoms out there today are made out of latex or plastic.

So don’t believe the “condoms don’t protect against STDs” hype — it ain’t true when it comes to latex and plastic condoms. If you’re having sex, condoms offer good protection against pregnancy, and great protection against STDs. So use ‘em! 

Also, thanks for the love. You made my day!

-Kendall at Planned Parenthood

April is STD Awareness Month

STD/STIs in NYC may be more common than you think. Get the facts so you can protect yourself, get tested, or get treated. NYC also provides free or low-cost services to help you stay healthy:

What is the difference between a STD and STI? STI (sexually transmitted infection) and STD (sexually transmitted disease) are sometimes used interchangeably.  More recently, STI has become the preferred term because some associate ‘disease’ with illness or symptoms. In fact, many people with STIs may be infected but do not show any symptoms.


Someone asked us:

What is the difference between an STD and an STI?

STD and STI are two terms that often mean the same thing — but the “D” stands for “disease,” while the “I” stands for “infection.”. Medically, infections are only called diseases when they cause symptoms, and many STIs don’t have any symptoms. So that’s why you may hear people say STIs – it’s technically more accurate, and also reminds people that there are often no symptoms so it’s important to get tested.

But many people are more familiar with the terms “STD” and “sexually transmitted disease.” So it’s really common to hear people use these terms even when there are no signs of disease. And that’s why we tend to use STDs when we’re talking about them.

Learn more about STI/Ds.

- Alex at Planned Parenthood

I'm having a herpes outbreak.

Do you know how this is affecting my life right now? It’s not, aside from the fact that I’m not going to get laid this weekend because I’m trying not to infect my lover.

Why am I telling you this? Because having an outbreak — my first in a while, as they typically only happen once or twice a year, if that — has made me think about what it was like when I was first diagnosed. All the needless anguish I suffered because we have decided as a culture that herpes is a Horrible Disgusting Thing. So I’m going to tell my little story about it and put it in the herpes tag with the hope that I’ll provide some comfort to others who have herpes — and make those of you who don’t think twice before you crack another herpes joke.

The first time I remember even having any thoughts about herpes was sometime in the 1990s, when I started seeing Valtrex commercials on TV. I remember in particular one shot of a woman riding a bike, a bit of imagery that seemed designed to make you think about her poor diseased crotch. And I remember thinking “Dear god, that must be so horrifying. I’m so glad I’m not one of those people.”

In early 2005 I became one of those people. My ex-husband — who, at the time, was my brand new boyfriend — had the tiny beginnings of a cold sore on his lip. It was barely noticeable, and after sharing a bottle of wine we both somehow forgot it was there. And then we had oral sex. And then, immediately afterward, I said “Oh my god, you just went down on me and you have a cold sore!”

A day or two later, a small blister appeared on my inner labia. I went to the doctor. It was herpes. I got the dreaded Valtrex prescription. My mother, who is always so supportive, told me that no man would ever want me and that my future children would be born blind. I was convinced that my sex life, which had always been so important to me and had been characterized by spontaneity and adventurousness, would now be limited to condom-covered sex with whatever poor chump was willing to expose himself to the risk of my contaminated vagina. I was heartbroken.

Fortunately, one of my friends disclosed to me that she also had herpes, had gotten it the exact same way, and that it had by no means been the end of her sex life. I cannot overstate the importance of that conversation, how it comforted me and made me realize that all the cultural messages we receive about herpes are a bunch of bullshit. If you have a cold sore on your lip you probably don’t think much about it, aside from aesthetic concerns; you avoid kissing people on the mouth or anywhere else until it goes away, and that’s it. Genital herpes is the exact same thing. I’d take a herpes outbreak over a yeast infection or UTI any day. I’m not unclean or a horrible person, I’m just someone with a relatively harmless virus — one that between 65% and 90% of the world’s population also has.

A few months ago a friend and I were observing some douchey teenage boys hitting on some teenage girls and my friend made a crack about one of them having herpes. “Hey,” I said, “Don’t make fun of herpes. I have herpes.” She was shocked, but was also receptive when I took a few minutes to educate her about it. Herpes jokes don’t really bother me personally, but I would love to see an end to them, because they make it so much harder for people who are newly diagnosed. There’s a ton of stigma attached to STIs in general, obviously, but herpes gets a particularly bad rap because you can’t get rid of it. There’s no reason for herpes to be as feared or reviled as it is, though. It’s a minor skin condition. That’s it.

I’ve had to disclose my herpes to a few new partners over the years, including the person I’m seeing now. Everyone has wanted more information, but no one has reacted badly. My current partner and I are making efforts to avoid transmission, but I think he also understands that on the off chance that he were to get it, it wouldn’t really be a big deal anyway. For most people, it’s not. If you do a Google image search for genital herpes, you will get a ton of horrifying photos back that are nothing like what I — or most people with herpes — have experienced. In fact, I just took a look at my lady business in the mirror, and nothing’s even visible; I only know I’m having an outbreak because I noticed the characteristic minor burning sensation yesterday and was subsequently able to feel the bump with my fingers.

So, that’s my herpes story. I hope it helps someone. And I hope that people who don’t have herpes — or who think they don’t — will stop making it out to be the mark of a disgusting Slutty McSlutterson. It’s just something that happens to people — a lot of people — and shouldn’t be nearly as big a deal as it is.

anonymous asked:

Ok so I had a Pap smear and results are abnormal.. Meaning I have HPV. Not the wart type though! The type you don't even know you have. Guys can't get tested for it so they won't ever know they have it unless they have had sex w a girl who has it. Anyway would this rule out becoming an escort? I was vaccinated against it but it's a different strain that vaccines can't prevent. Hpv can cause cancer, that's the worry. But most cases it goes away.. I'm not sure where I stand in this. Help

It’s estimated that up to 75% of sexually active people contract HPV at least once in their lifetime.  (from the same article: “ many sexual healthcare providers consider that HPV is simply a symptom of people being sexually active, because it’s just that common”)  Some studies have also shown that 60% of people who have HPV have cleared the virus from their systems within six months, and 90% have done so within two years, although it is difficult to test for having cleared the virus specifically. 

Basically, I would say that choosing to have genital contact with people who have ever had genital contact with anyone else, even with perfect barrier use (which is estimated to be about 75% effective in preventing HPV with condoms, and higher with the use of dams)  is accepting the possibility of contracting and/or spreading HPV, in the same way that choosing to work in, say, a pre-school, is accepting the possibility of being a vector for conjunctivitis.  I don’t think any reasonable expectation exists that only people who are certain that they’ve never contract any strain of HPV be sexually active, professionally or otherwise.

It’s incredibly common and the long-term health effects are treatable and infrequent (HPV causes fewer than 10,000 cases of cervical cancer a year in the US, and the HPV vaccines, while they do not protect against all strains, do protect against those most likely to cause cancer), and so I would unequivocally say that there is no reason that an abnormal Pap smear should ethically bar you from doing full service sex work, nor obligate you to disclose that fact to future clients.  

Obviously, getting regular pap smears and practicing safer sex are important harm reduction habits when it comes to HPV, but you’ve obviously got the former covered (yay! go you! 10 pts!), and somehow I doubt you need any reminding in regard to the latter.  Go forth and make bank.  

anonymous asked:

I was discussing decriminalization vs legalization with someone recently and someone brought up the point that in many places, vaccines or medical exams like physicals are required for attending school or being hired in some fields (cont)

Do you think mandated vaccines and physicals are comparable to sti testing? Do you think those sort of required medical procedures are acceptable? Thanks for your thoughts Leigh Alanna!

They’re not at all comparable, for a few reasons. 

First: students and people working in health or food or childcare related fields (where there are sometimes, but not always, required medical exams or vaccination requirements) are not facing extreme, violent marginalization because of their jobs.  The interference of the state in the lives, healthcare and privacy of sex workers is just plain old not the same thing – there’s no history of arresting suspected day care attendants and forcing them to undergo dangerous and ineffective treatments or indeed rescue that involves indefinite incarceration in extremely inhumane conditions, the withholding of needed medical treatment, and murder resulting from those things.   The government simply cannot be trusted to treat people who trade sex as human beings, and so enshrining the government’s right to interfere in our healthcare is unacceptable.  (I would also point out that, in the US at least, vaccination requirements for healthcare employees vary state to state and actually have a lot less mandated treatment than you might expect.  You can check about your specific state here. So the idea that legalization with mandated STI screening is just asking sex workers to do what other workers do is also pretty much bunkum.)

Second, from a health and safety standpoint: The ability of the consumer to control their exposure risk is much, much greater when it comes to STI’s than those that people in other fields are vaccinated against, or examined for.  If I’m not vaccinated for whooping cough, and I’m sitting next to you on a bus (much less handling your food or giving you medical care), I can expose you to it just by coughing and ineffectively covering my mouth, or touching the same handrail that you touch, or any number of things that you can’t do anything about at all.  If I’m a sex worker, and I have an STI, then it’s very, very easy to control your risks as a consumer – you can be vaccinated for HPV, you can use latex or polyurethane condoms, dams and gloves, you can use lube and engage in lower risk sexual activities.  The protection that clients need from sex workers is not on a par with what’s needed from people working in other fields, where that kind of control is not possible.

Finally, mandated STI screenings for sex workers are simply not an effective way to slow the spread of STIs. Listen to what fabulous Australian sexwoblr (who largely work with mandatory screening requirements) have to say about it – it’s a nuisance that does nothing for the safety of clients or sex workers, while draining healthcare resources (I recommend you start with evolvingmatter, or bpd-charlie or sexworkinfo).   In environments that do have decriminalization (where sex workers are able to control their own healthcare), SWers have lower incidences of STIs than the general population (and are more likely to get screened more frequently on their own anyway, and obviously, more likely to insist on safer sex practices).  Let’s be straight up – it is emphatically not sex workers who are creating a demand for barrier-free transactional sex.  We, by and large, are much wiser to the risks we take and how to minimize them then our clientele and the general population are.  We’re not goddamn disease vectors here – you lot are. 


Does your state have the most STDs? Check the maps

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, approximately 20 million new sexually transmitted infections are reported each year, split between eight commonly transmitted conditions: HPV, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, gonorrhea, genital herpes, syphilis, HIV and hepatitis B. LiveScience reports the CDC’s best estimate is that 110 million Americans, or about 1 in 3, suffer from these conditions at any particular moment. And the infections cost around $16 billion to treat each year.

Young people are particularly vulnerable | Follow micdotcom 

Can Skin-To-Skin Contact Cause Pregnancy?

Someone asked us:

Can skin to skin contact get you pregnant?

When talking about sex, we define “skin-to-skin” contact as touching your vulva, vagina, penis, testicles, buttcheeks, or anus to another person’s, without a barrier like clothing, condoms, or dental dams. Some people call this “dry humping.” Sexual skin-to-skin contact also includes touching another person’s genitals with bare hands (mutual masturbation).

Skin-to-skin contact itself does not cause pregnancy, but things get a bit, um…stickier if semen (the fluid that comes out of the penis containing sperm) comes into the equation. Pregnancy IS possible if semen gets on your vulva or in your vagina.  There are a number of ways this can happen:

-A penis ejaculates on your vulva or in your vagina (duh).

-A penis ejaculates somewhere else on your body, and the semen drips or is wiped onto your vulva.

-There is fresh semen on your fingers, your partner’s fingers, and/or sex toys, which then touch your vulva or vagina.

-Any of these things happen with pre-ejaculate (AKA pre-cum), which can have a small amount of sperm in it. 

Basically, if you’re trying to avoid pregnancy, it’s important to not only keep sperm out of the vagina, but also away from the vulva. It may seem a teensy bit paranoid, but sperm can use moisture on the vulva (which tends to increase during sexytimes) to help them swim up into the vagina.  

Also, I’d be a very bad sex educator if I didn’t remind you that genital (and oral) skin-to-skin contact CAN transmit some sexually transmitted infections, like herpes and HPV, even if you don’t have actual “intercourse” or swap fluids. 

-Kendall at Planned Parenthood