Psychological Self-Help

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may believe they don't have the disease. About 75% of the people
with Herpes do not have obvious outbreaks. Thus, it spreads with
astonishing speed! Also, it is commonly believed--falsely--that Herpes
is not contagious unless there is an outbreak (blisters, skin lesions) at
the time one has sex. So, how do you protect yourself? Avoid contact
with infected genitals when there is an outbreak. Even when there is
no active outbreak, use a condom. It is not perfect protection because
the lesions or any fluid near them may contact skin not covered by the
condom (often lesions are not on the penis or in the vagina). Please
note that the number and severity of Herpes outbreaks can be reduced
by prescribed medication. In the last few months, reliable blood tests
for Herpes have been developed (Find out about a Herpes test at
will not kill you, but you certainly don't want it. There is no cure. Be
There are other STD's that you can't protect yourself against by
using condoms because they can spread by skin contact, such as
Herpes (just discussed), HPV (discussed next), and all of the bacterial
sexual diseases. Chlamydia (now the most common bacterial STD) can
be cured easily with antibiotics but if untreated it can make you sterile
and infertile. Untreated gonorrhea (bacteria) can produce the similar
results. Syphilis (bacterial) goes through a series of symptoms which
clear up on their own but the internal infection remains active,
eventually, if untreated, it can cause serious damage to the heart,
brain and other parts of the body. The bacterial infections are treatable
if detected. 
Another very common STD that most of us know little about is
HPV, human papillomavirus. Apparently, more than 70% of us have
contact with some of the 100+ strains of HPV sometime during our
lifetime. Our immune system handles most of the virus in time, but a
few strains cause genital warts and a few other strains are connected
with different cancers, especially cervical cancer. Only 10% of women
with HPV develop cancer but that outcome is very serious... and you
can do something about it. There is no cure for HPV or genital warts
(they can, of course, be avoided). The virus may incubate for months
or years before any abnormality shows up on the Pap smears. New
screening procedures are being developed for women; there is no lab
test for HPV in men. New medical treatment is evolving but for now
HPV is a scary, hard-to-treat disorder. 
You need to think about sex in advance and discuss with each new
lover the impact that having sex might have on your relationship, what
having sex means to you, and how it fits with your long-range life
plans. Of course, there should also be blunt talk about every possibility
of getting a sexually transmitted disease (and pregnancy too, of
course). If you are tempted to think "just this one time, nothing will
happen," think again. What are your risks if you have unprotected sex
just once with a person infected with HIV? 1% risk of getting a deadly
disease!...with a person with Herpes? 30% chance of having Herpes all
your life!...with a person with gonorrhea? 50% chance of getting it!
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