Love Hurts

22 July 2010 By Claire Griffiths

It's hard to say now if it really was true lurrvve, but when Shaggy's eyes caught Dolly's across the crowded bar, they both instantly knew where the story would end. A few hours and mojitos later, hand in hand, they strolled along the pure white sand under a starry sky, the warm, silky sea lapping at their feet. Minutes later, they were skinny dipping and moments after that they gave in to the lust that thundered like an untamed stallion through their veins. And boy, did it feel good....

Months later and several oceans apart, they shared a spot of Syphilis together, which – they regretfully agree – felt a lot less good.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases/Infections (STD/Is) allegedly are on the rise, especially among full-blooded, sexually active people, hetero- or homosexual, like...YOU.

The pick and mix selection of STDs on offer rises to at least 50, but the top 10 list of the most common reads like this: syphilis, gonorrhoea, chancroid, chlamydia, herpes, AIDs, hepatitis, genital warts (papilloma), pubic lice/scabies and trichomoniasis. Statistics are invariably unreliable, but reports suggest that there are approximately 28 million new cases of STDs per annum each year in Europe alone and a World Health Organisation report reckoned that in 1999 there were 340 million new cases of syphilis, gonorrhoea, chlamydia and trichomaniasis among the 15 to 49 age group. [Note: 1999 is the most recent estimate on international STD health.] The largest number of newly infected can be found in South and Southeast Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. HIV and gonorrhoea are on the rise in Eastern Europe and, generally, on the wane in Western Europe (except for England, Wales and Sweden.) Chlamydia, which often goes undetected for years, is particularly virulent among the young. It can lead to inflammatory pelvic disease in women and prostate cancer in later life for men.

Even if some of the names sound pretty (what's wrong, in essence, with S/Y Papilloma or M/Y Syphilis?), the symptoms are not and, if left untreated, can lead to infertility, cancers and a greater risk of contracting HIV and even death. Not all STDs are contracted through sexual activity; some can be picked up from bedding, towels, clothing, etc. so keep things clean, even if you have got a dirty mind.

Anything lumpy or bumpy in your nether 'lands' needs to be checked out by a specialist as soon as possible. Likewise, if it's itchy down 'thaaa,' gives you pain when you urinate or if you notice an unusual discharge from your genitalia – you need to see a specialist immediately. But don't panic – many STD/Is are treatable. Talk to friends for advice on medical centers to get treatment once you dock in port, then book an appointment with a doctor or visit the local hospital emergency for advice...someone, somewhere will be able to talk you through it and get you the medical help you need.

If you're old enough to contract an STD, you need to be adult enough to inform your most recent sexual partners. Bite the bullet and get in touch to prevent any further spread of whatever you've contracted. Be proactive and get tested once a year, which will ensure you aren’t unknowingly harboring an unwanted disease and will give you power over your sex life.

While abstinence is the only way to ensure you will not contract any STDs, there are many different ways to protect yourself, including condoms, which also prevent unwanted pregnancy, and dental dams. If you don't practice safe sex (choose European kite-mark BSEN 600, International Standards Organisation (ISO) or Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved condoms) – then honey, it's not long 'til you're History, with a capital 'H' for Hepatitis B or HIV. Be smart and be safe.