Words by: Ruby Ellam
There are some things that are way more embarrassing than having an STI. Like shitting your pants twice. Thankfully, Azithromycin, a common antibiotic used to treat chlamydia, exists just to remind us how much worse it can get. Azithromycin causes side effects in about 1 in 100 people including diarrhoea, vomiting and thrush. And like Lady Gaga says, there could be 100 people in the room, but only one (me) will shit their pants after getting chlamydia.
Since I became sexually active, I have been tested for STIs once every three or so months and have tried my best to always be protected — but shit happens, literally. To be completely honest, I’m not sure who I got chlamydia from. I’m about 90% sure, based on my highly scientific deduction, but that didn’t stop me from having an internal slut-shaming spiral when I had to text my partners and recommend they get tested. Some of them reacted negatively, and the shame continued. I got my medication. And then I shit my pants, and realised that my shame was misplaced.
There are more than 30 different diseases and bacterias that can be spread through sexual contact, and according to the World Health Organisation, in 2020 over 374 million new infections were recorded of the four most common STIs (chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and trichomoniasis). STIs and STDs are much more common than we like to admit, and not talking about it opens us all up for bad sexual health. No matter your sexuality, gender or relationship status, heed my warnings (or prepare for antibiotic-induced diarrhoea)!
Tip #1: Listen to your body
Don’t ignore that weird discharge. I know it’s gross, but just don’t. Itching, pelvic or abdominal pain, fevers, sore throats, genital sores, warts or rashes, fatigue, painful urination or intercourse — these symptoms shouldn’t be ignored, and eliminating sexually transmitted diseases is an easy way of narrowing down the cause. It could be simple, or it could be syphilitic.
Tip #2: Get tested at least once a year (more frequently, if you’re nasty)
While it’s important to take notice of any changes in your genitals, some STIs and STDs have no symptoms at all and can go completely unnoticed, so it’s important to get tested whether you’re exhibiting symptoms or not. You should also get tested even if you’ve used a condom. STI tests take barely half an hour, from the doctor’s visit to finishing the test, and trust me, most doctors seem psyched that all they have to do is write a pathology referral and send you on your way.
Tip #3: Use your common sense and trust no one
Okay, that’s a bit dramatic, but be wary of artless hustlers who “just don’t like the feeling” of a condom. No one is “too big” to wrap it up. Yes, some people are allergic to latex, but they make alternatives for that reason. If their genitalia looks weird or is leaking something odd or is maybe covered in a rash, don’t take their word that it’s just a yeast infection. No glove, no love.
Tip #4: Contraception can be a stipulation of consent
If you want to have sex with someone but they won’t put on a condom, then they don’t respect your body or health, full stop. If your consent comes with the stipulation of barrier contraception, then enforce it, my friends! Especially if you know they are sleeping with other people — not for slut-shaming reasons, but for your sexual health. If they’re pressuring you to go without, the likelihood is that they’re probably doing the same to their other sexual partners.
Tip #5: Put your health first
If you find yourself compromising your boundaries for one or multiple people, ask yourself why? Do you think that person deserves to put your health at risk? Is this someone you like or want to pursue romantically? Can you build a relationship with someone who puts their comfort before your health? No matter your circumstances or sexual history, you deserve to be treated with respect.
Tip #6: Don’t take yourself too seriously
Mistakes happen. You got really drunk on a date and had some fun. Consensual sex, but forget the condom? It happens! You aren’t a bad person, and neither is your partner. Have a chat with them and establish that going forward, you want to use protection and make an effort next time to initiate the process. And if you’re due for a check-up, use this as an excuse to get a sexual health check.
The moral of the story: if you’re getting busy, pop on the protection or you might get chlamydia. If you get chlamydia, stay home or you might shit your pants.