Sunday, August 10, 2008

Obligatory PSA

So you wouldn't really think we'd still need to educate on safer sex in this day and age, with knowledge at your fingertips in the form of the internet. Problem is, people need to realize that they need the knowledge before they'll search for it.

I've talked to a few people in the past couple of years that have been lacking in knowledge of certain safer sex practices; and just as important, the why behind them. These were not dumb people, mind you. I tend not to take people without brains well and simply won't deal with them. These have been intelligent, well-read people.

Talking to one of these people, I was told that std education in the military branch they were in consisted of 'This is what this std looks like. Don't get it.'. And y'know, when I thought back on it, that's really what std education in school was as well. Until just a few years ago, I didn't know a great deal. Even as of a year or two ago, I had some misconceptions.

Therefore, I'm doing a PSA here dealing with the subject.

The reason this is a big thing for me is that I have oral HSV(herpes simplex virus)1. I'm using that term first because simply saying 'I get cold sores' minimizes it. Yes, I get cold sores. I've been getting them since I was a kid. Lots of people get 'em. I'm going to focus on this particular virus because, well, it's the one I'm concerned about passing on. Maybe later there'll be more PSAs along this vein. We'll see.

I have done a lot of reading, and unfortunately, the 'facts' vary depending on the age of the study, the writer, and the population surveyed. From the amount of reading I've done, I've sifted through and gotten a good idea about what the probable facts are.

Here we go:
-Depending on who you listen to, anywhere from 80%-90% of the adult population has antibodies for HSV1. This means they've at least been exposed to the virus.

-Even if you are not experiencing an outbreak (don't have actual cold sores or the tingly feeling beforehand), you can still pass it on. The chances are insanely low, but the chance is still there.

-Some sources say that if you have HSV1 you can't get HSV2. Some say the chances are lower, but you can still get it. Some say the whole thing's hooey and it doesn't make a difference. I personally am going to assume it's hooey and protect myself anyway.

-Oral HSV1 can be spread genitally. The chances are lower because it's not the favored 'home area' of the virus, but any chance is a chance.

-If you do get HSV1 (orally or otherwise), you may never actually have an outbreak. The outbreak may be so mild you don't feel it. You may mistake the outbreak for something else. In any case, it is still transmissible.


Here's the deal, in a nutshell: If you get cold sores, you have some kind of HSV. Get tested. Hell, even if you don't, get tested. I got a full STD panel a couple of months ago, and even though I knew I was going to come up clear other than the HSV1, it was still an enormous weight off to get the results.

If you do turn up positive with HSV1, y'know what? It's cold sores. It's a mild skin infection. Big deal. Your responsibility is to talk to your partners. When I even feel like I might be getting a sore, I tell any friends close enough to need the warning not to kiss me until it heals or the feeling passes. So I go a few days without kissing. I'll survive. As for oral sex: "Just to let you know, I get cold sores. I don't get outbreaks often, but I wanted to tell you so we can make informed decisions." If your partners aren't educated about the risks, by all means educate!

Then, between you, you can weigh the risks. Best practice is to always use barriers (condoms, dental dams) for oral in that case, but some people decide to forgo that. Whatever decisions you make, make sure they're intelligent ones.

At very very least, if you don't feel like you can talk to your partners about it (at this point you have to think about why you can't talk about things like this, but that's outside the scope of this post), at very least use barriers. Just tell them you feel more comfortable when you use them.

You have to remember that safety has to come first. Safer sex practices are key, especially when you're dealing with poly/kinky situations...the health of more than just two people ends up being involved.

Barriers are your friends. Condoms, dental dams, latex gloves...use 'em and love 'em. Unless you and your partner have both had clean std panels since the last time either of you have had sexual contact with anyone else (and even then, things can take time to show up), keep yourself safe.

You see, people lie. Your partner may be lying about having been tested, or about the results; their previous partners may have lied about theirs. You simply don't know. Keep it safe.

This PSA brought to you by the Long-Winded Newbie.

2 comments:

Librarian Babe said...

Bravo. Similar in tone to my post about HSV2. It's important that people understand the risks and understand that barrier usage helps immensely. I know before I got HSV2 I never worried about if someone might have HSV1 and go down on me, I never knew that people with HSV can spread the virus even when they have never had symptoms. I only truly educated myself after getting HSV2 and I realize now how ignorant I was and how ignorant most of us remain. Now that I'm educated, I don't worry still as I know that by using condoms consistently I'm taking reasonable (to me) precautions for my sexual safety. But everyone needs the facts and the ability to decide for themselves what's acceptable risk and what's not.

Nadia

PantheraPardus said...

I read that post, actually, along with quite a few others...

So many people just don't realize how easily things can be spread. In addition, they don't realize how unimportant some of those things are if you take proper precautions. HSV1 (and 2 for that matter) aren't gonna kill you. Your life isn't over if you have one or the other of them.

The social stigma tends to be so much less if you have oral HSV1 than the genital counterpart, but it's the same damn virus. It does the same damn thing. You get a sore. It's annoying and mildly painful, and then it goes away. *shrug*

People seem to worry more about HSV than they do (for example) HPV, which can be potentially far more dangerous for women.

I don't get it sometimes...but as long as my partners don't mind the occasional lecture, all's well. *grin*