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What does a condom actually protect against?

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Simply put, a condom could save your life. If it doesn’t become that drastic, it can save your way of life. Condoms protect against unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections and sexually transmitted diseases including HIV. It is important for you to understand that a condom can protect you from a virus. A virus is much more serious than a bacteria. For some viruses there are no cures. Bacterial infections can be treated.

All of the reputable clinics and government websites will tell you that if you use a condom the correct way every time you have sex, they are 98% effective in preventing pregnancy. This means two out of every 100 women may get pregnant. This can be because the man wore the wrong size and either it fell off during sex or broke during the act. This is a big reason why you should know your size and watch the expiration dates on your condoms.

Using condoms not only protect the man from becoming infected, they protect the partners as well.

The number of sexually transmitted diseases are increasing each year. Now Ebola and the Zika virus have been added to the list. At this time there is no cure for Zika. It is a virus that affects unborn babies who are born with smaller heads and underdeveloped brains. Researchers are trying to come up with a vaccine, but there is no cure.

HIV

When this virus f was first realized as an epidemic back in the 1980’s it was considered a death sentence. Through millions of dollars in research, drug companies have developed special drugs that control the virus and many can lead normal, mostly healthy lives. Today, someone diagnosed with HIV and treated before the disease is far advanced can live nearly as long as someone who does not have HIV. But just because there are drugs that help prolong life, don’t count HIV out as a deadly disease. It certainly is one that will affect your quality of life and stress level. Treatment can be very expensive.

HIV can be passed on through infected bodily fluids, most commonly via sex without a condom or by sharing infected needles, syringes or other injecting drug equipment. Also it is important to note that not all individuals who contract the HIV virus will develop full blown AIDS. HIV has few or no symptoms for up to 10 years or more before symptoms of AIDS develop. This is why it snuck up on everyone in the 1980’s. Many people did not know they were sick and continued to pass the virus to others.

There have been movies and television programs that portray people with full blown AIDS. Some have visual sores on their faces and quite a few die from pneumonia. This is because AIDS affects the immune system and the infected person cannot ward off infections. In the initial stages it attacks what is called T-cells. These are the cells that fight off other infections including cancer.

There are several stages of HIV disease. The first HIV symptoms may include swollen glands in the throat, armpit, or groin. Other early HIV symptoms include slight fever, headaches, fatigue, and muscle aches. These symptoms may last for only a few weeks. Then there are usually no HIV symptoms for many years. That is why it can be hard to know if you have HIV unless you are actually tested.

Here is what you can expect if you are infected with HIV:

Stage 1 You could think you have the flu that goes away in about two weeks. This is when a person can be the most contagious. The only way you can know if you have HIV is to get a blood test.

Stage 2 In this stage the disease does not grow rapidly and can be dormant for as long as 10 years. However, if a person gets tested and learns he has HIV, he can begin the suppression regimen with drugs. This will keep the person in this stage for an indefinite amount of time. While the virus is at a low level it can still be transmitted. However, the person will not be as contagious as Stage 1.

Stage 3 Get your life in order because you now have full blown AIDS. Without any treatment at all a patient may live for up to four years. It all depends on the other infections that attack the body. The symptoms are many like chills, fever, sweats, swollen lymph glands, weakness, and weight loss. Really, the quality of life is just not there.

A condom a protect you from this disease. A condom should be used for vaginal, oral and anal sex.

Gonorrhea

Some may say this is not a big deal. Gonorrhea has been around for generations. All you need to do is take the antibiotics and you’re cured. Not.

If you haven’t read up on STDs you may be surprised to know that there is a new strain of the disease that has been resistant to all know antibiotics and treatments. This means if you have it, you keep it. Different counties and counties have varying laws. At one point in the U.S. if a doctor diagnosed a person with gonorrhea to the county health department. They were required to be certain that the patient informed all sexual partners that they were infected and that the partners needed to get tested and treated. Can you imagine the embarrassment and humiliation?

If a person isn’t treated he or she may become sterile. In both sexes the symptoms that lead to this can be very painful. Men may not have any symptoms, but when they do the symptoms can mimic a bladder infection:

A burning sensation when urinating

A white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis

Painful or swollen testicles

Most women will have no symptoms. With them the infection can mimic a bladder infection:

Painful or burning sensation when urinating

Increased vaginal discharge

Vaginal bleeding between periods

If you have contracted gonorrhea from anal sex. The symptoms are much more annoying:

Discharge

Anal itching

Soreness

Bleeding

Painful bowel movements

Chlamydia

This is an STD that is very close to gonorrhea because it can make the woman sterile. Chlamydia can also cause a potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy which is a pregnancy outside the womb. Even if you have unprotected sex and your partner does not ejaculate, a women can still get this STD. And it can be acquired through vaginal, oral and anal sex.

Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases. This infection is easily spread because it often causes no symptoms and may be unknowingly passed to sexual partners. In fact, about 75% of infections in women and 50% in men are without symptoms

Women with symptoms may notice:

  • An abnormal vaginal discharge
  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • Bleeding between periods

Symptoms in men can include:

  • A discharge from their penis
  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • Pain and swelling in one or both testicles

The symptoms are very similar to that of gonorrhea. The only way to know for sure is getting tested in a doctor’s office or health clinic.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is not among the most common of STDs because it is more of a blood disease than a virus or bacterial infection. It can be caused from unprotected sex as well as other occasions when an uninfected person comes in contact with an infected person’s blood or bodily fluids. Hep B can do severe damage to your liver.

Blood Test

This is another silent disease because most people do not have symptoms. Again, a person can believe they have a case of the flu with feeling very tired and lethargic, low grade fever, loss of appetite, nausea and stomach pain. Those who have had the symptoms and they have passed will then see a yellowing of the skin called jaundice. Mothers can pass Hep B to their new born babies.

Some people, especially adults, are able to clear, or get rid of, the virus without treatment. People who clear the virus become immune and cannot get infected with the Hepatitis B virus again. If a person has undiagnosed and untreated Hepatitis B he can develop liver damage, cirrhosis, liver cancer and in extreme cases, death.

Syphilis

Yes, Syphilis is still around and has been for hundreds of years. No one has been able to kill it or develop a vaccine against it. It is a dichotomy. It is easy to treat but left untreated can cause severe problems. It can be contracted via vaginal, oral and anal sex. It can also be transmitted by a mother to her unborn child. You can spot syphilis sores just about anywhere on the body including on the lips and in the mouth. Obviously, they can also be found on the genitals and in the anus.

This is another disease that attacks in stages. It may begin with a simply red bump that you might think is an ingrown hair or ‘zit’. Next you will see a rash but it will not itch. It may look like you have had an allergic reaction to something but without pain or itching. And this can happen on the palm of your hands or the bottom of your feet. If it comes too close to your eye it can enter and cause blindness.

Syphilis will enter a latent stage when all your symptoms disappear. Here’s the rub –the latent stage is almost like HIV. You can live with untreated syphilis for as long as 30 years without noticing. Then the trouble really begins. The permanent damage has been done. You may havedifficulty coordinating your muscle movements, partial paralysis, numbness, blindness or dementia. In the very last stage syphilis damages internal organs and can result in death.

Herpes

Herpes is another virus that has no cure. It can be controlled, but you still may have outbreaks and it will be with you forever. Prior to the HIV epidemic, Herpes was the newest and most talked about STD.

If you have ever noticed a nasty cold sore with a yellow center that breaks and has puss, this is Herpes Simplex 1. It is strictly oral. It can be spread through kissing and even sharing eating utensils. No, it can’t spread by a toilet seat.

Herpes Simplex 2 is the STD. Not to confuse you, however if you have unprotected sex, including oral sex, with a person with HSV-1 you can develop HSV-2. The symptoms are quite simple. You will see sores. They can be around the mouth or in and around the genitals and anus. Originally they will look like blisters. Then the blisters break and leave sores that are extremely tender.

Again, there is no cure. There are drugs that suppress outbreaks but even something simple as stress at work can cause an outbreak. There are also drugs that are supposed to calm the pain.

HPV

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. It is said that everyone who is sexually active will get HPV in their lifetime. In some people it does nothing, in others is causes cancer. The kicker is that the bad effects do not take place for many years.

A teenage girl may have unprotected sex – or a young woman who is on a birth control pill. During that one time they could have been infected with HPV. And – even if you have had sex with just your one partner your entire life, you could still get the virus. It’s a bummer, isn’t it?

For those people for whom the virus causes problems they can develop genital warts. At first it was thought that HPV only caused cervical cancer. Now with additional research it turns out that HPV can cause cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, or anus. It can also cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and the tonsils.

There are no tests to screen for HPV. The PAP test screens for cervical cancer. Fortunately for young boys and girls there is now a vaccine that is recommended for those from around 12 up to 21. Anyone over the vaccine age will have to wait and see if any damage has been done. In the meantime the best way to prevent infection is to use a condom for vagina, oral and anal sex.

You asked how a condom protects you. A condom is Superman and Spiderman combined. That one small piece of latex can prevent all the above diseases. That makes a condom a hero.

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