Tag Archives: health

World AIDS Day 2013: What We Know and Where We Are Headed

1 Dec

World AIDS Day logo

First reported in 1981 as a rare lung infection, what we now know as AIDS has become a worldwide epidemic. Scientists believe the virus originated from Western Africa. According to recent studies, it is thought that HIV may have jumped from monkeys to humans as far back as the late 1800’s (aids.gov).

A common misconception is that people think you immediately contract AIDS when you are exposed (I will elaborate on exposure below) to someone who had AIDS, but you actually contract HIV.  HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. The short version is that this virus infects your body, attacks your T-cells and uses them to replicate themselves and repeat the process. When your T-cell number gets to a certain low threshold, you are diagnosed with AIDS. AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome.

HIV is found in blood, semen (cum), pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum), breast milk, vaginal fluids, and anal mucous. It can be transmitted by-

  • Sexual Contact
  • Injection Drug Use
  • Pregnancy, Childbirth, & Breast Feeding
  • Blood Transfusion/Organ Transplant
  • Accidental Exposure (i.e. needle stick)

Transmission occurs when there is contact to a mucous membrane, cut, or sore. The most common ways that transmission occurs are through sexual contact (oral, vaginal, anal), sharing needles, or through childbirth.

While HIV/AIDS seems grim, it isn’t a death sentence. There are treatments for HIV/AIDS and many people can live out a relatively normal life. Antiretroviral therapy (‘The Cocktail’) is used to treat HIV. This can help extend your life, lower your chances of developing a non HIV-related illness, and help reduce the chance you will transmit the virus to others. If diagnosed with HIV, it is very important to seek medical attention to get on a treatment plan. Taking the prescribed medications from your health care provider is imperative to keep you healthy as long as possible.

It is very easy to reduce your risk of exposure by knowing your status. Get tested. You have nothing to lose by doing it and everything to gain. In this instance, ignorance is not bliss. You cannot tell by looking at someone if they are infected or not.

Using a barrier is a fantastic way to help prevent contact with fluids that can transmit the virus. Barriers include condoms (male and female) and dental dams. Latex and polyurethane are the best materials for prevention. Lambskin condoms, which are a natural material, have a permeable membrane which impede sperm from crossing because they are too large, but HIV, which is much smaller, and can cross through. Also, it is important to not share needles.

We (the world) have made great progress against the HIV/AIDS epidemic, but there is still much that needs to be done. Prevention is key, but we need to focus on the lessening the stigma that comes with an HIV diagnosis. With advocacy, education, and testing we can hope to reduce the number of new infections. Currently MSM (men who have sex with men, all races and ethnicities) and African Americans are at the highest risk for transmission. The CDC estimates that there are 1.1 million people in the United States who are infected with HIV, and here is the kicker, nearly one in five of those infected are not aware that they are infected.

While this is not as lighthearted as many of my posts, the message is just as important. There is so much more to be said about this epidemic, but I wanted to get the basics out there. My hope is that you will take away the following-

  • Know your status. Get tested
  • Practice safer sex
  • Never share needles
  • Know that HIV is not a death sentence
  • And, education and advocacy can help reduce future transmissions

Resources

World AIDS Day

Planned Parenthood HIV/AIDS Guide

CDC HIV/AIDS Information

NIH AIDS Information

Infographic on HIV/AIDS today in the United States

WorldAidsDayUSSnapshot1 WorldAidsDayUSSnapshot2

Perks Of Going Commando – For The Ladies

23 Oct

womanjumpingdress

Hold on to your panties (or not)! I’ve got five fast facts on why you should consider skipping the skivvies.

First of all, what does it mean to ‘go commando?’ This term has mixed roots, but stems from two ideas. Soldiers stationed in Vietnam were known to go without underwear to reduce the amount of moisture around their genitals and also to help facilitate better airflow. Smart guys. Another source is from the term ‘true Scotsman.’ This comes from the tradition of men not wearing undergarments under their kilts. Add in the passage of time and the popularity of slang and the phrase ‘going commando’ was born.

Not wearing underwear is extremely beneficial when it comes to letting air circulate around your genitals. In this day and age, we are often wearing leggings, jeggings, and other tight, non-breathable materials. Those tight conditions can cause too much moisture to be trapped near your genitals and can result in a yeast infection. If you’re not feeling like going panty free all day long, consider going panty free when you go to bed. Keep your vulva happy by letting her breathe.

Panty lines can be a downer if you’re going for that sleek, no panties look. Panty lines, lacy patterns, and colors, can often be seen through many materials and it can be tough to find the right pair to go with an outfit. Save yourself the hassle and skip them all together! You’ll never have to worry about finding your sheer-nude-no stitch panties again. Skin matches everything.

Skipping the skivvies can also help you save money. Not having to buy new underwear may not seem like a great savings, but it will add up over time. Think of what you can buy instead of purchasing the latest five for $25 deal. And with the reduction in panties comes a reduction in laundry. Less panties will save you in the detergent department and you’ll never have to utter the words ‘it was laundry day’ when questioned why you were wearing your last pair of over loved underwear.

And one of the more exciting perks of not wearing underwear is the taboo feeling of not wearing underwear! Being exposed like that can feel risqué and can boost your sexual self esteem. It can be your own little secret or you can take it to the next level and whisper to your significant other, ‘I’m not wearing any panties.’ This little act of rebellion can really make you feel empowered and in touch with your sexuality.

If you’re not sold on the commando idea and still want to wear underwear, please consider what kind of undergarments you want to put next to your genitals. When choosing what type of underwear to wear, I highly recommend cotton anything; panties, thongs, boy shorts, G-strings, whatever. Cotton is ideal because the material allows your genitals to breathe while other synthetic ones trap moisture.

So whether you want to let it all hang out or not, the choice is up to you. You can try it once and be done with it or you can be converted and toss all of your thongs away tomorrow. It is all about personal preference. And remember, when it comes to going commando and all things sex, everything is OK here.

Nobody Likes A Douche, Especially Your Vagina

4 Nov

What’s that in the bottom of the picture you ask? Is that my favorite house hold cleaner Lysol? Sure is! In addition to keeping your floors spic and span, Lysol makes for a great douche! I’ll let that sink in with you…

But don’t worry, you don’t use it at full strength, you dilute it. Helps ensure your daintiness plus no greasy after effect! No one likes a greasy vagina.

If you’re still with me, know that Lysol does not promote its product for vaginal cleanliness anymore. What a relief right? Who in this day and age wants to shove chemicals up in their vagina to help stay clean and fresh? Actually a lot of women…

PLEASE STOP!

Stop with the douching! Douching is not a healthy practice. It wasn’t good back then and it isn’t good now. Contrary to popular believe, the vagina is supposed to have a smell. Your smell changes depending on where you are in your cycle. Only when there is a strong odor should you be concerned, it could be a sign of infection. Douching upsets your pH and internal flora and that can leave you susceptible for infections like Bacterial Vaginosis.

Your vagina is naturally acidic, which helps keep bacteria in check, so when you flush out “the bad” you are also flushing out “the good.” Other risks of douching include PID, or pelvic inflammatory disease, and pregnancy complications.

Moreover, douching isn’t worth it. Your vagina isn’t supposed to smell like “Spring Rain” or “Mountain Meadow.” Keep it smelling as it should by washing with water or a little mild soap. There are lower pH soaps out there too that you may try. Keep your vagina happy, and with the exception of douching, everything is OK here.

IUD and Me

13 Jul

I recently decided to get an IUD, or intrauterine device. This was after a long process of weighing the pros and cons for this type of birth control. Currently in the US, there are two available for women. The hormone containing Mirena and the hormone free Paraguard. I choose Paraguard. It was most appealing because it was hormone free, lasts up to 10 years, and was one of the most economical forms of birth control out there.

So before I get into the adventure, here is the 411 on an IUD. It is a T-shaped device that is placed in the uterus and is over 99.9% effective at preventing pregnancy. The hormonal IUD releases levonorgestrel which keeps the woman from releasing eggs and it can also reduce menstrual bleeding. The method in which the copper IUD works is not yet fully understood, but it is believed to affect sperm motility by releasing copper ions. With immobile sperm, there cannot be fertilization. Some also believe that the device creates an irritation in the uterus making it difficult for an embryo to implant.

I had to wait until I was on my period because that would be when my cervix would be most receptive to receiving the IUD. May 17th was the fated day that I popped 600mg of ibuprofen (they recommend that you take some pain relievers about 30 minutes before you come in) and drove myself to the clinic.

What I really enjoy about my gynecological clinic is that there are not harsh glaring fluorescent lights staring you back in the face as you lay on the table wearing that gown with too many holes in it. The room is tastefully painted and has a small little lamp emitting a nice friendly glow. I was relaxed and going over what I knew about the contraception and the insertion procedure (thanks YouTube!)

Finally my midwife and her nurse came into the room. I found out that this procedure was one of my midwife’s favorite things to do, ha! She asked me if I had any questions about the copper IUD and I said no, telling her that I am a Sexologist, so I am pretty familiar with the product. She warmed up the speculum, lubed it up, and we were off.

My midwife talked about each step of the procedure before she did it and I was following along in my head. She explained to me that because I have never had a child, my cervix has never been opened and that she may have a little difficulty getting it in, but she has never failed at an implantation, so no worries.

She sounded my uterus, through my cervix with a wand, to see how deep she needed to insert the IUD.

“You’re going to feel some pressure”

Not so bad.

She open the package containing the IUD and I was shown how the arms were folded down in the insertion device along with the little copper coils. She warned before that I may feel a little more pressure than before and that I should take a breath. On the count of three…

One…

Two…

Three…

In.

Fuck.

Hello cramp from hell! I tensed up immediately and was shocked at how much it hurt. I didn’t think it would be much worse than the sound going through my cervix, but it was.

After breaking out in a cold sweat, I was still trying to keep it cool. She said that I would probably have some intense cramping the first few days and an extended period/spotting. After 6-8 days the cramping should subside and I should be back to normal. I listened as she told me that she cut the strings about 3cm so that I could check them and that they will eventually soften with time. She said I did great and told me that I would be good and pregnancy until 2022. AMAZING, but I was too uncomfortable to make any more small talk.

I got dressed and walked to the desk to sign out and do the paperwork stuff and schedule my 6 week check. All the while, I could feel my uterus contracting more and more as time went on. She was not very happy with me. I scrambled to my car, just wanting to get home to my bed and painkillers. I have never been more thankful that I live only a mile away from my clinic, but it seemed like the longest mile! I was sitting in my car, audibly breathing and telling myself to relax…relax…maybe it’s all in your head…get a grip Meg! As soon as I got home, I ran upstairs and curled into the fetal position.

I am a worst-case scenario planner and all I could think about was “what if something went wrong” “what if they have to take it out and put another in” and other crazy things like that. I don’t ever recall reading anything online about the crazy intense cramping that the insertion may cause, which is part of the reason why I’m writing this article. Contraction after contraction, I finally gave in and took a vicodin and slept. Fast forward a few days and my period ended, but I still had wicked awful cramps. The cramps weren’t ordinary menstrual cramps that I was used to, but “it feels like I am going into labor” cramps. I completely went over the 6-8 additional days of cramping. Some days they were debilitating. I took a lot of ibuprofen and vicodin those two weeks. But one day, the pain was gone! It was such a relief.

I am at the point now that I actually forget that I have it in me. I am very happy now with this birth control. It wasn’t my intention to scare or dissuade you from getting an IUD with this story. I wanted to share my story so that you could have a first-hand account of my journey. Would I go through this again? Absolutely. Despite going from having a three to four day period, to one that lasts six to seven days, having a non-hormonal form of birth control is a more than acceptable price to have added long term protection against pregnancy. Also, it is one of the economical birth control options around at $6.25* a month. Win-win.

I still recommend that you use an additional barrier method of contraception because while an IUD protects against pregnancy, it does not protect against STD/STI’s.

To read more about Paraguard and Mirena, please click on the links below. Do your research and when it comes to sex, everything is OK here.

http://www.paragard.com/

www.mirena-us.com

*My IUD plus cost of insertion was about $750. Divided into 120 months (10 years) it worked out to be $6.25 a month. Check with your insurance company about IUD coverage because many do cover some portion of the expense. Also check with your clinic for payment plans that they may offer.

Single Women And The Absence Of Contraceptives

21 Feb

Even in today’s society, with all of its medical and scientific advancements, many women still fail to use contraception. The use of contraception can help reduce the risk of STD/STIs and prevent many unwanted pregnancies, yet it falls by the wayside for many women. There are many factors that go into a woman’s decision on why she chooses not to use a form of contraception.

Many women’s religious beliefs forbid the use of contraception. They are told that sexual intercourse is only for the production of children, therefore they do not need to use methods against childbirth. They are however permitted to use the “rhythm method” or cycle beads. These forms rely on counting days or beads to determine fertile days. These methods are highly unreliable because women’s cycles change and are not the same amount of days each month.

There can also be societal factors that would make them uncomfortable talking, let alone, seeking out, contraception. Some women can be embarrassed when it comes to talking about sex and then there is also the fear of rejection from their partner. Many men are guilty of trying to talk their way out of wearing a condom with excuses like “if you loved me you would let me without one”, “I just don’t want anything between us”, and “I’ll pull out.’

There is also the notion that many women do not know the wide breadth of contraception options there are out there. For many, the only type of sex education they have received has been abstinence only sex education which only mentions abstaining from sex to avoid pregnancy. They also may be in an area where they cannot access contraception.

Also, some women, and men, operate under the “superman complex” and don’t feel the need to take steps to protect themselves against STD/STI’s and pregnancy because “it can’t happen to them.”

Respect your sexuality and sexual health. Take some time out to evaluate what works for you. Get educated, ask questions, and find out which method fits your lifestyle the best. Have fun, be safe, and when it comes to sex, everything is OK here.

Sex, Drugs, and You

17 Feb

Many of us have heard the saying “Sex, drugs, and rock and roll” before, but is that actually what the cool kids are doing? I mean it sounds like fun, right? Many people consume alcohol or drugs to help them relax, feel more confident, or less inhibited, but is that a safe mix? Different substances can affect the way you operate in sexual situations and may make you do things you wouldn’t ordinarily do. It can land you in compromising situations like having unprotected sex or nonconsensual sex. Here are a few substances, legal and controlled, and what their sexual side effects can be.

Contrary to popular belief, alcohol is a depressant. Many equate its effects to being an aphrodisiac or an “ice breaker” because it is known to lower inhibitions. Alcohol consumption thins the blood and can reduce muscle coordination. People react to alcohol consumption in different ways that can range from a happy feeling to combative. In large amounts, alcohol can cause blacking out, poisoning, vomiting, and even death. Some men are unable to achieve an erection or ejaculate depending on how much they have consumed, colloquially known as “liquor dick”. People who find themselves inebriated will sometimes engage in risky sex behaviors like unprotected sex.

Marijuana is unique in the sense that it acts both as a stimulant and a depressant. The receptors in the brain that control pleasure and muscles have a high density of cannibinoid receptors. The body becomes more relaxed under the influence of this drug. Users may have a higher propensity to engage in sexual activity that would not ordinarily do without concern for pregnancy of potential STD/STI exposure. This is from the euphoric feeling that comes over them due to the high. Both men and women have reported an increase in both sexual desire and enjoyment while under the influence, as well as an increase in tactile sensation. Many also report that an increase in orgasm intensity is noticeable as well.

Cocaine is a stimulant. It creates an intense high where users can feel an increase in energy, alertness and sexual intensity. There is an increase in heart rate and respiration. Because this is a short lived high, users may have a craving to do more of the drug to sustain their high. Due to its euphoric properties, users have reported an increase in sexual pleasure and satisfaction when engaging in sexual activities while under the influence.

Amyl nitrate, or “poppers”, is an inhaled substance that is used to increase sexual sensation. Its effects on the body are short lived but very intense. It has been purported to be an aphrodisiac due to its vasodilatory effects on the body. It can cause flushing over the body and an involuntary relaxation of the muscles, especially those of the anal sphincter. It also has slightly euphoric properties. Persons using this drug can expect to have an increased heart rate and sometimes shortness of breath.

The details of the sexual effects of these substances were not intended to entice you to use them; rather, inform you of potential situations you could get yourself in. Remember that sane, consensual and safer sex are of utmost importance in keeping you healthy sexually. Respect your sexuality and try to make the best decisions that you can. And when it comes to sex, everything is OK here.

Condom 101: Wrap It Up

1 Feb

Not only is February Black History Month, it is National Condom month as well!

Condoms have been around for the past 400 years and their basic intention is still the same; prevent disease and pregnancy. Now while earlier models were made from things like animal entrails and linen, today’s products are made with latex, polyurethane, and some still with animal membranes. Not all condoms are created equal, so try different kinds until you find the one that works for you.

Latex is probably the most popular condom material and it has amazing elastic properties. Drawbacks to using latex condoms come from people who have a latex allergy or when the condoms are combined with oil based lubricants which can compromise the condom and cause breakage. Stick to water-based or silicone lubricants.

Polyurethane is another type of condom material. It is thinner than latex and can conduct body heat better, giving the wearer a more “natural” feel. All lubricants, including oil based ones, can be used with this type of condom.

Animal membrane condoms are commonly known as “lambskin” condoms. The name is a misnomer because the condoms are actually made from sheep’s’ intestines. Unlike latex and polyurethane condoms, animal membrane condoms do NOT protect against most STD/STI’s, including HIV. Because this is a natural material, there are holes in the membranes that are large enough to allow in viruses, but small enough to stop sperm, which are larger.

Condoms can also come in different varieties as well. Some may be studded or ribbed to add additional external pleasure to the receiver. Some are flavored which can be beneficial because many find the taste of unflavored condoms unpalatable. Some may be colored, glow in the dark, or come in different sizes.

Speaking of size, men, be honest with yourselves and buy the right kind for you. As you know, penises come in many shapes and sizes. Some men do need to wear larger sized condoms because their penises do not fit in average sized ones. They run the risk of breaking the condom due to the tight fit and friction. Not to mention, it can be very uncomfortable wearing an overly tight condom. You want the fit to be snug, not strangled. Now at the same time, men with average sized men should not use the larger size condoms because it won’t properly stay on their penis and could potential slip off into their partner.

Here are some tips the next time you reach for your love glove-

  • Don’t keep condoms in your wallet. The constant pressure, rubbing, and friction can compromise the condom and lead to breakage.
  • Don’t open it with your teeth! Open it with your hands and save the teeth for elsewhere.
  • Only put a condom on an erect penis.
  • Use a new condom for every act of intercourse. If you’re doing PA and want to switch to PV, grab a new one.
  • Keep condoms at room temperature. Extreme temperatures can also compromise the condoms integrity.
  • After ejaculation and before the penis goes soft, hold the base of the condom and carefully pull out of your partner ensuring that no semen spills out.

Condom Brands that I recommend are

Durex – www.durex.com

Lifestyles – www.lifestyles.com

MAXPRO – www.maxprocondom.com

Trojan  – www.trojancondoms.com

Sensis – www.sensiscondoms.com

And if you reside in Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, or Tennessee, you can find condoms and more at your local Cirillas store. Shop 24/7 at www.cirillas.com

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite “not for television” condom commercials and as always, when it comes to sex, everything is OK here.