Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sex in 2012

 What better way to start a new year than with an article on Sex, the physical activity that has literally been around since "Adam was a lad"! What brought my mind to ponder the subject of sexual intercourse was a headline in our regional newspaper proclaiming that the rate of Sexually Transmitted Infections had risen in the past year and part of the reason was an increase in the number of sexual partners that teenagers were having. I think I also read, not that long ago that STIs were also on the increase amongst the "Grey Brigade" who tend to shun the use of condoms believing that "it will never happen to me".

Well let me tell you, young and old, that I have some seriously bad news for you. A quick look at the WHO statistics tells me that:

  • 448 million new infections of curable sexually transmitted (syphilis, gonorrhoea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis) infections occur yearly.
  • Some sexually transmitted infections exist without symptoms.
  • In pregnant women with untreated early syphilis, 25% of pregnancies result in stillbirth and 14% in neonatal death.
  • Sexually transmitted infections are the main preventable cause of infertility, particularly in women. 
Please note from the above quote that only four causes of STIs are mentioned  -syphilis, gonorrhoea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis - when in fact there are over 30 different bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi that are spread sexually and the 26 not included in this WHO list include HIV, Hepatitis B & C, Herpes, the Papilloma or wart virus etc. The number of people suffering from Hepatitis B is alarming, about 2 billion people worldwide have been infected with the virus and about 350 million live with chronic infection. And for Hepatitis C, the numbers are not as great, but the mortality is eye-opening: about 130–170 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis C virus, and more than 350 000 people die from hepatitis C-related liver diseases each year.

And if you have an untreated STI, you have a 10 times higher risk of contracting and transmitting HIV!

Sadly, women are the more vulnerable group as they can often harbor some infections without knowing that they have the disease. This is particularly so in the case of Chlamydia, the complications of which can lead to infertility and ectopic pregnancies: here's more from the WHO:

  • 10 - 40% of women with untreated chlamydial infection develop symptomatic pelvic inflammatory disease.
  • Post-infection tubal damage is responsible for 30 - 40% of cases of female infertility. 
  • Women who have had pelvic inflammatory disease are 6 - 10 times more likely to develop an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy than those who have not
  • 40 - 50% of ectopic pregnancies can be attributed to previous pelvic inflammatory disease.
The ancient diseases of Syphilis and Gonorrhoea can lead to the following problems:
  • In untreated early syphilis, 25% of pregnancies result in stillbirth and 14% in neonatal death – an overall perinatal mortality of about 40%.
  • Up to 35% of pregnancies among women with untreated gonococcal infection result in spontaneous abortions and premature deliveries, and up to 10% in perinatal deaths.
 With the mobility of people comes the increased risk for exposure to these life changing, and life threatening diseases because with literally billions of people carrying such infectious diseases, the chances of getting one through casual sexual encounters are remarkably high. So my message to young and old alike is, if you think you might "get lucky" at the next party you go to, don't be surprised if you get more than you bargained for! According to the WHO again: "The most effective means to avoid becoming infected with or transmitting a sexually transmitted infection is to abstain from sexual intercourse (i.e., oral, vaginal, or anal sex) or to have sexual intercourse only within a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner." Now that sounds like a lot of sense to me.
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Mariodacatsmom said...

Another excellent article doctor, and you hit the nail right on the head.

Surabhi said...

excellent article for today's teen and youngsters...couldn't have been more well-timed!!