Women and the brunt of sexual infections
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are a public health problem not only because they spread easily and cause immediate discomfort, but also because they can have serious long-term consequences.
Whether they are fungi, bacteria, parasites or viruses, untreated STIs often progress to cause damage to the genitals, skin and reproductive system, and even to other organs of the body such as the brain. This is why prevention and treatment of these infections are so important.
Vaginas are more vulnerable than penises
It is evident that both women and men are affected by STIs, but in heterosexual relationships, they are more exposed than their male partners to acquiring a harmful microorganism. This is mainly explained by anatomical reasons.
While the penis is an external organ, covered with skin and with a single duct that expels not only semen, but also urine out of the body, the vagina is an internal canal completely covered by mucous tissue, which is much thinner and more fragile than skin.
In addition, the movement of sexual penetration involves both friction and constant “shocks” against that tissue, which can produce tiny wounds that become entry doors for microorganisms. To all this we must add that the vagina is a humid, warm and dark space: a perfect environment for the survival and multiplication of some microbes such as fungi or bacteria.
Keep STIs out of your life
Gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, human papillomavirus (HPV), candidiasis, herpes, trichomoniasis, HIV… All of these are STI names that you may have heard in different contexts, but perhaps you haven’t paid much attention to their similarities or differences.
These infections are classified as sexual because they can be acquired through vaginal, anal or oral sex, and through this route they spread from person to person. The only thing that manages to stop them is the condom. However, this tool also has its limits, since some STIs live and spread through the skin that is outside the reach of the condom, be it external (or male) or internal (or female).
For this reason it is very important that, in addition to using a condom in all your sexual relations, you also perform tests regularly in search of any STI that you should attend to. Although some infections (mainly viral ones) have no cure, others can be treated and thus avoid further repercussions.
The structure of the female reproductive organs makes it easier for infections present in the vagina to “climb” to the uterus, fallopian tubes or ovaries, causing different consequences.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea, for example, can trigger so-called pelvic inflammatory disease, a serious condition that causes pain in the belly, fever, pain or bleeding during sexual intercourse, green or yellow vaginal discharge, and a bad smell. This disease can form scar tissue inside the fallopian tubes, which could cause ectopic pregnancies (which are established in the tubes and not in the uterus) or prevent the eggs from taking their normal path in the reproductive system, causing infertility.
It is important to know that both chlamydia and gonorrhea can be treated and cured, so detecting them early avoids all these complications.
Another infection with great repercussions on women’s health is HPV, since it is well known that this virus is the direct cause of the vast majority of cases of cervical cancer, also known as cervical cancer. Although it is true that HPV is also associated with cancers of the anus, throat, and penis, its role in cervical cancer is the most compelling.
Fortunately, there are several vaccines capable of preventing HPV, which make cervical cancer one of the very few cancers preventable through vaccination.
It is better prevent
Remember that there are also STIs that are not curable, such as herpes and HIV. This is why it is so important to prevent infections with the proper use of condoms in all your sexual relations. Also, visit your doctor at least once a year to make sure there are no microorganisms harming your sexual health.
If you need free condoms, you can always go to the AHF Latin America and Caribbean centers, where we have this and other services at no cost to you. Locate our offices in your country and get to know us.