Hopefully you’ve read part 1 and are ready to forge ahead into part 2 with me. Onward to trichomoniasis!
Trichomoniasis is a parasite that can live in both vaginas and penises. It doesn’t usually have symptoms. When there are symptoms, they may include itching, odd smells, or discharge. There is a test available that involves taking a sample of vaginal or urethral discharge.
Gonorrhea and chlamydia are bacterial infections that can occur in vaginas, penises, anuses and mouths. Like with trich, people infected with gonorrhea or chlamydia frequently do not show symptoms. When people with gonorrhea or chlamydia do show symptoms, the symptoms may include itching, burning when urinating, odd discharge, vaginal bleeding in between periods, and lower abdominal or testicle pain. There is a test available that involves peeing in a sterile cup. It has to be the doctor’s office’s sterile cup. They will not let you use your own. I know this because I’ve asked multiple doctors if I could pee in cups at home to avoid chugging water on the way in for my test and then nearly peeing in my underpants on the subway or while stuck in traffic and they have all said no.
Using latex male condoms is still the best way to prevent transmission of a trichomoniasis, gonorrhea, or chlamydia infection from one person’s genitals to another’s during penetrative sex. Polyurethane and polyisoprene male condoms are also approved by the FDA for prevention of STI transmission, but are not as highly recommended. They do cause fewer allergic reactions, and are definitely more effective than no condom. Internal (or “female”) condoms are considered less safe than latex or polyurethane/polyisoprene condoms, but are again better than nothing. Personally, I tried and failed at vaginal use of the internal condom. I haven’t tried anal use. I am sort of afraid it might get shoved so far into my rectum that I’d need a doctor to fish it out, and am still waiting on that hypothetical lady dressed in librarian gear to come explain what I am doing wrong.
Gonorrhea and chlamydia can both be transmitted through oral sex. Meaning, if your partner has chlamydia or gonorrhea and you put your mouth on their genitals, you can end up with an infection in your throat. I know there is at least one person out there who enjoys giving oral sex to people with penises and is thinking that they’ll be ok if they just don’t swallow the semen. This is incorrect. Pre-ejaculate or preseminal fluid (that yummy clear stuff that comes out of a man’s urethra when he is aroused) can carry both chlamydia and gonorrhea. You could use a condom for oral stimulation on a penis and a dental dam for oral stimulation on a vagina or anus. I have used condoms for blowjobs. It’s about 30 times more difficult, but if you really want to put your mouth on that penis and can’t wait until the person it is attached to has been tested, it’s better than nothing. I don’t know anything about dental dams other than the fact that they can be made by cutting a condom or medical grade latex or polyurethane glove down the middle. I don’t know of a single person who has successfully used a dental dam and would really love to hear from anyone who has. Maybe if I ask nicely I can get D to experiment with me later. Seriously though, if anyone out there can explain to me how dental dams work I will be all ears and immense appreciation.
Syphilis is caused by a bacteria and is transmitted through contact with a syphilitic sore. These sores do not usually hurt, and if you dig through pictures of them on google images you’ll see that while many examples look obviously diseased there are plenty of others that could be easily mistaken for a razorbump or bug bite. They can be hidden in a mouth, rectum, or vaginal canal. As with HPV and herpes simplex, condoms do reduce the risk by reducing the amount of exposed skin. Again, they do leave large expanses of skin uncovered and transmission is still entirely possible during both penetrative and oral sex.
Hepatitis C (the chronic hepatitis that there is no vaccine for) has a low risk of sexual transmission. It is mostly spread by blood to blood contact, which may seem unlikely but gets scarier when you think about it. Broken skin because of razorburn, small tears in the delicate tissue of the rectum or vagina from vigorous sex, menstrual blood, hangnails, and little invisible cuts in your mouth and gums from brushing, flossing, or eating captain crunch are all ways that hepatitis could leave or enter a body.
Intravenous drug use isn’t directly related to the subject of sexually transmitted diseases, but while we’re talking about hepatitis C and HIV I might as well mention it. If you’re going to shoot heroin, or meth, or whatever else the kids are shoving into their veins these days, please use your own needle. There are lots of needle exchange programs, like CitiWide in NYC and Clean Needles Now in LA. I know it’s kind of hard to care about health and safety when you’re high or going through withdrawal, but being chronically ill from either disease is going to interfere with your ability to afford your drugs and acquire them. Also, drugs are bad and stuff. But if you were going to listen to that you wouldn’t be shooting up in the first place.
HIV is the big, incurable STD that condoms do provide a high degree of protection from, as long as the condom is being used properly and does not break. I feel like we should all know this by now, but just in case: You cannot get HIV from shaking someone’s hand or letting them cry on your shoulder. You cannot get HIV from sitting on the same couch as an infected person. You can get HIV from having sex with a person who is infected with it. Unprotected oral sex with a person who has HIV and blood-to-blood contact also carry a risk of transmission.
Condoms, frequent testing, and requiring your partners to be frequently tested are all good ways to lower your risk of contracting HIV. In the adult industry, we use an RNA test which detects new HIV infections in 9 - 11 days. The RNA test detects the actual virus, as opposed to detecting antibodies like most (or possibly all) other HIV tests. As far as I can tell, antibody tests can fail to detect a new infection that the RNA test would catch. Planned Parenthood offers blood tests for HIV and testing for other STDs. The US Center for Disease Control has a great resource for other places to get tested. As misguided as the AHF’s push for Measure B is, they do provide free HIV testing in many places using the OraQuick Advance test. I wouldn’t have bareback sex with someone based solely on a negative saliva test, but it is also better than nothing.
I feel extremely comfortable having condom-less sex with fellow adult performers. I see this as the same sort of calculated risk a stunt person takes when they go to work. We are tested every 14-28 days and use the most sensitive tests available to us. When one person tests positive for HIV or syphilis, we call a full stop to all sex scenes and everyone goes into the clinic to get tested. Sexual partners are disclosed and people who are at risk are notified and quarantined. But what about outside of work?
If I’m having sex with a person who is not in the adult industry, I want them to have had a clean test in the past six months and use condoms. If they have something odd going on with their genitals (a rash, a sore, an odor) I don’t have sex with them. If they seem unconcerned about condom use, I don’t have sex with them. If they’re injecting drugs, I don’t have sex with them. If they’re engaged in other high risk behaviors or I don’t know them well enough to evaluate how high risk their lifestyle is, I don’t have sex with them. If I don’t trust them to disclose what sexual acts they’ve been up to lately, I don’t have sex with them. I’m being repetitive here because I really want to make sure this point gets made.
I’ve never hit on or been propositioned by someone who is HIV positive, but I would not feel comfortable having sex with them even with a condom. This is because condoms do fail sometimes. I also would not feel comfortable having sex with untested adult performers even if condoms were being used. Again, this is because condoms do fail sometimes.
These are the risks I am and am not willing to take. I am aware of most of the risks and available methods of protection. I have spoken to my doctor. I have made my own decisions. If you are or are going to be sexually active, you should probably educate yourself through research, talk to your doctor, and make your own decisions about the risks you take and how to lower them. It’s called being a mature adult. People who are not adults are children… and if there’s one thing I’m sure of it’s that having sex with children is a totally not cool thing to do with your genitals.