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April 12, 1999 e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


It's time, once again, for a Very Special Breakup Girl (also see March 30 1998 and November 9 1998), in which BG takes on an issue that is not funny at all.

Why is it time? Because

April is National STI Education and Awareness Month.

And because you, dear readers, are playing with fire (since this is a family website, I'll not use the more temptingly pungent, double-entendre -- and alliterative -- term that leapt to mind).

Infectious fire.

An STI is a Sexually Transmitted Infection; that's the new slightly less icky term than "S-T-Disease" for the darker side of sex.

There's no fancy, finessed, non-Just-Say-No way to communicate the bottom line here, you guys: when you have unprotected sex (hey, oral sex too), you can get disgusting, painful infections that can destroy your sex life for a long time, if not forever. Either because they are permanent, or because they can kill you. This is not about Skanky Other People, so get back here. This is about you.

In fact,

  • Apparently, 1 in 5 people over age 12 have genital herpes. That is not a typo.
  • But: 69% of over 1000 people (ages 18-39) surveyed by the American Social Health Association say they're not personally concerned about getting this disease. (They also say that getting it would be worse than losing a job or breaking up. Huh.)
  • According to the New York Times, chlamydia -- a leading cause of infertility and life-threatening pregnancy complications -- has become so common among teenage girls in some areas that doctors have suggested amending current guidelines and testing sexually active girls not once but twice a year.
  • In a Glamour/Kaiser Family Foundation poll last year, 61% of women admitted that before having sex with their current partner, they did not tell him they have (or once had) an STI.

So no wonder ...

  • ...the Centers for Disease Control call STIs a "hidden epidemic."

Now, look. I am as non-prudish as the next superhero (say, Orgazmo). But when I rant, over and over, to try to get you guys to put sex off and take it seriously, it is not only a "sex is for mature, loving grownups" thing (and yeah, grownups, I'm talking to you here). It is not only a "you could get pregnant" thing. It is not even only a "you could get HIV" thing. It is also -- and perhaps primarily, as these are the risks most often forgotten -- a "you could get buboes thing." Not pretty.

So not pretty, in fact, that the descriptions of STIs, their symptoms and effects, use words so stomach-churning that -- again, family site -- all I could do was link to them. Trust me, you don't want these descriptions to apply to you ... and, um, yours.

Please read through the information and advice at the links I've provided. Also, read my rare-personal-moment speech about getting tested (letter from Alone and Needle Phobic).

ALSO read this Important Breakup Girl Maxim: The only people you should be having sex with are the people you can talk with about having safer sex. Ideally, those two kinds of intimacy should go hand in hand. (Even, odd as it may sound, in the context of wacky one-time flings.) Funny, isn't it (and BG isn't breaking new ground here, but this observation bears repeating) that certain conversations can be more intimate and scary than certain ... positions. I know. But still. You don't feel comfortable piping up -- about testing, latex, whatever -- with this person, that's a red flag. They don't feel comfortable piping back: that, too; I don't recommend that you get that close to someone that closed.

And if you have questions, concerns, or, God forbid, buboes, I am BEGGING you to talk to a doctor. I know that one of the reasons these things spread is precisely because they are embarrassing to talk about. But if a doctor gets all mean and scoldy with you, well, good start, but go find a non-sucky doctor. (You could also try Planned Parenthood at 1-800-230-PLAN or the American Social Health Hotline at 1-877-411-HERPES.)

Remember, this message is for grownups too.

I know this is all terribly unromantic. But so are a lot of your letters.



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