Anything related to self-improvement is so important

Updated: June 2020

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re scared by the idea of catching some sort of STD. Or at least you have been in the past. That night you got drunk and didn’t have a condom but went for it anyway. Or maybe you hooked up with someone who had a reputation for sleeping with every third person in the phone book.

Perhaps you freaked out and rushed to get tested the next morning. Maybe you started Googling around frantically to convince yourself that you’re OK, only to find horrifying images and statistics about how people lost internal organs, limbs and never, ever had sex again because they were so hideously deformed by some pesky infection… Your mind begins racing, your liver DOES hurt, you think to yourself. It must be an early onset of AIDS. Obviously…

HIV virusThe unfortunate thing about STD “education” is that it focuses on very specific information: symptoms, treatments, and every worst-case scenario. The real-world experiences and probabilities are absent. Down-to-earth guidance on how this information should affect your behavior is usually glossed over — telling you to abstain from having sex (yeah right) and to use a condom (even though it doesn’t prevent everything).

As a result, people start getting paranoid and some serious social stigmas develop.

What’s never discussed is the actual prevalence of STDs, the realistic chance of catching these STDs, or what the experience of catching them would be like.

Get the Facts: Know Your Chances

I still remember the night a girl I was dating told me that she had HPV. I felt like I was going to vomit. I immediately imagined that my penis had morphed into a giant tumor, shooting pellets of cancer into girls’ cervices. Or the time one of my best friends told me over the phone that he had what appeared to be a herpes breakout. I nearly cried for the guy. Holy shit. What was he going to do? No woman would ever date him again.

But as I learned more, got tested more, spoke to more doctors and did more research, I realized that the truth about STDs is more complicated than previously assumed and that getting many of them would be a far more benign experience than I ever imagined. For instance, there are over 100 strains of HPV, and only four of them lead to most cervical cancers in women, and that’s assuming it’s left untreated for years or decades, and THAT is assuming she hasn’t already been vaccinated, and then even if she does get cervical cancer it’s very unlikely to be fatal. So what I assumed was my cancer-laden pee-shooter in my pants actually had something like a 1/100 x 1/100 x 1/2 x 1/100 chance of actually killing a girl.

The more I’ve learned about STDs, the more I’ve encouraged people to relax a little bit about them. I know that sounds crazy, but seriously, relax. Use a condom. Get tested by your healthcare provider periodically. Stay away from the people with crack habits. Do that, and you’re going to be fine. Seriously.

For instance, about 1 in 1800 people are diagnosed with syphilis in the United States each year.1 By contrast, you have a 1 in 84 chance of dying in a car accident in your lifetime, just to give you some perspective. And the difference is syphilis can be cured with a little penicillin. Car accidents are another story.

The reason most STD information is absolutely terrifying is because 1) terrifying information sells in the media and 2) religious nuts don’t want anybody to have fun.

We do a dismal job of sex education in our culture. And one product of ignorance is fear.

STD Risk Factors and other facts

What I aim to do with this article is to break down the most common STDs in the most realistic way possible. Statistics, symptoms, and treatments are listed. Sources are included. But I’m also going to list a couple of other things that you won’t find anywhere else: 1) what the experience of actually contracting that STD would be like; and 2) how likely you are to catch each STD if you had rampant unprotected sex.

In fact, I’ve put together a statistic of my own for each STD, the RAW Score. The RAW Score is a rough estimation of the average number of single Americans you would have to have unprotected vaginal sex with to contract that particular STD.

For curable STDs, I divided the number of single individuals in the US (approximately 110 million2) by the estimated number of cases per year (which is higher than the reported number, obviously).

For incurable STDs, I use the number of the American population (about 328 million as of 2019) and divide by the number of Americans with that STD. I realize this method is ridiculous and flawed, but the numbers are so stark that it gets the point across nicely: you’re not likely to catch anything serious anytime soon.

And finally, I will say this again and again: use fucking protection. Don’t be an idiot. Use protection, get tested regularly. And one more time, in case some people can’t read: USE PROTECTION, GET TESTED REGULARLY

Chlamydia

Living With It: Uncomfortable…then you take some pills and it’s gone.
Curable: Yes (2-4 Weeks)
US Prevalence (new cases annually): 2.86 million 3
RAW Score: 38 Partners
Condom Protects: Yes

Chlamydia is a relatively minor bacterial infection, mostly transferred through intercourse. In men, it’s uncomfortable and generally harmless. In women, there’s a chance that if untreated, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which can lead to complications with pregnancies or even infertility.

Symptoms include burning pee and, dudes, your balls might ache. While 25% of men don’t experience symptoms, a full 70% of women do not experience any symptoms, which actually makes it more dangerous for women (most doctors recommend women screen for chlamydia at least once a year).4

Gonorrhea

Living With It: Painful. Hope for no pus. Then you take some pills and it’s gone.
Curable: Yes (within a month)
US Prevalence (new cases annually): 1.14 million 5
RAW Score: 96 Partners
Condom Protects: Yes

Gonorrhea is Chlamydia’s big brother. In fact, the two often occur together. The difference is that gonorrhea can be transferred via any orifice: penis, vagina, anus, mouth. It often takes a few weeks for symptoms to show up, and it’s even more unpleasant to deal with.6

The symptoms for gonorrhea include painful urination, aching balls for guys, swollen urethra, sore throat, and pus coming out of your genitals. Yes, that was pus coming out of your genitals.

As for treatment, there’s good and bad news. The good news is that since gonorrhea is a bacterial infection, it can be treated with antibiotics.

The bad news is that there’s been a rise in antibiotic-resistant strains of gonorrhea in the past few years. There are only two antibiotics left that can treat it (you have to take them both now, actually), and while the resistant strains are still fairly uncommon, health officials are concerned that it could become an issue in the not-so-distant future.

Be careful.

Syphilis

Living With It: Itchy. Then 15 years later you go insane and kill yourself… (no, seriously.)
Curable: Yes
US Prevalence (new cases annually): 115,000 7
RAW Score: 956 partners (no, that’s not a typo)
Condom Protects: No

The famous philosopher Nietzsche was a bit of a lush and had a fondness for prostitutes. Somewhere along the way, he contracted syphilis and his body began to wither from the inside out. Throughout this torturous process, he famously proclaimed “God is dead” and slowly slipped into dementia and died.

Syphilis was the 19th century’s version of the AIDS epidemic. It was famously cured by Alexander Fleming in 1928 and even though it hasn’t been much of an issue since, it is back on the rise, especially among gay men. 8

Nietzsche syphilis, and the chances of getting an std
When not busy philosophizing, declaring God dead or playing with swords, Nietzsche enjoyed having syphilis.

Syphilis plays itself out in stages. The first stage is you develop a sore or sores (usually just one, but not always). This happens a few weeks after contracting the infection and the sore is generally painless. From there, after a few months, you break out into rashes. These rashes go on for weeks or months and eventually subside. From there, you have no symptoms. Then 15-20 years later your internal organs start bleeding, you lose control of your motor functions, and you start losing your mind.

So the moral of the story? Get tested sometime in the next 15 years…ya know, whenever you get a chance.

HPV (High-Risk and Low-Risk Strains)

Living With It: Anything from a temporary nuisance and some awkward conversations to hopefully just one (painful) operation for women.
Curable: No, but it typically leaves on its own after a few years. There is also a vaccine for women and men now9 (get it!).
US Prevalence: Nearly 80 million people in the US infected right now, with 14 million new infections each year. 10
RAW Score: 4 Partners
Condom Protects: Not entirely. HPV spreads by skin-to-skin contact and can also be on skin not covered by the condom.

HPV is where things begin to get interesting. HPV was the STD freak out in the media a few years back. If all you’ve heard is the few tidbits that get passed around, it sounds horrifying: You can get HPV from vaginal sex, anal sex, or oral sex and most sexually active men and women will get it at some point in their lives. It causes cancer, condoms don’t completely protect against it, and warts are going to cover your face and you’re going to suffocate to death.

This is all true. OK, the warts on the face and suffocation part isn’t, but the rest is. But what’s more important is the information you DON’T hear. And here it is: there are over 100 strains of HPV and over 40 of them can be transmitted sexually.11 The virus is so common that nearly all sexually active people get infected at some point in their lives. Only some of those strains can cause symptoms: high-risk strains can cause cancer and low-risk strains can cause warts. However, most people never develop any symptoms, even if they do come in contact with the virus. If you do develop symptoms, there is a 91% chance that your body’s immune system will clear the symptoms within 2 years.12

The low-risk strains of the HPV-virus cause genital warts. These strains are called low-risk because they only cause warts and do not cause cancer. Warts sound terrible, but they’re relatively harmless and usually small and painless. There are several treatments available to get rid of them, from laser surgery to applying a cream for a few months.

The high-risk strains can lead to cervical cancer in women, as well as some other types of cancer like throat and anal cancer. Actually, HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer in women. But here, again, it’s important to know that even most high-risk HPV infections occur without any symptoms, go away within 1 to 2 years, and do not cause cancer. It’s only when high-risk HPV infections persist for many years that they can lead to cell changes that, if untreated, can progress to cancer.

The good news is that women are getting checked more and more for lesions and/or abnormal cells on their cervix these days. A Pap test or Pap smear is recommended for all women between the ages of 21 and 65.13

For women who do get lesions, they can have a procedure that prevents them from getting cervical cancer, but it’s pretty painful and follow-ups with your doctor are necessary. That said, you shouldn’t freak out too much about it as it can at least be managed if not completely “cured.”

Your immune system is important in dealing with the virus and preventing recurrences, so it pays to take care of your health if you find out you have HPV. Drink less alcohol 14, stop smoking15, eat healthily, and take some supplements.16

Also, the HPV vaccine is being given to just about every girl under 26, and again, men can get it now too. The vaccine called Gardasil protects against two high-risk strains of HPV that together cause 70% of cases of cervical cancer. It also protects against two low-risk strains of the virus that together cause 90% of genital warts. The newer Gardasil-9 vaccine protects against even more strains of the virus.

So if you’re sexually active, chances are you’ve already got at least one strain of HPV. But again, most of the time this won’t cause any symptoms, and even if you do get symptoms, your immune system usually deals with it within 1-2 years.

Women should get regular screening for HPV once they reach a certain age. Unfortunately, there is no HPV screening for men. Men can only be diagnosed with HPV when they have visible warts. And that sucks, ruins your week, causes a lot of awkward conversations… but you move on and everything ends up being fine.

Genital Herpes

Living With It: There’s a good chance you already have it.
Curable: No, but who cares?
US Prevalence: 24.1 million 17
RAW Score: 13 Partners
Condoms Protect: No

So I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that a shit-ton of people have herpes (including probably myself). The good news is that the vast majority of people never show symptoms and don’t have the viral load required for it to show up in their blood levels.

I have to admit, herpes was the big one I was terrified of getting (the reason I’m not worried about HIV is below). Then I started researching it for this article and realized I probably already have it. And chances are you have it too!

See, there are two types of herpes simplex virus: HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 usually causes breakouts around the mouth — we just call them cold sores or fever blisters. Over 80% of the population has HSV-1, although at any given time almost none of us have a breakout. HSV-2 causes breakouts around the genitals.18 The majority of people never get breakouts or get such minor breakouts that they don’t even realize that it’s herpes. My friend who has had a breakout said that he originally thought his was just a bug bite. It wasn’t until a second one showed up that he decided to get it checked out. It’s been over three years and he hasn’t had another breakout since. He’s also in a monogamous relationship and his girlfriend has never had a breakout.

Herpes never goes away, but it’s relatively harmless. In fact, even if you do get breakouts, most people stop getting them after a couple of years. And if you’re one of the unlucky few who actually does get bad breakouts, you can take medication to suppress them. So there. Not worried about herpes anymore… After all, I probably already have it, and so do many of you.

HIV

Living With It: Expensive and stressful, but assuming you’re not African, you’ll live.
Curable: No
US Prevalence: 1.1 million 19
RAW Score: 1,250 Partners (significantly fewer partners if engaging in anal sex)
Condoms Protect: Yes

HIV is no longer the death warrant it once was. Don’t get me wrong, contracting it would be awful and surely life-altering. But you would live. I just hope you have good health insurance. Life expectancy for young people living in Europe and North America is only slightly lower than the general population provided you start treatment immediately after a positive HIV diagnosis.

That said, there some demographics are far more likely to contract HIV than others: 64% of all HIV cases in Western Europe and North America come from gay men or drug addicts who use dirty needles. When it comes to vaginal sex, both men and women can contract HIV from an infected partner. Anal sex—whether its hetero- or homosexual—seems to be the big culprit here.

Also, I hate to say it, but HIV positive cases are predominantly lower-income classes. African-Americans account disproportionately for 42% of all HIV cases in the US.

But HIV infections have been declining to some degree in Europe and North America (more so in Europe).20 And in 2013, there were some very early accounts of people possibly being cured of the disease, and in 2020, stem cell therapy looks very promising.

The symptoms of HIV are flu-like symptoms a couple of weeks after contracting it. From there, your immune system slowly shuts down over a period of years. There are a lot of therapies and treatments available and most people who contract it can live functional, mostly normal lives, assuming they get the proper medical care. So the news on the HIV front over the past few decades has actually been mostly good.21

But still, use a damn condom.

Pregnancy

Living With It: Completely and irreversibly life-changing
Curable: Uhh… err…
US Prevalence: Your mom had it at least once
RAW Score: 100 sexual encounters
Condom: 85% effective

Over the years I’ve had dozens of people ask me about STDs, many of them looking for information, but many of them simply looking for reassurance that they were not going to shrivel up and die. I always tell them that 1) they’re going to be fine, and 2) they should be far more worried about babies. Notice the 1 in 100 sexual encounters. That’s not 100 partners, that’s 100 occurrences of unprotected intercourse. That’s MUCH more likely than many of the STDs listed here.

I can tell you, in all of my years working as a dating coach, with all of my sexual partners, with all of the crazy hedonistic people I partied with, I’ve only known one person who had a herpes breakout, a few people with HPV, and one person who had Chlamydia. I’ve never met or even heard of anyone with HIV. I’ve never met or heard of anyone with cervical cancer. I’ve never met or heard of anyone who contracted gonorrhea or syphilis. But I can think of probably a dozen people who have dealt with an unwanted pregnancy or had a major pregnancy scare.

Do not fuck around with this.

The chances of getting an std - woman with pregnancy test

As a woman, welcome to the growing population of single mothers. Everything is about to change. If you’re lucky, the guy will stick around and help. But if he doesn’t, good luck. Not only do single mothers juggle some of the hardest responsibilities in society, but children of single mothers often grow up to have behavioral and academic problems.

If you’re a man and you don’t want to be a deadbeat and run off, then you’re not in for an easy time by any means either. Prepare to cough up half of your paycheck for the next 18 years, even if she marries someone else, even if she becomes financially self-sufficient and you’re broke. You have to pay. The paternity laws in many states are still heavily balanced in favor of mothers and so visitation rights, not to mention custody rights, can be hell to go through. If for some reason you and the mother don’t exactly get along, prepare to hire a good lawyer.

And even if a woman decides to not keep it, welcome to the most gut-wrenching experience of your life. I’m lucky in that I’ve never had to deal with a legitimate pregnancy, but I know people who have — staunch, hardcore, liberal, don’t-give-a-fuck party-goers — and shit gets real fast. It’s easy to walk around and say, “I would do this or that,” but when it comes time to walk the walk, many people can’t stomach it. Or even if they can, they live with the guilt for the rest of their lives.

So if you don’t want to be a mommy or daddy, get contraception. If you don’t know or trust someone, use protection. If you’re sexually active, get tested regularly. Have open conversations with your sexual partners about this stuff: “Have you been tested? Are you on birth control?” Yes, it’s awkward. But yes, it’s always worth it.

Stay smart and stay safe.

(Cover image: “Condoms” by Shawn Latta is licensed under CC BY 2.0)

Footnotes

  1. CDC – Primary and Secondary Syphilis — United States, 2005–2013
  2. Census Bureau. Unmarried and Single Americans Week: Sept. 17-23, 2017.
  3. CDC – Chlamydia Statistics
  4. Chlamydia trachomatis Infection: Screening and Management.
  5. CDC – Gonorrhea Statistics.
  6. Screening for Gonorrhea and Chlamydia: Systematic Review to Update the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendations – National Library of Medicine – PubMed Health.
  7. CDC – Syphilis Statistics.
  8. CDC – STD Data and Statistics.
  9. CDC – STD Facts – HPV and Men
  10. CDC – HPV Questions and Answers |
  11. Cancer.gov HPV factsheet
  12. Many HPV infections may clear quickly without treatment
  13. CDC – What Should I Know About Screening?
  14. Torre, D. D. et al. HPV prevalence in a Mid-European oral squamous cell cancer population: a cohort study. Oral Diseases (2018). doi:10.1111/odi.12882
  15. Wiley, D. et al. Smoking Enhances Risk for New External Genital Warts in Men. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 6, 1215–1234 (2009).
  16. E.g. Verhoeven, V. et al. Probiotics enhance the clearance of human papillomavirus-related cervical lesions. European Journal of Cancer Prevention 22, 46–51 (2013).
    Piyathilake, C. J. et al. Folate and Vitamin B12 May Play a Critical Role in Lowering the HPV 16 Methylation-Associated Risk of Developing Higher Grades of CIN. Cancer Prevention Research 7, 1128–1137 (2014).
  17. CDC – Genital Herpes Statistics.
  18. Genital Herpes: A Review. – PubMed – NCBI.
  19. CDC – HIV in the United States – Statistics Overview.
  20. European HIV & AIDS Statistics | AVERT
  21. Board, A. D. A. M. E. (2013, May 19). HIV/AIDS. National Institutes of Health.

I always adore everything about mindset

Some of the links below are affiliate links which means I may earn a commission if you make a purchase at no cost to you. This post is not sponsored.

A few weeks ago, a friend told me she’d found a book called 24/6: The Power of Unplugging One Day a Week by Tiffany Shlain. The title intrigued me and luckily it was available to download from my library, so I started it that night and finished reading it the next day.

As I was reading the book on Sunday, I decided I was going to try a weekly digital detox starting that day and then every Sunday for a month.

Is unplugging from technology worth the effort? Here's what I’ve learned after doing a digital detox every Sunday for a month.

I’m already pretty conscious with my phone usage (my phone is always on do not disturb mode with time limits for social media apps), but I’d never thought to take a full day away from my digital devices.

When you’re constantly plugged-in to apps and devices designed to steal your attention (Netflix has said their main competitor is sleep), you start to lose track of reality and your identity outside of technology.

I thought this was the perfect experiment to see if it would have a positive effect on my mindset. After implementing weekly digital detoxes every Sunday for a month, I’m sharing the lessons I’ve learned and how I made it work without getting bored.

What A Digital Detox Looks Like


Is unplugging from technology worth the effort? Here's what I’ve learned after doing a digital detox every Sunday for a month.

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The book 24/6 is based on Tiffany Shlain’s experience of taking one day a week off from technology. Inspired by her Jewish heritage, Shlain calls them “Technology Shabbats”. She combines a screen-free twenty-four hours with Shabbat rituals like a special Friday-night meal with family and friends.

Her family (kids included) goes screen-free from Friday night to Saturday night and limits all smart technology like cell phones. They even use a landline to make phone calls and a record player to listen to music (I knew I wasn’t going to implement these things with my experiment).

What most inspired me to try this idea out was the author’s description of her Saturday routine. Here’s what her family’s Tech Shabbat’s look like (I’ll share mine later):

  • Friday afternoon – pick up fresh fruit and flowers from the farmers market
  • Friday night – host friends for dinner (make the same meal every Friday to take out the guesswork)
  • Saturday morning – journal, read
  • Saturday afternoon – music (listening and playing), cooking, excursions to the library, bike ride, basketball, yoga, scheduled activities, errands, etc.

The Benefits of a Digital Detox


Why would you want to go tech-free once a week? Here are some key benefits to this weekly practice:

More time for hobbies

Unplugging gives us time to grow and learn new skills. Often we avoid doing this because we think we don’t have enough time, but really we don’t have the attention span to even try.

Personal growth

Shlain talks about her own struggle with impatience and how unplugging helps her to practice patience. When we practice unplugging, we can develop our character strengths and work on improving our weaknesses.

Deeper connections

When we unplug, we’re able to give our attention more generously to the people around us. It also gives us the opportunity to connect more deeply with ourselves without distraction or comparison. 

“By giving you a complete day off each week from screens, from obligations, from being available, letting you reflect and connect, tech Shabbat becomes the ultimate technology to make you the most creative, present, and productive version of yourself.”

Tiffany Shlain

My Digital Detox Routine


Is unplugging from technology worth the effort? Here's what I’ve learned after doing a digital detox every Sunday for a month.

My usual Sunday routine would involve watching YouTube for hours, scrolling through social media, and browsing the internet aimlessly. Though I didn’t follow the detox as intensely as Shlain does, here are some rules I set for myself:

  • No checking email
  • No social media
  • No YouTube
  • No computers
  • Only use phone for texts or calls
  • No TV during the day (one or two episodes at night was okay)

Here’s a monthly recap of what my Sunday schedule looked like:

Week 1

  • Started the 24/6 book on Saturday night and decided I wanted to try it the next day
  • Went for a walk in the morning
  • Read for most of the day
  • Did a family dinner over Facetime
  • Watched an episode of Tiger King

One thing I noticed is that I had a hard time falling asleep. I was expecting the best sleep of my life, but unfortunately it didn’t happen.


Week 2

  • Made pancakes for breakfast
  • Spent most of the morning reading Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner
  • Meal prepped (I did use my phone so I could follow some recipes)
  • Cleaned my apartment
  • Went for a walk
  • Family FaceTime dinner
  • Watched an episode of Too Hot To Handle (a terrible show, don’t watch it lol)
  • Did a facemask and took a bath

I went to bed around 10:45 after reading. I woke up early the next day (Monday) and actually felt motivated to get things done right away.


Week 3

Apparently I forgot to write down what I did on this day. Oops!


Week 4

  • Went for a walk
  • Read The Bend in Redwood Road by Danielle Stewart
  • Meal prepped
  • Spent too long on Pinterest + Amazon trying to find a kitchen corner shelf
  • Cleaned my apartment
  • Family FaceTime dinner
  • Facemask
  • Watched an episode of Into the Night on Netflix (such a good show!)
  • Went to bed at 10:30

I definitely broke my detox this day by spending way too long on Pinterest and Amazon on my phone. I was feeling inspired to find a corner shelf for my kitchen and that led to overthinking which one to buy. That night, I woke up at 3:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep until 5.


Week 5

  • Made pancakes for breakfast
  • Read The Bend in Redwood Road by Danielle Stewart
  • Visited my mom for Mother’s day with my sister (we sat 6-feet away from each other on the grass)
  • Cleaned my apartment
  • Meal prepped
  • Worked out (I used my iPad to follow a workout)
  • Visited my boyfriend’s mom for Mother’s day (again, we sat 6-feet away from each other outside)
  • Watched one episode of Girls

I felt tempted to go on social media this day, but spending time with family (at a distance, of course) kept me occupied. Looking back, I could have probably created my own workout without needing to follow a video. I didn’t have any issues falling or staying asleep this night.

Related Post: 5 Ways To Have A Healthier Relationship With Social Media

What I’ve Learned


After a month of this challenge, here are some key things I’ve learned or experienced from unplugging once a week:

It gives me something to look forward to

Taking a day away from the online world feels like an escape and an excuse to get away from it all. I knew on Sundays that my day would be calm and relaxing, and that made it something to look forward to every week.

I can stay occupied without technology

I’ve read more books in the past month than I have in a long time. It definitely made me realize that I can keep myself occupied without relying on technology. If you’ve ever wanted to take up a hobby or learn a language, this would be the perfect way to do it.

I’m more productive on Mondays

Since I wouldn’t stay up late on Sunday night watching Netflix or scrolling through TikTok, I woke up on Monday mornings in a good state of mind. I felt like I had more clarity and motivation to get started on my to-do list without procrastinating.

I’m more motivated to be efficient

Knowing that I couldn’t do any kind of work on Sunday made me more efficient during the week. Instead of telling myself I could do a few things on Sunday, I got them done ahead of time so I could fully embrace my tech-and-work-free Sundays.


Would you try a weekly digital detox?

Based on what I’ve learned and experienced from this monthly challenge, I definitely plan to keep doing these Sunday digital detoxes. I think I’ll even try to go the whole day without watching TV to see if that makes a difference.

I hope this post has encouraged you to try your own digital detox one day a week for 24 hours. If you want more ideas for making a digital detox work, I highly recommend the 24/6 book.

The post Digital Detox: What I’ve Learned From Unplugging Once A Week appeared first on The Blissful Mind.

anyone like this as much as me

The Opportunity in Adversity

By Eckhart Tolle

Life unfolds between the polarities of order and chaos. It is important at this time to recognize these two fundamental opposites, without which the world could not even be. Another word for disorder is “adversity.” When it becomes more extreme, we might call it “chaos.”

We would prefer, of course, to have order in our lives, which means to have things going well. We would like relative harmony in our lives. Yet, that very often is marred by the eruption of some form of disorder. And, usually, we resent that—we get angry, or despondent, or sad.

Disorder comes in many, many forms, big and small. When disorder comes it usually creates a kind of havoc in our lives, accompanied by strong underlying beliefs. “There’s something very wrong, this should not be happening, maybe God is against me,” and so on. Again, we need to understand that disorder, or adversity, is inevitable and is an essential part of a higher order.

 From a higher perspective, a higher level, the existence of order and disorder, or order and chaos, is a necessary part of the evolution of life.

 Many people have found that they experience a deepening, or a deeper sense of self or beingness, immediately after and as a result of having endured a period of disorder or chaos. This is sometimes called “the dark night of the soul,” a term from medieval Christianity used to describe the mental breakdown that many mystics experienced prior to awakening spiritually. There was an eruption of disorder, of destruction. Then, out of that, a deeper realization arose.

 And although that can be very painful, the strange thing is, it’s precisely there that many humans experience a transcendence. A strange fact is that it almost never happens that people awaken spiritually while they’re in their comfort zone. Or that they become deeper as human beings, which would be a partial awakening. It almost never happens. The place where the evolutionary shift happens, or the evolutionary leap, is usually the experience of disorder in a person’s life.

And so your life then moves between order and disorder. You have both, and they’re both necessary. There’s no guarantee that when disorder erupts this will bring about an awakening or a deepening, but there’s always the possibility. It is an opportunity, but often, it is missed.

 So here we are at this time, and our mission is the same: to align with the present moment, with whatever is happening here and now. The upheaval that we’re experiencing at the present time probably will not be the last upheaval that’s going to come on a collective level. However, it is an opportunity—because although this is a time for upheavals, it is also a time for awakening. The two go together. Just as in an individual life, you need adversity to awaken. It’s an opportunity but not a guarantee. And so what looks tragic and unpleasant on a conventional level is actually perfectly fine and as it should be on a higher level; it would not be happening otherwise. It’s all part of the awakening of human beings and of planetary awakening.

To learn more about Eckhart’s teachings on Conscious Manifestation, click here.

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The post The Opportunity in Adversity appeared first on Eckhart Tolle | Official Site – Spiritual Teachings and Tools For Personal Growth and Happiness.

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Stop Asking Couples When They Are Having Kids

“So, when are you having kids?” my aunt asked me straight in the face, soon after I got married. At that point, I had been married for a few months. I didn’t even know if I wanted kids, much less when I was having them.

Caught off guard, I said, “I have not decided if I want kids.” I would spend the next hour listening to stories of women who had difficulty conceiving for a variety of reasons, with the implicit message being that I was going to be like them and regret it if I didn’t hurry and work on churning out babies.

This would be my life for the next few years, where I received varying forms of “When are you having kids?”, followed by a routine, almost ritualistic pressurization to have kids.

Lest you think that it ends after having a child, it doesn’t — the people who previously tried to persuade you to have “just one kid” when you were indifferent to the idea, now tell you to have “just one more.” It seems like you just can’t win. 😒

The problem with asking, “When are you having kids?”

I can understand why people like to ask this question. Find a partner, settle down, get married, and have kids. This is the life path that we’ve been taught to follow since young. This is the path that we’ve been told is the way of life, which would bring us ultimate joy and happiness.

This is especially so in the Chinese culture, where having kids is seen as the ultimate goal in life. There are even sayings built around this notion, such as 生儿育女 (shēng ér yù nǚ), which means to birth sons and raise daughters, and 子孙满堂 (zǐ sūn mǎn táng), which means to be in a room filled with children and grandchildren.

Multi-Generation Chinese Family at the Park

A multi-generation family, often used to depict a vision of happiness in the Chinese culture

So after you get married, people automatically assume that you should have kids. “When are you having kids?” they ask, somehow expecting you to give them a straight answer.

The problem with this question is that it’s rude. It’s presumptuous. It’s also insensitive.

1) Happiness can come in different forms

Firstly, everyone has their path in life. Some people want kids, while some don’t want kids. Some people think that having kids is the greatest joy in life, while some see having kids as a burden to their carefree life. To presume that everyone should have kids, especially when the person has never said anything about wanting kids, is rude and disregards the person’s preferences and choice in life.

Take for example, Oprah Winfrey. She chose not to have children and has dedicated herself to her personal purpose of serving the world. Oprah hosted her talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show which ran for 25 years, founded a leadership academy for girls and became a mother figure to the girls in attendance, and started her own television network. Through the years, she has inspired millions and become a champion for humans worldwide. As she says,

“When people were pressuring me to get married and have children, I knew I was not going to be a person that ever regretted not having them, because I feel like I am a mother to the world’s children. Love knows no boundaries. It doesn’t matter if a child came from your womb or if you found that person at age two, 10, or 20. If the love is real, the caring is pure and it comes from a good space, it works.” — Oprah[1]

There are other people who chose not to have kids as well.

  • Betty White, actress and comedian, chose not to have kids as she’s passionate about her career and focused on it.[2]
  • Chelsea Handler, talkshow host, doesn’t have kids as she doesn’t have the time to raise a child herself, and she doesn’t want her kids to be raised by a nanny.[3]
  • Ashley Judd, actress and politican activist, chose not to have kids as there are already so many orphaned kids in this world, and she feels that her resources can be better used to help those already here.[4]

And then there are others who chose not to have kids, such as Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi, Cameron Diaz, Chow Yun Fat, Marisa Tomei, Renée Zellweger, and Rachael Ray. These people choose not to have kids for different reasons, such as because they’re pursuing paths deeply meaningful to them, they do not wish to be tied down with a child, or they just don’t feel a deep desire to have kids. Not having kids has not prevented them from being happy in life, and there’s no reason to assume why people must have kids in order to be happy.

2) You may well cause hurt and pain

Secondly, you never know what others are going through.

Some people may want kids, but maybe they are facing fertility struggles.

  • Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan went through three miscarriages before having their firstborn.[5]
  • The Obamas had a miscarriage before they had their daughters via IVF.[6]
  • Friends star Courteney Cox had a total of seven miscarriages before having her daughter, as she has a MTHFR gene mutation which raises the risk of miscarriage-causing blood clots.[7]

About 10% of women have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant,[8] while 13.5% of known pregnancies end in miscarriages, with the figure rising as the maternal age rises.[9]

For some people, the journey to conceive is fraught with deep pain, struggle, and losses as they experience miscarriages, undergo round after round of invasive fertility treatments, and wait in hope of the double blue lines on their pregnancy kit each month.

And then there are people who cannot have their own biological children due to issues with their reproductive system, which could have been there since birth.

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, and family

Barack and Michelle Obama had a miscarriage before they had their daughters via IVF

While you may be think that you’re being helpful or funny by asking people when they’re having kids, your question may well trigger hurt and pain. As Zuckerberg said,

“You feel so hopeful when you learn you’re going to have a child. You start imagining who they’ll become and dreaming of hopes for their future. You start making plans, and then they’re gone. It’s a lonely experience.”[5]

3) Not everyone is in a position to have kids

Thirdly, having kids is simply not a reality for some people due to their circumstances in life.

Some people may lack the financial resources to have kids, a reality in a place like Singapore.

Some people may be facing problems with their marriage, in which case their priority should be to work on their marriage, not to have kids.

Some people may be so burdened with caring for their dependents that they are unable to consider kids, at least not at the moment.

And then there are people facing chronic health issues, issues that you don’t know and can’t see, which make pregnancy difficult due to the toll it would take on their body.

4) Some couples could still be thinking

And then there are people who are neutral to the idea of having kids, like myself when I just got married. These people need time to think it through, because having kids is a permanent, lifelong decision with serious consequences. There’s no reason to assume that having a kid should be an automatic decision, because you’re bringing a whole new life into this world. This is a decision that will change your life forever, as well as the life of the child you’re bringing into the world.

For those yet to have kids, they need the space to figure out what they want, not have people breathe down their neck day in and out about having kids.

My experience

For the initial years after I got married, I just wasn’t thinking about kids. Firstly, having a child is a lifelong decision, and I wanted to enjoy married life with just my husband first, before diving into a decision as serious as that. Secondly, both my husband and I were genuinely happy spending the rest of our lives with just each other — we didn’t feel the need to have kids at all, not in the way my culture obssesses about it. Thirdly, my husband was dealing with some personal problems, and I was fully focused on supporting him through these. These were issues that we needed to sort through before considering kids, if we were to want kids.

Yet I kept getting nudges to have kids, even though I never said anything about wanting them.

“So, when are you having kids?”

“[This relative’s] baby is so cute, isn’t it? Why don’t you hurry up and birth a baby?”

It was as if I was some vehicle, some production machine to have kids, where my own views in the matter didn’t matter. The most frustrating thing was that I kept getting this question, while my husband would never get it (as a man), not even when we were in the same room together.

It was as if my sole reason for existence as a woman was to have kids, and until I had them, I was regarded as unworthy or incomplete.

The decision to have kids

Yet the decision to have children is a personal one. It is also a complex one. It is a decision that will permanently change the lives of the couple in question.

It is not a decision that one should be pressurized into making because their mom wants to carry grandchildren or their aunt wants to play with kids. It’s a decision that a couple should make because they genuinely want to nurture another life.

Because when a child is born, the people bugging others to have kids aren’t the ones who will be caring for the baby 24/7, whose lives will be set back by years (even decades) as they care for a new life, or who will be responsible for every decision concerning the child for the next 18-21 years.

It will be the couple.

And the people who aren’t ready, who were pressured into having kids because they were told that it was the best thing to do, may have to deal with regret as they are stuck with a decision they cannot undo. Because there are people who regret having kids, and we need to be honest about that. These people regret, not because of the child’s fault, but because they were simply not ready to have kids, be it financially, emotionally, or mentally. Unfortunately, the children are the ones who eventually suffer, from living in dysfunctional households to dealing with issues of violenceabuse, and anger.

We need to recognize these realities, and not make parenthood seem like it’s some magical band-aid that solves a lack of purpose or life’s pressures. Things don’t magically get better because people have kids; existing problems usually worsen as having a child puts a big strain on a couple’s lives. Digging into people’s plans to have kids, and pressurizing them into one of the biggest life decisions they can ever make, will only stress them out and perhaps push some into depression. As this redditor shared,

“I have a friend who went through 6 years of miscarriages and fertility treatments before the doctors figured out the problem and she had her son. The nosy ladies at her work and her in-laws questioned her constantly. The depression from that made it harder for her to conceive.”

Stop asking couples when they’re having kids

So, if you tend to ask others when they’re having kids, it’s time to stop that. It’s rude, insensitive, and it disregards people’s privacy. It’s also none of your business.

The reality is that if people want kids, they will work on having kids. They don’t need you to prod them about it.

If they don’t have kids, it’s either because

  1. they really don’t want kids,
  2. they are not in a position to consider kids right now, or
  3. they want kids but they are facing some struggles.

For people in group (c), they aren’t going to share such deeply personal experience over some afternoon coffee chat, and certainly not by you asking, “When are you having kids?”

The best thing you can do is to give people their personal space. Understand that having kids is a personal decision, and people don’t have to share or explain anything. Respect that others have their right to privacy. Respect that people are individuals on their own path, and this path may not involve having kids. And this doesn’t make them incomplete or lesser in any way.

Instead of asking women or couples, “When are you having kids?”, talk to them like how you would a normal person. There’s no reason why conversations should suddenly revolve around childbearing after marriage; it’s not like a person’s identity changes to revolve around having kids. A person still has their own passion, goals, and dreams. Talk to them about what they’ve been doing. Understand their interests. Know them as a real person, not some random being here to fulfill society’s checklist.

If you’re really interested in someone’s plan to have children, you can simply ask, “Are you and your partner planning to have kids?” If they wish to share more, they will do so. If they give a generic answer, then take the hint and move on.

Ultimately, having kids or not doesn’t change a person’s self-worth. A woman is complete with or without kids. A marriage doesn’t need kids to be deemed complete. Having kids should be a conscious choice, not a result of external pressure. Don’t judge people by whether they have kids or not. Some people will have kids, and some people will not have kids. Some will have kids early, while some will have them later in life. All of these are different paths, and there’s nothing wrong about any of them.

For Me

For my husband and I, we eventually had a few discussions and decided to have a baby, and had our baby girl this year (2020). 😊 Yet other people’s comments and nudges to have children didn’t make me want to have children; it only annoyed me and made me want to avoid these people, because having a child is a personal decision between me and my husband, that has nothing to do with them. It was after we had the space to settle down and enjoy married life without kids, and took some time to actively pursue our goals and interests, that we finally felt ready to try for a kid last year.

In the meantime, I hope all of you are doing well. There are other things that I’m working on, other things that are happening that I look forward to sharing in time to come. Sending lots of love to you, and remember that whatever life challenge you’re facing, you have it in you to overcome it. I’ll talk to you guys soon! 🙂

The post Stop Asking Couples When They’re Having Kids appeared first on Personal Excellence.

Stuff about self-improvement are why I love facebook

Updated: June 2020

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re scared by the idea of catching some sort of STD. Or at least you have been in the past. That night you got drunk and didn’t have a condom but went for it anyway. Or maybe you hooked up with someone who had a reputation for sleeping with every third person in the phone book.

Perhaps you freaked out and rushed to get tested the next morning. Maybe you started Googling around frantically to convince yourself that you’re OK, only to find horrifying images and statistics about how people lost internal organs, limbs and never, ever had sex again because they were so hideously deformed by some pesky infection… Your mind begins racing, your liver DOES hurt, you think to yourself. It must be an early onset of AIDS. Obviously…

HIV virusThe unfortunate thing about STD “education” is that it focuses on very specific information: symptoms, treatments, and every worst-case scenario. The real-world experiences and probabilities are absent. Down-to-earth guidance on how this information should affect your behavior is usually glossed over — telling you to abstain from having sex (yeah right) and to use a condom (even though it doesn’t prevent everything).

As a result, people start getting paranoid and some serious social stigmas develop.

What’s never discussed is the actual prevalence of STDs, the realistic chance of catching these STDs, or what the experience of catching them would be like.

Get the Facts: Know Your Chances

I still remember the night a girl I was dating told me that she had HPV. I felt like I was going to vomit. I immediately imagined that my penis had morphed into a giant tumor, shooting pellets of cancer into girls’ cervices. Or the time one of my best friends told me over the phone that he had what appeared to be a herpes breakout. I nearly cried for the guy. Holy shit. What was he going to do? No woman would ever date him again.

But as I learned more, got tested more, spoke to more doctors and did more research, I realized that the truth about STDs is more complicated than previously assumed and that getting many of them would be a far more benign experience than I ever imagined. For instance, there are over 100 strains of HPV, and only four of them lead to most cervical cancers in women, and that’s assuming it’s left untreated for years or decades, and THAT is assuming she hasn’t already been vaccinated, and then even if she does get cervical cancer it’s very unlikely to be fatal. So what I assumed was my cancer-laden pee-shooter in my pants actually had something like a 1/100 x 1/100 x 1/2 x 1/100 chance of actually killing a girl.

The more I’ve learned about STDs, the more I’ve encouraged people to relax a little bit about them. I know that sounds crazy, but seriously, relax. Use a condom. Get tested by your healthcare provider periodically. Stay away from the people with crack habits. Do that, and you’re going to be fine. Seriously.

For instance, about 1 in 1800 people are diagnosed with syphilis in the United States each year.1 By contrast, you have a 1 in 84 chance of dying in a car accident in your lifetime, just to give you some perspective. And the difference is syphilis can be cured with a little penicillin. Car accidents are another story.

The reason most STD information is absolutely terrifying is because 1) terrifying information sells in the media and 2) religious nuts don’t want anybody to have fun.

We do a dismal job of sex education in our culture. And one product of ignorance is fear.

STD Risk Factors and other facts

What I aim to do with this article is to break down the most common STDs in the most realistic way possible. Statistics, symptoms, and treatments are listed. Sources are included. But I’m also going to list a couple of other things that you won’t find anywhere else: 1) what the experience of actually contracting that STD would be like; and 2) how likely you are to catch each STD if you had rampant unprotected sex.

In fact, I’ve put together a statistic of my own for each STD, the RAW Score. The RAW Score is a rough estimation of the average number of single Americans you would have to have unprotected vaginal sex with to contract that particular STD.

For curable STDs, I divided the number of single individuals in the US (approximately 110 million2) by the estimated number of cases per year (which is higher than the reported number, obviously).

For incurable STDs, I use the number of the American population (about 328 million as of 2019) and divide by the number of Americans with that STD. I realize this method is ridiculous and flawed, but the numbers are so stark that it gets the point across nicely: you’re not likely to catch anything serious anytime soon.

And finally, I will say this again and again: use fucking protection. Don’t be an idiot. Use protection, get tested regularly. And one more time, in case some people can’t read: USE PROTECTION, GET TESTED REGULARLY

Chlamydia

Living With It: Uncomfortable…then you take some pills and it’s gone.
Curable: Yes (2-4 Weeks)
US Prevalence (new cases annually): 2.86 million 3
RAW Score: 38 Partners
Condom Protects: Yes

Chlamydia is a relatively minor bacterial infection, mostly transferred through intercourse. In men, it’s uncomfortable and generally harmless. In women, there’s a chance that if untreated, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which can lead to complications with pregnancies or even infertility.

Symptoms include burning pee and, dudes, your balls might ache. While 25% of men don’t experience symptoms, a full 70% of women do not experience any symptoms, which actually makes it more dangerous for women (most doctors recommend women screen for chlamydia at least once a year).4

Gonorrhea

Living With It: Painful. Hope for no pus. Then you take some pills and it’s gone.
Curable: Yes (within a month)
US Prevalence (new cases annually): 1.14 million 5
RAW Score: 96 Partners
Condom Protects: Yes

Gonorrhea is Chlamydia’s big brother. In fact, the two often occur together. The difference is that gonorrhea can be transferred via any orifice: penis, vagina, anus, mouth. It often takes a few weeks for symptoms to show up, and it’s even more unpleasant to deal with.6

The symptoms for gonorrhea include painful urination, aching balls for guys, swollen urethra, sore throat, and pus coming out of your genitals. Yes, that was pus coming out of your genitals.

As for treatment, there’s good and bad news. The good news is that since gonorrhea is a bacterial infection, it can be treated with antibiotics.

The bad news is that there’s been a rise in antibiotic-resistant strains of gonorrhea in the past few years. There are only two antibiotics left that can treat it (you have to take them both now, actually), and while the resistant strains are still fairly uncommon, health officials are concerned that it could become an issue in the not-so-distant future.

Be careful.

Syphilis

Living With It: Itchy. Then 15 years later you go insane and kill yourself… (no, seriously.)
Curable: Yes
US Prevalence (new cases annually): 115,000 7
RAW Score: 956 partners (no, that’s not a typo)
Condom Protects: No

The famous philosopher Nietzsche was a bit of a lush and had a fondness for prostitutes. Somewhere along the way, he contracted syphilis and his body began to wither from the inside out. Throughout this torturous process, he famously proclaimed “God is dead” and slowly slipped into dementia and died.

Syphilis was the 19th century’s version of the AIDS epidemic. It was famously cured by Alexander Fleming in 1928 and even though it hasn’t been much of an issue since, it is back on the rise, especially among gay men. 8

Nietzsche syphilis, and the chances of getting an std
When not busy philosophizing, declaring God dead or playing with swords, Nietzsche enjoyed having syphilis.

Syphilis plays itself out in stages. The first stage is you develop a sore or sores (usually just one, but not always). This happens a few weeks after contracting the infection and the sore is generally painless. From there, after a few months, you break out into rashes. These rashes go on for weeks or months and eventually subside. From there, you have no symptoms. Then 15-20 years later your internal organs start bleeding, you lose control of your motor functions, and you start losing your mind.

So the moral of the story? Get tested sometime in the next 15 years…ya know, whenever you get a chance.

HPV (High-Risk and Low-Risk Strains)

Living With It: Anything from a temporary nuisance and some awkward conversations to hopefully just one (painful) operation for women.
Curable: No, but it typically leaves on its own after a few years. There is also a vaccine for women and men now9 (get it!).
US Prevalence: Nearly 80 million people in the US infected right now, with 14 million new infections each year. 10
RAW Score: 4 Partners
Condom Protects: Not entirely. HPV spreads by skin-to-skin contact and can also be on skin not covered by the condom.

HPV is where things begin to get interesting. HPV was the STD freak out in the media a few years back. If all you’ve heard is the few tidbits that get passed around, it sounds horrifying: You can get HPV from vaginal sex, anal sex, or oral sex and most sexually active men and women will get it at some point in their lives. It causes cancer, condoms don’t completely protect against it, and warts are going to cover your face and you’re going to suffocate to death.

This is all true. OK, the warts on the face and suffocation part isn’t, but the rest is. But what’s more important is the information you DON’T hear. And here it is: there are over 100 strains of HPV and over 40 of them can be transmitted sexually.11 The virus is so common that nearly all sexually active people get infected at some point in their lives. Only some of those strains can cause symptoms: high-risk strains can cause cancer and low-risk strains can cause warts. However, most people never develop any symptoms, even if they do come in contact with the virus. If you do develop symptoms, there is a 91% chance that your body’s immune system will clear the symptoms within 2 years.12

The low-risk strains of the HPV-virus cause genital warts. These strains are called low-risk because they only cause warts and do not cause cancer. Warts sound terrible, but they’re relatively harmless and usually small and painless. There are several treatments available to get rid of them, from laser surgery to applying a cream for a few months.

The high-risk strains can lead to cervical cancer in women, as well as some other types of cancer like throat and anal cancer. Actually, HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer in women. But here, again, it’s important to know that even most high-risk HPV infections occur without any symptoms, go away within 1 to 2 years, and do not cause cancer. It’s only when high-risk HPV infections persist for many years that they can lead to cell changes that, if untreated, can progress to cancer.

The good news is that women are getting checked more and more for lesions and/or abnormal cells on their cervix these days. A Pap test or Pap smear is recommended for all women between the ages of 21 and 65.13

For women who do get lesions, they can have a procedure that prevents them from getting cervical cancer, but it’s pretty painful and follow-ups with your doctor are necessary. That said, you shouldn’t freak out too much about it as it can at least be managed if not completely “cured.”

Your immune system is important in dealing with the virus and preventing recurrences, so it pays to take care of your health if you find out you have HPV. Drink less alcohol 14, stop smoking15, eat healthily, and take some supplements.16

Also, the HPV vaccine is being given to just about every girl under 26, and again, men can get it now too. The vaccine called Gardasil protects against two high-risk strains of HPV that together cause 70% of cases of cervical cancer. It also protects against two low-risk strains of the virus that together cause 90% of genital warts. The newer Gardasil-9 vaccine protects against even more strains of the virus.

So if you’re sexually active, chances are you’ve already got at least one strain of HPV. But again, most of the time this won’t cause any symptoms, and even if you do get symptoms, your immune system usually deals with it within 1-2 years.

Women should get regular screening for HPV once they reach a certain age. Unfortunately, there is no HPV screening for men. Men can only be diagnosed with HPV when they have visible warts. And that sucks, ruins your week, causes a lot of awkward conversations… but you move on and everything ends up being fine.

Genital Herpes

Living With It: There’s a good chance you already have it.
Curable: No, but who cares?
US Prevalence: 24.1 million 17
RAW Score: 13 Partners
Condoms Protect: No

So I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that a shit-ton of people have herpes (including probably myself). The good news is that the vast majority of people never show symptoms and don’t have the viral load required for it to show up in their blood levels.

I have to admit, herpes was the big one I was terrified of getting (the reason I’m not worried about HIV is below). Then I started researching it for this article and realized I probably already have it. And chances are you have it too!

See, there are two types of herpes simplex virus: HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 usually causes breakouts around the mouth — we just call them cold sores or fever blisters. Over 80% of the population has HSV-1, although at any given time almost none of us have a breakout. HSV-2 causes breakouts around the genitals.18 The majority of people never get breakouts or get such minor breakouts that they don’t even realize that it’s herpes. My friend who has had a breakout said that he originally thought his was just a bug bite. It wasn’t until a second one showed up that he decided to get it checked out. It’s been over three years and he hasn’t had another breakout since. He’s also in a monogamous relationship and his girlfriend has never had a breakout.

Herpes never goes away, but it’s relatively harmless. In fact, even if you do get breakouts, most people stop getting them after a couple of years. And if you’re one of the unlucky few who actually does get bad breakouts, you can take medication to suppress them. So there. Not worried about herpes anymore… After all, I probably already have it, and so do many of you.

HIV

Living With It: Expensive and stressful, but assuming you’re not African, you’ll live.
Curable: No
US Prevalence: 1.1 million 19
RAW Score: 1,250 Partners (significantly fewer partners if engaging in anal sex)
Condoms Protect: Yes

HIV is no longer the death warrant it once was. Don’t get me wrong, contracting it would be awful and surely life-altering. But you would live. I just hope you have good health insurance. Life expectancy for young people living in Europe and North America is only slightly lower than the general population provided you start treatment immediately after a positive HIV diagnosis.

That said, there some demographics are far more likely to contract HIV than others: 64% of all HIV cases in Western Europe and North America come from gay men or drug addicts who use dirty needles. When it comes to vaginal sex, both men and women can contract HIV from an infected partner. Anal sex—whether its hetero- or homosexual—seems to be the big culprit here.

Also, I hate to say it, but HIV positive cases are predominantly lower-income classes. African-Americans account disproportionately for 42% of all HIV cases in the US.

But HIV infections have been declining to some degree in Europe and North America (more so in Europe).20 And in 2013, there were some very early accounts of people possibly being cured of the disease, and in 2020, stem cell therapy looks very promising.

The symptoms of HIV are flu-like symptoms a couple of weeks after contracting it. From there, your immune system slowly shuts down over a period of years. There are a lot of therapies and treatments available and most people who contract it can live functional, mostly normal lives, assuming they get the proper medical care. So the news on the HIV front over the past few decades has actually been mostly good.21

But still, use a damn condom.

Pregnancy

Living With It: Completely and irreversibly life-changing
Curable: Uhh… err…
US Prevalence: Your mom had it at least once
RAW Score: 100 sexual encounters
Condom: 85% effective

Over the years I’ve had dozens of people ask me about STDs, many of them looking for information, but many of them simply looking for reassurance that they were not going to shrivel up and die. I always tell them that 1) they’re going to be fine, and 2) they should be far more worried about babies. Notice the 1 in 100 sexual encounters. That’s not 100 partners, that’s 100 occurrences of unprotected intercourse. That’s MUCH more likely than many of the STDs listed here.

I can tell you, in all of my years working as a dating coach, with all of my sexual partners, with all of the crazy hedonistic people I partied with, I’ve only known one person who had a herpes breakout, a few people with HPV, and one person who had Chlamydia. I’ve never met or even heard of anyone with HIV. I’ve never met or heard of anyone with cervical cancer. I’ve never met or heard of anyone who contracted gonorrhea or syphilis. But I can think of probably a dozen people who have dealt with an unwanted pregnancy or had a major pregnancy scare.

Do not fuck around with this.

The chances of getting an std - woman with pregnancy test

As a woman, welcome to the growing population of single mothers. Everything is about to change. If you’re lucky, the guy will stick around and help. But if he doesn’t, good luck. Not only do single mothers juggle some of the hardest responsibilities in society, but children of single mothers often grow up to have behavioral and academic problems.

If you’re a man and you don’t want to be a deadbeat and run off, then you’re not in for an easy time by any means either. Prepare to cough up half of your paycheck for the next 18 years, even if she marries someone else, even if she becomes financially self-sufficient and you’re broke. You have to pay. The paternity laws in many states are still heavily balanced in favor of mothers and so visitation rights, not to mention custody rights, can be hell to go through. If for some reason you and the mother don’t exactly get along, prepare to hire a good lawyer.

And even if a woman decides to not keep it, welcome to the most gut-wrenching experience of your life. I’m lucky in that I’ve never had to deal with a legitimate pregnancy, but I know people who have — staunch, hardcore, liberal, don’t-give-a-fuck party-goers — and shit gets real fast. It’s easy to walk around and say, “I would do this or that,” but when it comes time to walk the walk, many people can’t stomach it. Or even if they can, they live with the guilt for the rest of their lives.

So if you don’t want to be a mommy or daddy, get contraception. If you don’t know or trust someone, use protection. If you’re sexually active, get tested regularly. Have open conversations with your sexual partners about this stuff: “Have you been tested? Are you on birth control?” Yes, it’s awkward. But yes, it’s always worth it.

Stay smart and stay safe.

(Cover image: “Condoms” by Shawn Latta is licensed under CC BY 2.0)

Footnotes

  1. CDC – Primary and Secondary Syphilis — United States, 2005–2013
  2. Census Bureau. Unmarried and Single Americans Week: Sept. 17-23, 2017.
  3. CDC – Chlamydia Statistics
  4. Chlamydia trachomatis Infection: Screening and Management.
  5. CDC – Gonorrhea Statistics.
  6. Screening for Gonorrhea and Chlamydia: Systematic Review to Update the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendations – National Library of Medicine – PubMed Health.
  7. CDC – Syphilis Statistics.
  8. CDC – STD Data and Statistics.
  9. CDC – STD Facts – HPV and Men
  10. CDC – HPV Questions and Answers |
  11. Cancer.gov HPV factsheet
  12. Many HPV infections may clear quickly without treatment
  13. CDC – What Should I Know About Screening?
  14. Torre, D. D. et al. HPV prevalence in a Mid-European oral squamous cell cancer population: a cohort study. Oral Diseases (2018). doi:10.1111/odi.12882
  15. Wiley, D. et al. Smoking Enhances Risk for New External Genital Warts in Men. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 6, 1215–1234 (2009).
  16. E.g. Verhoeven, V. et al. Probiotics enhance the clearance of human papillomavirus-related cervical lesions. European Journal of Cancer Prevention 22, 46–51 (2013).
    Piyathilake, C. J. et al. Folate and Vitamin B12 May Play a Critical Role in Lowering the HPV 16 Methylation-Associated Risk of Developing Higher Grades of CIN. Cancer Prevention Research 7, 1128–1137 (2014).
  17. CDC – Genital Herpes Statistics.
  18. Genital Herpes: A Review. – PubMed – NCBI.
  19. CDC – HIV in the United States – Statistics Overview.
  20. European HIV & AIDS Statistics | AVERT
  21. Board, A. D. A. M. E. (2013, May 19). HIV/AIDS. National Institutes of Health.