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Romance, affection and infectious diseases

By in Opinions

TOMAS BORSA
Opinions Editor

someone gingerly holding a condom

Valentine’s Day is a time for romance, for lust, and for the sharing of emotions between partners. It’s a time to show, through elaborate and impersonal re-creations of climactic moments from romantic comedies, just how much you care for your significant other. And all Hallmarkisms aside, Valentine’s Day is a day of heavy fornication.

Now let’s mull over a few statistics:

Ӣ Percentage of men who admit to having cheated in a relationship: 57 per cent
Ӣ Percentage of women who admit to having cheated in a relationship: 54 per cent
Ӣ Average length of an affair: 2 years

Shit. I guess you should have clarified just how “open” your relationship was before kissing your sweetheart goodbye on that four-month “soul-searching adventure” through Thailand.

As any city-bus abstinence advertisement campaign will attest to, sexual history can be thought of like the simple formula “X to the power of Y” — where X is the number of sexual partners you and your sacrosanct genitals have come into direct contact with, and Y is the number of partners each of those aforementioned partners has individually plodded. The invariably gigantic and virus-laden product, Z, should be enough to terrify you into a pious life of celibacy.

With that in mind, I’ve compiled a handy guide to help you self-diagnose some of the many exotic venereal diseases that you will have recently been exposed to or acquired.

Genital Warts

Have you noticed little bumps on your genitals that weren’t previously there? Those are called genital warts, and you’ve got ”˜em.

Don’t poke them. Cream may help. Pretty easy to diagnose this one.

Prognosis: Incurable!

Syphilis

In the first stage, about 10 days to six weeks after exposure, you’ll notice one or more painless sores. In the second stage, you might develop a rash, a fever or muscle aches. In the terminal stage you’ll find yourself paralyzed, blind and unable to speak properly. Shucks.

The bad news: Until you’re on the cusp of imminent death, most of the symptoms could be mistaken for little more than a bad case of chicken pox.

The good news: Unless you’re a Chicago-based 1920s mobster, a member of the European elite circa 1600 or have recently concluded an impressive string of sexual escapades in West Africa, you run relatively little risk of actually dying of this.

Prognosis: Curable!

Chlamydia

Do you feel perfectly healthy, and does your penis and/or vagina look totally normal? Then there is a good chance you’ve got chlamydia, which is typically asymptomatic and certainly not something to applaud.

Frequently referred to as the “Silent Epidemic,” symptoms are present in only 30-40 per cent of cases. If you do have symptoms (probably a good thing, oddly enough, because at least you’ll nip it in the bud), they will likely include pain while urinating, spontaneous bleeding and/or discharge, fever and just generally being aware that things are far from normal down below. Untreated chlamydia can also increase the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (doesn’t sound fun) and your chances of contracting HIV (definitely worth avoiding).

Prognosis: Curable!

Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea can be thought of as chlamydia’s loud and flashy younger sibling (the type of kid that might be named Piper or Kriss, for example).

Should you be unfortunate enough to be introduced to this attention-seeking bastard, you will soon become aware of the rapid transformation of your normally docile nether region into a heinous monstrosity with the appearance of a cauliflower casserole and the temperament of a post-coital Mantis.

Things you may notice over the course of this period: Pain while urinating, unusual discharge (varying in spectral brilliance from white to yellow or even green in color), severely swollen genitals and rarely, bleeding. Basically, if pretty much every grotesque symptom ever seems to have converged in one place — your penis and/or vagina — there’s a good chance you’ve contracted gonorrhea.

But don’t worry, a simple round of antibiotics will clear this up in no time.

Prognosis: Curable!

Herpes

Unless you and your partner regularly indulge in unbelievably kinky bondage, there shouldn’t be blisters on your genitals. However, if there are, fear not ”“ it might just be herpes.

One of the world’s most popular venereal diseases, herpes operates in cycles of outbreaks, typically triggered by stress (the type of stress that might flood over you, say, after being told that you have a socially stigmatizing and painful venereal disease).

The shitty part: The virus is frequently asymptomatic, meaning that you and your apparently healthy sex organs have about a one-in-five chance of hearing some really lame news the next time you get a blood test.

On the bright side, a quick visit to datingwithherpes.org will have you back at it in no time.

Prognosis: Incurable!

HIV/AIDS

Have you been feeling a bit lethargic lately? Have you noticed that your new diet seems to be working especially well? Have you had a cold or fever in the past while that you just can’t seem to kick? If so, you may have HIV/AIDS.

HIV and AIDS are like Batman and Robin. While Robin doesn’t really do a whole lot on his own, he has Batman on speed dial. Once you’ve been tempted into entering the Batcave, Batman bursts from the shadows to deliver a terminal ass-kicking to your immune system, leaving it so decimated that you’ll be unable to fight off anything beyond a dust particle or a stray eyelash.

On the upside, treatment (i.e. delaying the inevitable) for HIV/AIDS is available in the form of antiretroviral pills — though they’re quite expensive and side effects can include fever, skin rash, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and, occasionally, death. Probably best to just avoid getting HIV/AIDS in the first place.

Prognosis: Incurable!

Abstinence, of course, is the only truly effective prevention strategy against contracting any of the diseases mentioned above.

Then again, that’s about the sex organ equivalent of telling a person who complains of migraines to get a lobotomy, so you shouldn’t really do that. Still, it might be worth your while to invest in some protection (and a new partner).

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