Sexually Transmitted Diseases: How Men Can Avoid Them

Written by Dave Rich

On July 8, 2012

Picture it: It’s Saturday night. You just walked into the bar with your buddies. You’re dressed up, smelling good, and feeling great. You spot her from across the crowded dance floor. You order her a drink and talk for hours. The next thing you know, you’re making out just outside her door. She wants to spend the night with you but neither of you have any protection. She looks healthy. She’s beautiful and obviously takes care of herself. You’ve got nothing to worry about, right?
Other than the fact she may call you in a couple of months and tell you you’re going to be a father, yes, you do have something to worry about. A lot of guys, especially younger guys, think a sexually transmitted disease just can’t happen to them. They just don’t date or fool around with “those types of girls”.
Let’s get real. STDs don’t discriminate. They aren’t something only degenerates, prostitutes, and homeless people get. Anyone can become infected with a sexually transmitted disease. Lawyers, doctors, teachers, teenagers, middle-aged people, African Americans, Asians, and everyone in between can contract a venereal disease. You’re no exception. That’s what it’s important to learn more about sexually transmitted disease and how to avoid getting one.
Common Types of Sexually Transmitted Diseases

  • Genital Herpes

What It Is
Genital herpes is a viral infection caused by the herpes simplex virus 2. It is estimated that in the United States alone, 1 in every 6 people are infected with genital herpes.
Symptoms of genital herpes are small, red blisters around the genital area and rectum. Sufferers may also develop flu-like symptoms during the first outbreak such as low-grade fever and swollen glands. After the initial outbreak, symptoms clear and another outbreak may not occur for weeks or months. Outbreaks commonly occur anywhere from 1-5 times per year.
How It Spreads
Genital herpes is spread through direct sexual contact with someone infected with the herpes simplex virus. Even using a condom during sexual intercourse will not always stop the spread of herpes. It is important to avoid sex when your partner is having an outbreak and to use a condom 100% of the time when your partner is not.
How it’s Treated
Genital herpes cannot be cured. Once you have the infection inside your body, you have it for life. After a few initial outbreaks, you may be symptom-free for years but you will still be able to pass the venereal disease on to other sexual partners. Genital herpes, however, can be treated by antibiotics and suppressant therapies to ease discomfort and prevent its spread.

  • Gonorrhea

What It Is
Also called “The Clap” or “The Drip”, gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease that can cause serious health problems if left untreated. It is caused by the bacteria Neisseria Gonorrhoeae.
Symptoms of gonorrhea in men include burning or pain during urination, swelling or redness at opening of penis, white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis, swollen and tender testicles, and sore throat.
How it Spreads
Gonorrhea is one of the most easy to spread of the sexually transmitted diseases. This venereal disease can be spread during any type of unprotected sexual contact including oral, anal, and vaginal.
How it’s Treated
Gonorrhea needs to be treated before the infection spreads to the bloodstream to avoid further health complications. A round of antibiotics and follow-up visits are the standard treatment. If gonorrhea is left untreated, health complications for men may include narrowing of the urethra, which could lead to infertility, abscesses around the urethra, joint infection, heart valve infection, and meningitis.

  • Syphilis

What it Is
Syphilis is sometimes referred to as “the great imitator” because it can mimic a wide variety of other symptoms, making diagnosis difficult. Syphilis goes through three stages: Primary, Secondary, and Late-Stage. If treated within a year, syphilis usually will cause no lasting health problems.
Primary and secondary syphilis can have symptoms that are difficult to spot. Approximately 10-21 days after contraction, a small, round sore called a chancre develops on the genitals, anus, or mouth. The chancre will last up to 6 weeks and disappear on its own. This is when the infection spreads to the secondary stage.
At this point, a skin rash on the palms and bottoms of the feet will develop. Other symptoms of secondary syphilis include flu-like symptoms, fatigue, sporadic hair loss, swollen lymph glands, headaches, weight loss, and muscle aches. Again, these secondary symptoms will resolve and move into the latent stage.
During the latent stage of syphilis, the infection will spread to other parts of the body. This is the longest stage of syphilis and can last up to 20 years. Symptoms will vary from person to person but may include muscle coordination problems, numbness in limbs, dementia, paralysis, gradual blindness, and even death.
How it Spreads
Syphilis is one of the easiest of the sexually transmitted diseases to spread because primary stage symptoms are so easily missed. It can be passed during any type of sexual contact regardless of whether a chancre is present or not. Though no sexually transmitted disease discriminates with regards to sexual orientation, syphilis is more commonly spread among men who have sex with other men. Syphilis also increases the risk of spreading HIV infection.
How it’s Treated
During the first stage, syphilis is very easily treated. One singular muscular injection of penicillin is all it takes to get rid of the bacterium. For men who’ve had syphilis longer than one year, additional doses of antibiotic are required.

  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

What it Is
Genital human papillomavarius, mostly known as “HPV” is the most common sexually transmitted disease. The human papillomavirus virus has gotten a lot of press lately because of the recently-developed HPV vaccine. Men may be quick to want to jump on this vaccine bandwagon but beware: The HPV vaccine has some pretty serious side effects associated with it.
The good news is 90% of people with HPV have no symptoms and the infection usually clears itself within 2 years. However, some men infected with HPV will develop warts in the genital area or throat.
How it Spreads
HPV is spread during vaginal, anal, and oral sex.
How it’s Treated
Unfortunately, there is no cure for HPV. However, genital warts associated with the virus can be treated with a cream and warts in the throat can be treated with surgery or medications.

  • Chlamydia

What it Is
This venereal disease is caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis.
Symptoms of chlamydia include burning sensation during urination, penis and rectum discharge, pain in the testicles, and rectal discharge or pain. However, 1 in 4 men are completely asymptomatic (no symptoms).
How it Spreads
Chlamydia can be spread through any type of unprotected sexual contact.
How it’s Treated
Early-stage chlamydia is treated with antibiotics, usually azithromycin or erythromycin. If left untreated, however, the disease can lead to urethritis, inflammation of the urethra.


What it Is
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is the retrovirus that causes AIDS. In many ways, HIV is a lot like other viruses such as the common cold or flu. But unlike a cold or flu, the immune system cannot get rid of this virus. Instead, it enters your body’s fighter cells, called “T-Cells”, makes copies of itself and destroys them. When your body can no longer fight infection anymore, this leads to AIDs.
Early symptoms of HIV include fever, swollen lymph nodes, headache, nausea, tiredness, and diarrhea. Since these symptoms are so similar to the common flu, most men think nothing of them and wait for them to pass. As the disease progresses, other symptoms such as purple blotches on the skin, profound fatigue, rapid weight loss, dry cough, white spots on the tongue and throat, neurological disorders, profuse night sweats, and pneumonia.
How it Spreads
HIV can be spread through unprotected sexual contact. It can also be spread through needle sharing and blood transfusions.
How it’s Treated
As of today, there is no cure for HIV or AIDS. However, many men can still live healthy, active lives by taking a series of medications called, Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy, or HAART.

How Men Can Avoid STDs

  1. Get Tested

The best way to avoid health complications and avoid spreading sexually transmitted diseases to others is to get tested regularly. Knowing your status is the first step in protecting yourself and your partners. If, after you get tested, you find out you have a venereal disease, you should make every effort to contact your former sexual partners to let them know.

  1. Stay Faithful

Staying faithful to one uninfected sexual partner for a period of years is one of the best ways to prevent STDs. If you have multiple partners, it is important you get tested frequently between partners to avoid infection.

  1. Use a Condom Every Time

While a condom won’t protect you from contracting every single sexually transmitted disease, it will greatly reduce your risk. Unless you’re in a completely committed relationship, use a condom each and every time you have sex. This includes vaginal, anal, and oral sex. They have flavored condoms for a reason.

  1. Communicate

Men seem much more reluctant to talk about sex than to have it. Smart men communicate with their partners. They ask questions. If your partner gets offended when you ask them about their status, when the last time they got tested, or when you ask to use protection, you’re sleeping with the wrong person. When you ask, you’re not being rude, you’re protecting yourself and others.
Sexually transmitted diseases are no joke. Some can never be cured. A night of passion isn’t worth a lifetime of health problems or even death. Think before you act and always be prepared. Carry condoms with you and take time to get to know your partner. It doesn’t mean you’re making a permanent commitment, it just means you’re playing it safe.

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