“Why would you have unprotected sex with an unfamiliar person? Were you drunk or was it without your consent or were you willing to take the risk?” is what I ask when people come to me to get checked up for possible STIs after having unprotected sex with a new partner. Stuff happens in that moment but it is “that” moment one should realise the possible risks and what’s at stake. Two most common problems that women face after having unprotected sex:
- Sexually Transmitted Infections
STI for most people refers to HIV but there are several other diseases that are curable and incurable just like HIV. The incurable viral infections have no cure; they remain in the body for life and you will become a transmitter of those infections. Some become diseases that keep flaring up occasionally. Just think if that is the kind of life you want to have before going for unprotected sex.
Following are the common Sexually Transmitted Infections and the microbe that causes it:
- Chancroid – Bacteria
- Chlamydia – Bacteria
- Genital Herpes – Virus
- Gonorrhoea – Bacteria
- Hepatitis B – Virus
- HIV – Virus
- HPV – Virus
- Syphilis – Bacteria
- Pubic Lice – Parasites (Protozoa named Trichomonas Vaginalis) or Crab lice or Scabies mites
Out of these, the ones that are caused by viruses (Genital Herpes, Hepatitis B, HIV, HPV) don’t have a cure yet. A strain of Herpes virus can spread just through oral contact and is called oral herpes that can cause sores around the mouth. You don’t really need to have sex to get this infection.
This is a potentially life threatening live infection caused by HBV – Hepatitis B Virus. Death can occur due to cirrhosis and liver cancer. There is a vaccine for Hepatitis B and since then, the deaths due to this infection have come down drastically. Most people who get infected with Hepatitis B show no symptoms. If you have had unprotected sex, make sure you include this one in the list of tests that you need to get done.
HIV – Human Immunodeficiency Virus
Almost every educated individual knows about this virus and the slow eventual death that it leads to. Still, people are careless and continue to have unprotected sex. Worst part of this virus is, current tests can’t detect the virus as soon as the individual is infected, it takes at least 14 days to get a conclusive report with the latest testing methods that are available. By then, the virus would have spread all over the body and taken over it.
“The fear and anxiety in the eyes of patients who see me to get HIV tests after having unprotected sex can’t be explained in words” says Dr. Deepa Ganesh, popular gynaecologist in Chennai at The Laser and Cosmetic Gynaecology Clinic, Chennai.
Following are some of the symptoms of HIV infection:
- Night Sweats
- Muscle Aches
- Sore throat
- Swollen Lymph Nodes
- Ulcers in mouth.
Everyone need not have the same symptoms. Some may go without symptoms for 6 months but the number is very small. Most likely, you will see a symptom as your body starts fighting the virus and keeps losing the battle.
HPV – Human Papillomavirus
HPV is the most commonly transmitted STI. 90% of people who are sexually active contract HPV. Most often it doesn’t show any symptoms and the virus is eliminated by the body’s immune system within 2 years.
HPV can lead to cancer and genital warts. Cancer can be cervical, vulva, anus, or vaginal. Cancer can take years to develop after getting infected with HPV.
Genital herpes is kind of an ugly infection that causes genital warts. The warts can leak fluids. Women may see the warts around their buttocks too. Unlike pimples, genital warts form in clusters. Over half a billion people in the world have genital herpes, a much higher number than the HIV infected people.
Herpes is caused by HSV virus wherein HSV-1 causes oral herpes and HSV-2 causes genital herpes. Neither has a cure.
Had unprotected sex and now you realised, what’s next?
If it has been under 72 hours since you have had unprotected sex, just see your gynaecologist and get tested. He/she may suggest you take PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis) therapy that can prevent your body from getting infected with HIV.
Here, what you should know is, there is no sure way to tell if you are infected with HIV within the first few days. Taking PEP therapy is a preventive way to avoid HIV. Ultimately in a month, you should test negative (or non reactive) for HIV.
Some things in life happen at the spur of the moment but that’s when you need to use a little logical thinking rather than going with your gut feel or emotion. Unwanted pregnancy is also a possibility along with sexually transmitted infections. Worst case scenario – a combination of both.