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STI

A clinical trial testing the first ever vaccine to treat chlamydia has passed the initial round of testing, according to The Journal.

Scientists have now moved closer to a superior treatment for the STI after patients reacted well to a newly developed vaccine.

The Lancet journal have published a study which found that the first trial of the vaccine discovered it was safe and provoked the hoped-for immune system response.

Over 131 million people become infected by chlamydia annually, and the disease is undeniably a global issue. The highest number of new cases are discovered in teenagers and young adults.

Chlamydia is known as the 'silent' STI, as it usually fails to produce symptoms. Scientists are hopeful that a vaccine is the best way to fight the disease, which is reaching epidemic proportions.

National treatment programmes have predominantly failed to curb high rates, including testing and antibiotics. Those infected potentially develop partial or temporary immunity to the STI.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Researchers at Imperial College London and the Statens Serum Institiut, Copenhagen, were successful in their initial vaccine test.

The trial included 35 women, and two formulations of the vaccine were trialed. Scientists advice focusing on just one formulation going forward.

“A global unmet medical need exists for a vaccine against genital chlamydia,” said Prof Peter Andersen of the Statens Serum Institut, who called the extent of the disease an “epidemic”. 

One-in-six women experience inflammation of the pelvis due to chlamydia, which can lead to chronic pain, infertility or ectopic pregnancy as well as increasing susceptibility to other STIs.

“Although many more years of research are needed before this vaccine is marketed, we are planning the next stage of research,” said Helene B Juel of the Statens Serum Institut. 

Almost 8,000 cases of chlamydia were reported between 2017 and 2018 nationwide. Latest figures show that there was a 7 percent increase in sexually transmitted infections during those years.

Men made up a higher number of cases of STIs overall but for chlamydia, men and women were equally likely to become infected. 

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Condoms have been around for decades, and now you can even buy all types of styles- ribbed, flavoured, heated, extra-thin etc.

It can slip everyone's mind that they help prevent unwanted STIs and pregnancy, particularly when you're about to get frisky with someone and they decline the condom offer.

We've heard the excuses before; "I'm too big to wear a condom", "It doesn't feel good", "It just falls off", "I can't orgasm while wearing one".

golden girls condom GIF

Blah, blah blah; the contraceptives available for women can cause long-term health issues, changes their entire hormonal system, often induces anxiety, migraine, dizziness or causes spotted bleeding.

The list of side effects goes on, but men often say no to a simple condom. The excuses often aren't valid, so tell your boy to wrap it up stat. Luckily for him, we've got a hack to help ease any discomfort.

Cosmopolitan's sex researcher Maureen Miller, PhD, offered some advice;

“Add a few drops of water-based lube to the inside of your condom before you put it on. Men report being amazed at how much better it feels.” SO SIMPLE.

emma stone snl GIF by Saturday Night Live

Many condoms come with lubrication on the outside, adding just one or two drops into the tip of the condom before putting it on and rolling it down can make the world of difference for a guy's comfort.

If lube feels unreal for you, we're fairly sure it'll feel great for him too. You only need to add a little bit of lube, however. Too much will make the condom more susceptible to falling off.

Anti-baby note to remember: Oil-based lube can break the condom or thin the walls, so if you're not on any other contraceptive, make sure it's water-based lubricant. We recommend the YES brand.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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“Condoms are mighty hard to break, although not impossible. The number one reason for condom breakage is that the condom was not put on properly," Miller says. 

"The tip must be squeezed as the condom is being rolled down the penis so that there is room for ejaculate. Otherwise, the condom can burst," she adds. Remember: Safe sex is hot as f*ck.

There are plenty of ways to make putting on condoms super sexy; “Using your mouth, tongue, and hands, make the project of putting on a condom really erotic." Damn, we need to try this.

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Worrying new figures from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre have revealed rising rates of young people being diagnosed as HIV positive in Ireland.

An expert described how sixteen people were diagnosed last week with the illness, and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases is at an "alarming" rate.

The age group of 20-year-olds until the age of 29 are the age group at high risk of getting an infection.

Concern’s team leader for health and HIV Breda Gahan said:

“I’m thinking of those 16 people who got that big blow of news last week and how it will affect them in terms of travelling, future job prospects, stigma and treatment.

“I would say unfortunately the stigma has increased both in Ireland and globally. On top of that, who are you going to tell? Are you going to tell your partner or your ex partners or family? No one wants to carry the burden alone," Breda continued.

“I don’t want to frighten people or say if you have sex you’re going to get HIV that’s not the case. But people don’t realise a lot of the cases of HIV are home grown.”

Even though there is access to free treatment for AIDS in Ireland, Gahan feels that the Government need to do more to raise awareness about the disease.

“HIV prevention is failing, it just hasn’t been invested in despite the increasing number of infections. The Government should get those who have the skills to travel to primary schools to work with those who are age appropriate."

Gahan added;

“Education is the social vaccine. Girls and boys need to understand how to protect themselves from life-threatening infections. There is a serious lack of accurate information, there’s a lot of myths and misconceptions.

“We also need to make services more adolescent and user friendly. No one wants to go to an STI clinic.”

Recent figures from the HPSC report show that 239 cases of HIV have been reported so far this year.  4,193 people have contracted chlamydia, 1,341 have gonorrhoea, and 793 have herpes.

In comparison to last year, Ireland has seen an increase of almost 1,200 infections.

Breda Gahan explained the reason for the apparent lack of concern among youth:

“There’s an increase in STIs among young people because of complacency and people aren’t dying so there’s less fear. Young people don’t really care if they get an STI because it’s treatable.”

The expert says that we need to start educating children in primary school aged 10 to 12; 

“As a nurse, I would go as far to say that it’s too late to educate kids at secondary school level. Hormones are hopping at that age.

“It’s alarming and concerning to see the increase of numbers. No sex can be totally safe – there’s always some risk, for example a condom breaking. But there needs to be education about safer sex.”

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The giggles, the embarrassment and the speculation circled the classroom – a lady was on her way to teach us about sex.

Cue the dildo sitting in the centre of the table and the dodgy glances between a bunch of 17-year-old girls.

After a brief, two-sentence description on what a penis was – it was whipped away, as the woman exclaimed that we would be WAAAY too distracted by the sight of the male anatomy  – b*tch, please.

Periods, pregnancy and STIs were mentioned, and that was it – that's all I can remember about my sex education in school – but it seems like I was one of the lucky ones.

Grilling the SHEmazing office about their sex ed, more often than not I got the reply of – 'we didn't get any,' 'I went to an all-girls school,' or 'there was the advice of waiting until you were married.'

I'm not gonna lie but I was stunned – but I don't know why? If you even try to talk to the majority of Irish men about periods – they're clueless, and that it isn't entirely their fault – it's the culture we've been raised with.

Shame around sex, unplanned pregnancy and masturbation are commonplace in classrooms around the country.

But the lack of sex education means that young people are missing out on serious topics too – these are just a number of topics that weren't discussed in our Irish sex education lessons.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Consent

It is only in the last couple of years has the issue of consent been raised in our society.

Yet still, people dismiss the importance of teaching men and women what is and isn't consensual sex, kissing and touching.

The word wasn't even uttered in the classroom and when the possibility of it being taught in universities arose, people scoffed.

If you do have the opportunity to go and learn about consent, please do.

Porn

God forbid that the 'expert' stood at the top of the room might address the issue of what you see in porn. 

But we could only imagine the looks and dismissal you would receive if you even try to ask the question.

Yet the porn industry is a problem for young men and women around the country – leading to very high, misinformed expectations and unreasonable pressure around sex for both parties.

More often than not, both genders feel like their body and performances can't live up to what they see on porn – and FYI, the reason for that is because porn isn't reality. 

Unplanned Pregnancy, Miscarriage, The Morning After Pill, Abortion and Fertility issues

Usually, the pregnancy topic is approached from a very unrealistic standpoint – "when you find yourself a nice husband, you can settle down and have a baby." 

I know first hand what unplanned pregnancy feels like and I can confirm that none of my sex ed helped me prepare myself for how scary and challenging the situation was.

There's no information offered surrounding the morning after pill, the time window you have to use it and how effective it is.

And of course, because abortion was illegal – it wasn't even dared to be uttered.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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However, the topic of miscarriage could and should have been spoken about, so if you ever find yourself in this heartbreaking situation, you know what to do and what to expect – to know that you aren't alone and you haven't done anything wrong in your pregnancy.

Fertility issues are very common in our society, particularly conditions such as endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome – yet we weren't given any information about the signs, symptoms and treatments available.

Contraception and STIs

Though some of us got the condom on the banana job – most of us didn't get a good understanding of what types of different options we have out there.

What the side effects come with different contraceptives, how effective they may or may not be and how crucial double protection is – (I now have a four-year-old thanks to this).

And although some of us got to grips with STDs and STIs, it was with a lot of stigma instead of real advice.

Education and being comfortable with the subject is becoming more and more important as there had been a 10 percent increase in STIs from 2016 to 2017.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Empowerment of personal sexuality, masturbation and sexual orientation

Want to learn that it's perfectly healthy to explore your body, mind and sexuality? Then don't go to your sex ed class in school.

More often than not, these subjects aren't even touched. 

Enjoying sex, masturbation and those we chose to love should be embraced and not shamed, since in the real world the majority of people don't give a flying f**k.

No LGBT or LGBTQ organisations were even mentioned or how normal it is to be attracted to the same sex.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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It's time to reform the way we educate the young people of Ireland.

Stop the archaic view of sex and give the next generation useful information on what they really need to know about.

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A brand new online service is allowing people to tell their previous partners anonymously about STIs, and hopes it will encourage more people to get tested.

E4's The Sex Clinic has links with this STI testing company, which allows service users to anonymously text or email current or former partners in order to tell them about the positive result.

Patients have a secure login to the online portal, where test results can be accessed, and if anyone tests positively for an STI, they can anonymously contact them.

The person using the service can enter either an email address or mobile number for the person or people they want to notify, and select whether they want to remain anonymous or not.

After that, it's sent automatically and the weight is off your shoulders. Seems pretty easy, doesn't it? The only catch is if you don't have the person's email address or phone number…

The notice tells the receiver a “person who cares about you has recently tested positive for an STI” and explains in detail about the STI and how to get tested.

STI fact sheets, counselling and support, details on treatment and information on next steps can also be found on their website, Better2know.

Recently, a survey of 2,000 people undertaken by online pharmacy chemist-4-u.com found that a shocking 72 percent of people diagnosed with an STI chose NOT to tell their most recent sexual partners about it.

Better2know.co.uk, hopes to encourage the growth of sexual knowledge by making it easier to tell partners about STIs. 

Metro.co.uk poll showed that 92 percent of people would be worried about how they'd be perceived by a partner who they told about an STI.

The website has been hugely successful so far with patients, who praise the service and claim they never would have notified previous partners unless it was anonymous.

Mike Asher, Chairman and CEO of Better2know.co.uk stated the importance of sexual healthcare and education;

Image: Better2know.co.uk/iStock

“STIs are often initially symptomless, so people need to know their status and how to get treatment – whether that’s communicated anonymously or face-to-face.

"Too often people fail to properly communicate to sexual partners once they have had a positive result. Sometimes patients want to avoid awkwardness or it is because they are upset at the implications of the results," Asher continued.

"Other times it’s down to apprehension about how a recent or short-term partner might react or feelings of guilt. We hope the text service encourages people to inform partners that they are at risk and that as a result, more people get the testing and treatment they need."

The Bulletin of the World Health Organization have just published a study which warns of a 'silent epidemic' in terms of STIs.

According to the survey, an incredible one in 25 people globally are carrying an STI.

Better2know recommends considering the temperament of the partner or partners', and to accept that they may react negatively. Think about what emotional support the person will need, and physical healthcare.

Mike Asher says that how a person tells their partner or former lovers is a very personal choice, but anonymous services can beat the awkwardness, especially if the person barely knows their former partners.

“We are always keen that both parties are first in a place and position where they feel safe and able to process information,” he said.

Being open and honest with a partner is always best to reduce the risk of serious health complications, like infertility.

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New research has shaken us to our very sexual core…almost HALF of Irish people have never been tested for a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Shame on you, lads.

A disturbing 47 percent of Irish people have never gone for a sexual health check-up, according to data gathered by Censuswide.

Medicine Direct commissioned the study as part of their 'Fruit of your Loins' campaign, which emphasises the symptoms of STIs and aims to reduce stigma and raise awareness.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Only 39 percent of the survey's respondents claimed to practice safe sex, while just over half of those quizzed said they would be confident about recognising the symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection. Jaysis.

One-in-five (22 percent) of those asked said they wouldn't be confident in recognising symptoms, and one-in-eight (12 percent) said they were "not at all confident" in spotting signs of an infection

Almost one-in-six (16 percent) of Irish people admitted that they would never divulge details about their sexual past to their partner. 44 percent said they would discuss their sexual history once in a serious relationship.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Worryingly, two out of three people (66 percent) said they wouldn't consult a doctor straight away if they had a sexual health concern. It's incredibly vital to be more responsible for your body, and break free of shame.

Researching symptoms online was the first move for 18 percent of participants, saying they would turn to sites like Google for advice. 17 percent said they would at least consult a medical website, but it can be difficult to know which ones are accurate.

Over a quarter of Irish people (28 percent) rated the information handed out on STIs and symptoms in school as 'poor', or 'awful'. That's Catholic Church-state education for ya…

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Men were slightly more likely to talk to their doctor about a sexual health concern than women, with 65 percent of men stating this as opposed to 60 percent of women. This may be due to the gender pain gap in healthcare.

Interestingly, men were less likely to confide in their partner or a friend than women. A quarter of men would wait until symptoms developed before getting an STI check, instead of 21 percent of women.

Only 8 percent of men said they would never get checked after unprotected sex, compared to 7 percent of women. These is still shockingly low numbers…

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Superintendent Pharmacist at Medicine Direct,Hussain Abdeh, commented on the discoveries:

“In light of our findings, we made our fruity guide to STI symptoms to try and raise the conversation about positive sexual health and to make it easier to spot potential STI symptoms.

safe sex teen vogue GIF

“It’s worth remembering that for some STIs, such as chlamydia, there can be no visible symptoms – but they can be very damaging if left untreated.

"That’s why it’s so important to work regular STI testing into your life and treat it as a normal part of your lifestyle as a sexually responsible individual." he added.

It's imperative that checking your sexual health regularly becomes the norm.

Remember folks; if in doubt, check it out.

std chlamydia GIF

You can find more information about STI symptoms on the Medicine Direct website, and St James' Hospital also has a free STI clinic called The GUIDE.

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We hear quite a lot about the cervical cancer vaccine, and the pros and cons surrounding it.

However, we tend not to hear a whole lot about what EXACTLY the injection protects women against – the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). 

Here at SHEmazing, we want to make sure that all you fine females are well and truly 'in-the-know,' so we decided to research the virus. 

So, what exactly is HPV?

knowledge GIF

According to The Irish Cancer Society, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) represents a family of very 'common viruses that are passed on during sex'.

Apparently, most people will get HPV infection in their lifetime and it usually clears up by itself. If you smoke, it can prevent the infection from clearing up. Some forms of the virus can also cause genital warts.

It is absolutely NOTHING to be ashamed of, especially when you consider almost 75% of women will have HPV at some stage in tehir life. 

The main concern is that certain strains of HPV can ultimately turn cancerous, which is why those regular smear tests are so damn important. 

I KNOW, they're uncomfortable, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do, right? 

amen GIF

Anyway, how exactly is HPV spread, I hear you ask? (use your imagination here.)

Basically, HPV can be transmitted during sexual intercourse or intimate skin to skin contact with an infected person, says the HSE.

'Transmission from mother to baby can also occur immediately before or after birth.'

Next question: what treatment is required?

In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause any health problems. But when HPV does not go away, it can cause health problems like genital warts and cancer (as previously mentioned)

In relation to avoiding HPV, it can be tricky – however, the HPV vaccine can protect you against certain strains of the virus. 

If you're sexually active, use condoms and you will lower your chances of getting HPV. However, HPV can infect areas not covered by a condom – so condoms may not fully protect against getting HPV. 

The most important thing is to go for regular smears, the doctor will keep an eye on the rest. 

Easy peasy! 

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The number of sexually transmitted infections grew by 10 per cent in 2016, according to the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre, and gonorrhea saw one one the biggest spikes.

If you don't already have a semi-friendly relationship with the nurse at your local free clinic, now would be the time to get yourself checked if you have any suspicions that there might be some odd behaviour happening in your nether regions. 

Luckily, gonorrhea is one of the more treatable STIs out there, so if you have contracted the ailment, it wont be forever. 

Gonorrhoea is a bacterial infection that can be treated and cured with specific antibiotics, according to the HSE. 

However, you can have gonorrhea for an extended period of time and not show any symptoms.

When the symptoms do arrive, they can include a slightly unsavoury yellowish or greenish-white discharge, itching around the front or back passage, and burning or pain when peeing. Ouch. 

The illness can also be marked by soreness or redness in the throat, and be accompanied by eye infections such as a discharge or red eye.

Women can also suffer with stomach pain brought on by the disease. 

The only way to protect yourself from the STI is to use condoms during every sexual encounter and never share sex toys with anyone (not that we'd make a habit of it).

If you think you might be a card-carrying member of the G club, or think that you may have contracted any kind of sexually transmitted infection, it's important to get it checked ASAP to avoid passing it to others or creating complications in your sexual health further down the line. 

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Do you groom your pubic hair daily or weekly? If so you are classed as a ‘high frequency’ groomer and new research has found you at a higher risk of catching an STI.

According to research published in the Sexually Transmitted Infections journal, ‘extreme groomers’ – those who groom up to 11 times per year –  are also at risk of acquiring STIs.

It's not all bad though! Luckily, groomers are less likely to have pubic lice – always a silver lining, right?!

However, while extreme groomers are more likely to get frisky, this ultimately increases their chances of getting an STI.

“By contrast, low intensity/ frequency grooming was associated with a doubling in risk of a lice infestation, suggesting that grooming might make it harder for lice to breed successfully,” researchers said.

During the study, over 14,000 people, aged 18-65 answered questions about their grooming habits, focusing on the intensity, frequency, and tools used.

With 74% of the respondents saying they had groomed their pubic hair before, men opted for electric razors, while women favoured the manual razor.

Divulging their sexual habits as part of the study, 7470 participants said they had at least one sexual partner.

The researchers surmised that the link between STIs and grooming could be based on the theory that increased grooming could lead to higher levels of sexual activity, which may result in skin lesions. Thus allowing bacteria and viruses into the body.

Lead author Dr. E Charles Osterberg said, “Intensity and frequency of grooming also seemed to be linked to the magnitude of risk.”

“Among high frequency and extreme groomers, the practice was associated with a 3.5 to 4- fold heightened risk, particularly for infections that arise through skin on skin contact, such as herpes and HPV.”

However, the observational study has not proved that grooming causes STIs, so “no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect”.

“The researchers were not able to determine the timing of grooming relative to acquisition of infection, or account for either safer sex practices, or indeed risky sexual behaviours.”

So, don't bin the razors just yet.

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You may not want to give much thought of problems ‘down there’ when you’re young, free and having fun.

But if you’re sexually active, you’ve probably heard the following advice many times: Use protection and make sure you get tested.

This is really important to get regularly tested, because you could have a sexually transmitted infection (STI) without knowing it.

In many cases, no signs or symptoms occur, such as chlamydia, which is the most common STI amongst Irish young people.

What type of STD you’re testing for and how often you should be screened all depends on your age, your sex life and other factors, so ask your doctor or do some research online.

Don’t assume that you’re receiving STI testing every time you have a gynaecologic exam or Pap test. If you think you need testing, request it from your doctor.

If you notice any weird feelings ‘down there,’ or any unusual discharge or discomfort when peeing, you should see your doctor straight away as these may be signs of an STI.

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When over 1,200 people were asked whether or not they would have sex with someone they knew had an STI, the feedback was pretty scary.

About 19% answered ‘yes’, up to a quarter said it would depend on the STI and 26% said they would have sex with someone with an STI because they believe a condom would keep them protected – oh dear.

It’s no surprise that nearly one in five of those interviewed admitted they once had an STI in their lifetime. Even more shocking, nearly half of those interviewed admitted they’ve had unprotected sex with someone who had an STI.

These figures are quite frightening, if we’re honest. There’s no reason to jump into bed with someone who has an STD – it really is a big risk on your part.

Your health is your wealth, ladies – remember that.

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