A new strain of gonorrhoea is sticking around: how to stay safe and aware

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Photo by Alex Trkulja

What is typically undetectable, extremely preventable and on the rise? Gonorrhea — and like chlamydia, it’s hard to spell but easy to catch. For those who slept through sex-ed in high school, gonorrhea is a bacterial infection that you can get through oral, anal or vaginal sex.

Recently, Public Health Ontario has noted a rise in sexually transmitted diseases and infections.

“Both chlamydia and gonorrhea, as well as a number of other [diseases and infections], are reported to Public Health, so they do track the numbers. In general, they don’t look at universities specifically, but instead the 15-24 age group; which is an age a lot of our students fall into and the numbers are rising,” Karen Ostrander, director of Student Wellness Centre, said.

On Planned Parenthoods’ website, they have a statistic of 820,000 adults a year getting diagnosed with gonorrhea. It’s a very common disease, so how do you impede it?

“The best means of protection, besides abstinence, is always condoms. People have to remember that the use of the birth control pill only protects against pregnancy, not STD’s,” Ostrander said.

That means going back to the tried and true male condom, which is always in endless supply at the Student Wellness Centre, with a basket in the lobby or five dollars for a box. Also, remembering dental dams for use during vaginal or anal oral sex and female condoms which are also available for purchase at the Student Wellness Centre.

“A lot of the times people will be infected and they won’t realize, a lot of the time there are no symptoms,” Ostrander said, explaining once again how important it is to be using protection.

Often, especially for people with uteruses, you won’t experience symptoms of gonorrhea. When left untreated, gonorrhea can leave you infertile, give you early on-set arthritis, or be extremely damaging to a baby if the person carrying the baby is infected. If you are experiencing symptoms of gonorrhea and you have a uterus, you may have a fever, swelling, pain or puss-like discharge. Which is gross, but so are STD’s.

“Typically, you can get treated [at the Student Wellness Centre], rather than having to go out and get a prescription,” Ostrander said.

“We also do routine testing, which you can book an appointment for, but if you’re experiencing symptoms or discomfort you can come in and see the doctor.”

Ostrander also explained that this is funded by Public Health Ontario, a government organisation, and treatment and testing is free to students.

All of this is super easy to remember when you’re sober. If you drink, or find other ways to get inebriated, and you’re about to participate in some sloppy drunk sex, you’re likely to forgo or forget the condom. Especially now with a new strain of gonorrhoea that is resistant to treatment, it’s crucial to be aware of who you’re having sex with. Luckily, there’s the free testing that should never go unutilized.

So, say it’s the next morning and even though your partner swore they used a condom but didn’t, or you both forgot in the heat of Friday-night passion. Mistakes happen, so don’t beat yourself up too much. But, don’t extend your mistake to not getting tested. No matter your gender, if you’re sexually active, you’re susceptible to gonorrhea, as well as any and every STD or STI.

Sex is fun, there’s no denying it, but you must also look out for yourself, it’s the reality of adulthood that all fun things come with responsibility. Keep whichever condom you use close by, don’t wait until you’re in pain to get tested and talk to your sexual partner(s); you need to know if they’re infected and they need to know if you’re infected.

Even if you and your partner are monogamous, and you’ve been together for a while, get tested. It’s easy to do — you pee in cup. It’s free and who doesn’t love free things?

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