Only a doctor can verify lack of sexual disease

TOTS TO TEENS

April 05, 1994|By Dr. Modena Wilson and Dr. Alain Joffe | Dr. Modena Wilson and Dr. Alain Joffe,Special to The Sun

Q: My girlfriend and I have been going together for three years but we haven't had sex yet. We are starting to think about it though, and I wonder if there is a way to tell if someone has a sexually transmitted disease without going to the doctor? How should I ask my girlfriend to go get checked out?

A: Unless both you and your girlfriend have never had sex with anyone before, there is no sure way to tell whether either one of you has an infection without being examined by a physician. For example, Chlamydia trachomatis, which is the most common sexually transmitted infection among teen-agers, often produces no symptoms of infection. In many other cases, the symptoms are so mild that it is easy for an individual to ignore them. That is why we recommend that any individual who is having intercourse should routinely be screened by a health care provider. Unfortunately, too many teen-agers mistakenly believe that they can tell if someone is "clean" or are convinced that the kind of person they are attracted to can't possibly be infected. These are several of the reasons that teen-agers have the highest rate of infection among all age groups in the United States.

If the two of you decide to have sex, both you and your girlfriend should get checked beforehand. The best way to ask your

girlfriend to get a checkup is to talk about your feelings with her openly and honestly and to indicate that you, also, will get tested. Such a discussion will convey to her that you are concerned about her health as well as yours. You will also need to decide -- before you start having sex -- how the two of you will prevent her from getting pregnant.

That the two of you have been going together for three years indicates that you have a strong relationship and share many things in common. Given this relationship and your concerns about sexually transmitted diseases, your discussion may lead the two of you to decide that you're not yet ready for sex. Although condoms offer very effective protection against infection, abstinence is still the most foolproof method.

Dr. Wilson is director of general pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center; Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.

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