HIV/AIDS

Despite various efforts from the government and civic groups to raise awareness on sexually transmitted diseases or STDs, many people still fall victim to these diseases. One of the most dreaded of these STDs is the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS, which is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus or HIV. Spread mostly through direct sexual contact, HIV-AIDS is a pandemic that continues to spread to this day. According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), there are an estimated 35.3 million people living with HIV across the globe. Of this figure, 3.3 million are children who have been infected by their HIV-positive mothers.

HIV/AIDSAs indicated earlier, this disease is spread by and large through direct sexual contact with an infected person. A huge misconception is that HIV-AIDS is a disease spread mostly by gay men. Because of this, gay men have been routinely subjected to discrimination on top of the usual resentment they usually get for being gay.

However, most of the sexual transmissions of the disease happen through sexual contact between a man and a woman. Other ways by which the virus is spread are through exposure to infected body fluids, such as being transfused with infected blood or being injected with an infected needle, and mother to child infection.

On its early stages, HIV/AIDS is often marked by influenza-like symptoms. As it advances, it affects the body’s immune system. As the body’s defense system weakens, it becomes more vulnerable to infections and diseases that eventually cause irreversible deterioration.

The HIV virus does not discriminate, so engaging in healthy sexual practices is still the best way to avoid contracting it. The use of polyurethane or latex condoms should be a prerequisite when having sex, even during oral sex, most especially when doing it with strangers.

Water-based lubricants are also a much better option than the usual petroleum-based lubricants (oils, cold cream, petroleum jelly, lotion) because the latter tend to weaken latex condoms and make them prone to breakage. Other preventive measures include thorough checking of the quality of blood donations and non-sharing of needles.

There is as yet no definite cure for HIV-AIDS, but there are adequate measures in place to effectively manage it. One of these is the high active antiretroviral therapy or HAART, which is currently being taken by 6.6 million people across the globe. This method slows down the progress of the disease and prevents the occurrence of opportunistic infections. To help curb the negative effects of the disease, the World Health Organization also recommends intake of micronutrients, such as iron, Vitamin A, and zinc, at RDA levels.

Genital human papilloma virus (HPV) infection

Infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV) is the most common among all sexually transmitted diseases. In fact it is so common, that it is generally believed that all sexually active individuals have had it in the past or currently have it without them being necessarily explicitly aware of the fact. Each year in the US, newly reported cases of HPV infections reach 14 million or thereabouts, which come on top of the current 79 million cases that have been diagnosed in the past.

Genital human papilloma virus (HPV) infectionPart of what makes an ordinary HPV infection difficult to diagnose is that this condition often does not present any obvious or easily identifiable symptoms. However, even when left unchecked, the infection normally heals by itself; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90 percent of HPV infections go away by themselves within the span of two years.

But while nominally reassuring, this high rate of subclinical cases should not be taken as an excuse to throw caution to the wind and a guarantee that everything will turn out alright. The fact is that many cases of HPV infections do not heal by themselves and consequently become clinical cases, which can lead to a host of health problems later on.

The human papilloma virus is transmitted through direct sexual contact, genital to genital contact, and even oral sex. There are between 30 and 40 known types of HPV infections, and it is possible to contract multiple types of infections on any given occasion. Of this number, 12 are known to cause cancer, including cancer of the penis, anus, cervix, vagina, and vulva. Although not applicable in all cases, HPV infections are also marked by the growth of warts. These can either be common warts found in the body’s extremities, or they can be genital or anal warts.

There is as yet no definite cure for genital HPV infection, although there are various treatments available to address its health effects. Genital warts, for example, can be cured through warts removal treatment. Early detection and diagnosis of cancer and recurrent respiratory papillomatosis is likewise good in the treatment and management of these conditions.

The best way to prevent being infected with HPV is by getting vaccinated. There are currently two types of HPV vaccines, which protect individuals from developing HPV-induced cancer or genital warts. The use of condoms during intercourse can only do so much, given that transmission of the virus can still occur through skin contact.

Depression

The negative social stigma of being gay, along with all the pressure and stress that come with it, makes gay people particularly susceptible to feelings of anxiety and distress. This becomes worse when they are subjected to an environment where they are directly taunted, bullied, or physically assaulted because of their sexuality. All these things eventually add up and are seen as real risk factors in the rise of cases of depression  among gay people.

DepressionDepression is a pervasive disorder that is global in scale. In fact, across the world, more than 120 million people are diagnosed with depressive disorders each year. Of this figure, a sixth or about 20 million are Americans, most of whom happen to be teens and young adults. Depression is one of the many, often complex, conditions classified as a mood disorder, which is characterized by a sudden change in emotional and mental disposition triggered by specific life events or else induced by substance abuse.

The symptoms of depression range from the emotional to the physical. They include low self-esteem, feelings of hopelessness, self-loathing, and abrupt social withdrawal underscored by an inexplicable aversion to engage in any form of social interaction. Those diagnosed with the condition are also found to harbor thoughts of suicide.

Physically, depression is marked by chronic fatigue, inability to sleep well, and frequent headaches. Another tell-tale symptom is loss of appetite, which could lead to sudden weight loss and increased vulnerability to diseases due to the weakening of the body’s immune system. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, those who have been diagnosed with, or are currently suffering from, depression are also four times more likely to develop cardiac problems than those who haven’t suffered from it.

Treatment for this condition varies and is heavily dependent on the unique circumstances that led to it. The most common way of addressing it is through the intake of antidepressants. This is meant to alter the body’s biochemical makeup and curb chemically driven emotions, as well as hormone-dependent mood swings. Other treatments include regular counseling sessions with a psychotherapist in order to thresh out the patient’s unresolved issues, significant lifestyle modifications, and in extreme cases, electroconvulsive therapy, which involves the use of electric shock.

When left unchecked, depression can be fatal. In a study by the National Society on Aging, two of three adult suicides in the US are caused by untreated depression.

Smoking

Despite the pervasiveness of anti-smoking campaigns across the globe, smoking remains one of the most widespread form of unhealthy, self-damaging activities affecting a broad segment of the general population. Part of what makes it difficult to rein in is the fact that cigarettes contain highly addictive content, such as nicotine. When absorbed by the body in smaller doses, as can be found in a cigarette stick, nicotine can bring about a stimulant effect. This effect is a major contributing factor to the development of smoking addiction, which is one of the hardest addictions to combat as per the American Cancer Society.

SmokingSmoking as a recreational activity tends to be more widespread among members of the gay community. In fact, in a study conducted over a decade ago in the state of California, it was discovered that gay men are 50 percent likelier to pick up the habit than the other men, while gay women are 70 percent likelier to smoke than other women.

Young people who self-identify as gay are also 30-50 percent likelier to have tobacco addiction than the rest of their peers. This trend follows a similar pattern in alcohol and drug abuse where members of the LGBT community seem to be more predisposed than others to engage in any of these unhealthy habits. Experts believe that the emotional stress that comes with bullying, discrimination, and other homophobic behavior that gay people are often subjected to is one of the more compelling reasons why this happens.

As with any other form of addiction, those who are addicted to smoking tend to underplay the health risks that they constantly expose themselves to. According to the Office on Smoking and Health of the National Center for the Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, a single stick of cigarette contains more than 7,000 chemicals, of which 70 are carcinogenic, or can cause cancer. Among the toxic chemicals found in cigarettes are Chromium, Benzene, Hydrogen cyanide, the highly radioactive Polonium 210, Tar, Methanol, and the embalming solution Formaldehyde.

It’s not surprising, therefore, that smoking as an activity causes an expansive range of what are otherwise preventable diseases. Multiple studies have found the link between smoking and cardiovascular ailments, such as strokes and heart attacks. It also causes pulmonary problems, such as bronchitis, emphysema, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. And because cigarettes contain carcinogenic substances, smoking has a direct effect on the development of certain forms of cancer, such as those affecting the lungs, pancreas, and the larynx.