Although both sexes are diagnosed with STIs at about the same rate, the disease impacts males and females differently. There are a few categories that play an important role in determining these differences including anatomy, lack of symptoms, long-term health effects, and complications during pregnancy and delivery. Everyone should be aware of these differences in order to take preventative or treatment measures.

Disadvantages:

  1. A female’s physical anatomy can put her at higher risk for infection
  • The thin and delicate lining of the vagina makes it easier for viruses and bacteria to enter the body compared to the relatively tough skin of the penis
  • The warm, moist environment of the vagina is an ideal place for bacteria to grow
  1. STIs to be passed to babies during pregnancy or delivery
  • HIV, syphilis, and genital herpes can be passed either during pregnancy or delivery
  • If passed on, the STI can cause both physical and mental complications for the baby
  1. Females are less likely to show symptoms of an STI
  • This may occur in STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhea
  • Symptoms of syphilis include painless reddish-brown sores inside the vaginal canal where they cannot be seen or felt
  • If symptoms from infection do appear, they may go away even if the infection is still present
  1. STIs can affect future reproductive plans
  • If untreated, STIs can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease which can cause infertility
  1. Females may confuse symptoms of STIs for something else
  • Females may think that burning or itching is the result of a yeast infection rather than an STI
  1. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common STI
  • HPV can lead to cervical cancer in females
  • Although males experience fewer health complications from HPV, cancer can potentially develop in the penis, anus, or back of throat

 

 

What you can do:

  1. There is a vaccine to prevent HPV and other medication that can help keep symptoms under control
  • The HPV vaccine should be given to both males and females around the age of 11 or 12 and up to age 26
  • The vaccine is beneficial for young males who have sex with males, including young males who identify as gay or bisexual
  1. Females often visit their doctor more than males do
  • This is great and they should keep doing this! However it is equally as important for males to see a doctor and get tested. This is especially important during pregnancy.
  • Pap tests screen for cervical cancer, not STIs, which is something to keep in mind
  1. It is important for males to protect themselves and their partner from infection. They can do this by:
  • Wearing condoms each time they have sex (Sack’s Thrift Store, Cactus Records, Erotique, CHP and the Co-op by the high school are just a few places you can pick up free condoms in Bozeman)
  • Getting tested regularly
  • Being vaccinated against HPV

If you want to get tested or treated for an STI, you can do so at Community Health Partners (CHP), an OB/GYN, Student Health Services or come visit us at Bridgercare! We are your trusted source for sexual healthcare & education! Not only do we provide STI testing and treatment, but we also do wellness exams for men and women, birth control, free pregnancy testing, cancer screenings, and we offer LGBTQ+ services. Approximately 85% of our patients take advantage of our sliding fee scale (based on income) and there’s no need to wait weeks or months for an appointment – we can get you in next week!

By Lucy Erickson, Bridercare 2017 Fall Intern and Psychology Major at MSU

Sources:

http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/sexual-health/womens-health/women-and-stis/

https://www.cdc.gov/STI/health-disparities/STIs-women-042011.pdf