We need to talk about the side of sex that isn't fun - STDs. I'm about to ask you two of the most important questions you'll be asked today. You ready?

  • Question 1: Do you use protection?
  • Question 2: When's the last time you got tested?

I can hear you groaning, you know. Don't think that just because there are miles of road and wires between us I don't know your mouse is hovering over that “X” in the corner. And I even know why. Talking about the medical side of sex is no fun.

Problem is, it's reality. Sexually transmitted infections exist, and a lot of people have one, have had one or know someone who's had one. In the state of New York, which had a population of 19.5 million people, 650 people out of every 100,000 had contracted HIV by 2009. And that's just the cases that were reported.

That doesn't seem like much, so let's take a look at how it relates to the Capital Region. For point of reference, in New York City, which had a population of 1.6 million in 2009, about 140 people per 100,000 tested positive for HIV. That's a bit over Saratoga (population 220,069), which reported 60 cases of HIV per 100,000, and on par with Albany (population 298,284), which is about 150 per 100,000. Schenectady (population 152,169) surpassed all of them with 207 reported cases of HIV per 100,000 residents.

Those numbers mean that despite the commonly held belief that life is more dangerous in the Big Apple, you're far more likely to catch something hooking up in the Capital Region. How messed up is that?

I'm not trying to scare you. All STDs are treatable, most are curable, and thanks to modern medicine, very few hamper your quality of life. And you don't even have to be rich or famous. In fact, a major patent lapsed this year, allowing for generic HIV meds to be produced, and greatly decreasing the cost of living a long and healthy life for HIV positive people. So really, not even HIV is the big, scary monster it used to be.

(Though please don't misunderstand. I'm not in any way diminishing what HIV and AIDS patients go through, or suggesting that they're all living comfortable, happy lives. I know that's not true.)

I'm not even trying to talk you into using condoms and dental dams. Though I firmly believe using protection is a matter of personal responsibility and self preservation, I also feel it's a matter of choice.

I am, however, trying to educate you, because I think everyone should want all the information available before making potentially life-altering decisions. And because education leads to prevention. Only you can prevent forest fires! Or STDs, as the case may be.

For as long as I can remember, there's been this stigma surrounding STDs. A lot of people wrongly believe that if they don't “sleep around,” they won't get sick, and people (especially women) who get STDs are dirty whores (not in the good way).

I don't get it. Sexually transmitted illnesses are just bacteria and viruses, like a cold, or the flu. The people who get them are not all dirty, untrustworthy, or “loose.” And none of them are tainted. Matter of fact, many of the people I've known who've contracted an STD were infected by a long term partner who got it from a previous relationship.

Plus? It's real simple. Don't want an STD? Get tested, ask your partners to get tested, and use protection. If you don't, even if the person you crawled into bed with is dirty, untrustworthy, and loose, you only have yourself to blame. And what does that say about you?