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In wake of national anthem protests, school honors police, first responders in pregame ceremony

Nearly every day, there are headlines about high schoolers, college students, singers and professional athletes taking a knee or sitting out during a pregame performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner.”

<script>(function(d, s, id) {</span><br /><span>  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];</span><br /><span>  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;</span><br /><span>  js = d.createElement(s); = id;</span><br /><span>  js.src = "//;version=v2.8";</span><br /><span>  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);</span><br /><span>}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script> Middletown police celebrationPosted by The Asbury Park Press on Friday, October 21, 2016

>> Watch the video here

These protests have come after Colin Kaepernick, of the San Francisco 49ers, refused to stand during the national anthem for this year’s NFL games. Kaepernick, and those who have followed in his footsteps, wish to open a dialogue about racism in the United States, specifically the number of high-profile police shootings of African-Americans.

On Friday night in Middletown, New Jersey, students, teachers, parents and residents came together to turn the pregame ceremony into something a little different before a football game between Middletown High School South and rival Toms River North.

The pregame ceremony included a mammoth tribute to police officers, firefighters, military and other first responders. 

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news

“There’s too much violence going on,” Carmine Babino told the Asbury Park Press.

“I didn’t grow up in that, and I don’t want them to grow up in that,” he said of his children.

Hundreds of local officers came together to march on the field. Linden police Officer Angel Padilla, who helped capture bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahimi, was given an award. Bagpipes played, people cheered and an American flag was unfurled on the field.

Despite the good tidings of the event, the American Civil Liberties Union believed that it set a frightening precedent.

“The statements made by the deputy police chief and the event’s ostentatious show of power send an ominous, frightening message: that, as an official stance, law enforcement will not tolerate expressions acknowledging our nation’s history of unequal treatment and systematic oppression,” Jasmine Crenshaw, ACLU-NJ organizer, said.

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Prior to the game, Middletown Deputy Police Chief Steve Dollinger had condemned those who protest the national anthem.

“It’s OK to stand up for social justice, inequality and reform,” Dollinger said, according to the Asbury Park Press.

“It’s another thing to not stand up for the national anthem.”

5 Ways to Prevent Food from Going to Waste

Food spoils--and quickly! When thinking about your own kitchen, you may not view the food you toss or the leftovers you never eat as money down the drain, but food waste has a major impact on your bank account and the environment. The Natural Resources Defense Council reports that "American families throw out approximately 25 percent of the food and beverages they buy. The cost estimate for the average family of four is $1,365 to $2,275 annually." Fortunately, you can start at home and do your part to help curb food waste. You’ll be thinking green and stretching your dollars further at the same time. Some simple changes can have big effects! Here are a few ideas to get you started. Create a plan—and stick to it! Meal planning is a critical step to help you spend less and waste less. When you know what you're going to eat today, tomorrow and this coming weekend, you will only purchase the foods you need at the store, preventing you from buying foods on a whim only to have them spoil before you eat them. Creating the plan isn't enough—you must stick to it if it's going to work. Setting your sights for making chili next weekend is great, but when you lose track of time during the week and let the veggies wilt, you are throwing away more than spoiled food; you're wasting your money, too. Stay on top of your planned meal schedule by keeping a calendar on the fridge to remember what’s on the menu each day. When planning, account for all the foods you have to buy and creatively use them throughout the week. Use that eight-pack of whole-wheat hamburger buns for a cookout one night and tuna sandwiches for lunch the next day, for example. Scrape your scraps. Look for new ways to use food scraps. Instead of throwing away half an onion or extra bits of carrot, store extras in a container in the freezer. Once you’ve saved enough, boil them in water to make your own homemade vegetable broth that you can use when cooking rice and soup. (You can also compost your food scraps.) Don't like the heels of a loaf of bread? Chop them up and bake your own croutons, or dry them to use as breadcrumbs. (Your heart will thank you, too! Most store-bought breadcrumbs still contain trans fat.) Leftover bits of chicken, fish, shrimp, or tofu can be used in a soups or salads the next day. If you have a dog, you may be able to treat her to certain scraps from fruits, vegetables, and meats as a treat, but check with your vet first. Plan to preserve. Consider preserving your own food if you don't have time to eat it before it goes bad. Pickling, canning, drying (dehydrating) and freezing are all ways to extend the shelf life of many fresh fruits, vegetables and meats. We often only think of cucumbers when it comes to pickling, but in reality, almost any vegetable can be pickled. Canning your own fruits, vegetables, sauces and soups can be a fun family event, and it can make farm-fresh foods available all winter. Raisins are dried grapes, but have you ever considered drying mango, pineapple or apple slices? This can be done in a food dehydrator or on a low setting in your oven. However you do it, drying fruit is a great way to make your own grab-and-go snacks and to prevent fruit from going bad. The freezer is often underutilized. Bread, scrambled egg mix, leftover coffee, tea, and broths can all be frozen for later use. Your homemade soup, cooked rice and other dinner entrees can also be frozen if you don't have a chance to eat the leftovers in time. Try using an ice cube try to store single serving pieces of purees, sauces and beverages. Freeze leftover coffee for an iced coffee drink, or a cube of frozen veggie broth to whip up some gravy later in the week. Make smoothies down the road by freezing mashed or chopped fruit. Almost anything can be frozen except for canned foods in the can (although they can usually be removed and frozen) and eggs in the shell. The USDA’s Freezing and Food Safety information sheet offers tips on freezing food and thawing it successfully. Keep your eyes on the size. Serving up the correct portion size can help stretch you food dollars and eliminate waste created from uneaten portions—not to mention cut calories for weight management! You should be getting two servings from each boneless, skinless chicken breast. If you’re cooking for one or two, cut your meat into the correct portion sizes and freeze the rest that you won’t eat right away. Stick to these proper portions to feed more people per dollar and cut down on what you may be scraping off the plate! Compost. Throwing away (or composting) food should be your last resort if you can't eat it or preserve it first. When food lands in a landfill, it's out of sight, out of mind. So what's the big deal? Well, food and lawn waste makes up 25% of all waste in landfills, which are so densely packed that oxygen isn't readily available. When oxygen is lacking during the decomposition process, the food emits methane gas, which is 20 times more toxic than carbon dioxide. All this methane is bad for the environment, and the inhospitable conditions of landfills make it difficult if not impossible for natural materials like food to break down properly. Each ton of organic matter we can divert from a landfill can save 1/3 of a ton of greenhouse gases from being emitted into the environment. Plus, composting can provide you with your very own "black gold" for free, allowing you to condition and enrich your soil, saving money and turning your food into nutritious fertilizer that will nourish future plants. If you can’t think of a way to utilize extra foods and food scraps, composting is a better alternative than the trash. Think of it as a way to save the nutrients you’ve paid for by transferring them into new foods as you garden! Many foods can be composted, and it's a lot easier and sanitary than you might think. Check out SparkPeople's Composting Guide for Beginners to get started. Overall, reducing food waste requires you to become more aware of what you’re tossing and come up with creative ways to utilize the scraps—or prevent them entirely. Becoming a leftover king or queen, being a savvy shopper, and serving up proper sizes will all help you become a more efficient user of food, saving you money and helping preserve our natural resources. Selected Sources: Garden Compost from Freezing and Food Safety from Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill from the NRDC Article Source:

The 8 Best Fast Food Breakfasts

You know that breakfast is important, but when you're in a pinch in the morning, sometimes fast food is the quickest option. It's no secret that fast food isn't the healthiest or most nutritious option, but when it's the only option, whether you're traveling or running late for work, it helps to know how to make the best choices. Some menu items are definitely better than others. There are countless grab-n-go restaurants, each offering a different menu from the next, and with a little searching, you can find one option at each location that's lower in fat, sodium and calories than the others. Many fast food breakfasts can provide enough fat to last you all day, enough saturated fat for three days and sodium in levels that will make your blood pressure spike just looking at them. So how do you make the right choice? Do your research before you're in a pickle so that you know what to order for your quickie meal. Nearly every fast food restaurant lists nutrition information on its website, and SparkPeople's nutrition experts have done the research for you, listing the best options (or lesser evils) for each restaurant in our Dining Out Guide. And here, we’ve put together a "best of breakfast" list to guide you through your morning. And with the heftiest breakfasts out there racking up around 1,000 calories, placing a smart order can help keep you continue achieving your goals even when you’re pressed for time. When you’re ordering, look for keywords that will tip you off to selections that are higher in fat and calories. High-fat meats like sausage, bacon and steak are sure to add grams of fat (and saturated fat) to your breakfast. A bit of cheese on an egg can fit into a great calorie level for a meal, but extra cheddar topped on a breakfast sandwich or burrito can send it over the edge. Some restaurants add sauces to their meals that can amp up the calorie level, so stipulate no sauce or sauce on the side, if possible. Any menu choice with a biscuit will usually be higher in the calorie and fat department than English muffins or toast. One thing you won’t find when you’re looking at the drive-thru menu is the presence (or amount) of trans fats in each food. Many restaurants have eliminated trans fats from certain menu items, a smart move because trans fat is now known to be the most unhealthful fat you can consume. It's so bad, that experts are saying we shouldn't eat any, yet some restaurant foods contain up to seven grams of trans fat. This is information you’ll need to seek out before you place your order. Trans fat should be avoided whenever possible. If the nutrition facts on a restaurant website don't list trans fat, be wary. Below, we’ve done a bit of research for you by picking one breakfast item from each of eight popular fast food restaurants. None of these breakfast choices are ideal in terms of nutrition or health promotion, but if you’re going to choose fast food, these items have the fewest grams of fat, trans fat and calories at their respective locations. Note that the sodium levels are still quite high, as they are in most fast food options, so select lower sodium foods throughout the rest of the day to balance out your total sodium intake. Restaurant & Menu Item Calories Total fat Saturated Fat Trans fat Sodium Arby's Egg & Cheese Sourdough 392 12 g 3 g 0 g 1,058 mg Burger King Ham Omelet Sandwich 330 14 g 5 g 0 g 1,130 mg Carl's Jr. Sourdough Breakfast Sandwich 460 21 g 9 g Unknown 1,050 mg Chick-Fil-A Chicken Burrito 410 16 g 7 g 0 g 940 mg Hardee's Frisco Breakfast Sandwich 420 20 g 7 g Unknown 1,340 mg Jack In The Box Breakfast Jack 290 12 g 4.5 g 0 g 760 mg McDonald's Egg McMuffin 300 12 g 5 g 0 g 820 mg Subway Cheese Sandwich 400 17 g 7 g 0 g 940 mg None of these items should be part of your diet on a regular basis, but as the occasional treat or breakfast on-the-run, you can make them fit into an otherwise balanced and healthy diet. For more healthy and quick breakfast ideas that you can grab from your own kitchen, check out these speedy morning meal ideas. And remember that with a little planning, breakfast can be quick, easy, and healthy. This article has been reviewed and approved by Becky Hand, Licensed and Registered Dietitian.Article Source:

Your Good-Better-Best Guide to the Grocery

One of the best things about supermarkets can also be the most confusing: all the choices! When walking from aisle to aisle, it can be overwhelming to look at all the products in each section. Just think of all the choices when you’re looking at the entire wall of cereal or a large cooler packed with tiny yogurt cups! Trying to find the best item—especially when you're trying to eat healthier or watch your intake of calories, fat or sodium—is not always a walk in the park. Within each section of the grocery store, you'll find plenty of healthful foods that can help you reach your goals. But sometimes you have to make a food choice based on budget constraints, availability or taste preferences that isn't ideal. Not to worry. This "Good, Better, Best" guide will help you make the best possible choices on your next trip to the store. If you're new to eating healthy, start at the bottom and work your way up to the top of the lists over time. Even if all you can afford is in the "good" category, you're still doing pretty well. If you prefer the taste and texture of the "better" item to the "best" choice, that's OK, too. Or maybe you're facing a hotel breakfast buffet or trying to find something healthy to eat at a party and all you'll find is the "good" choice. No matter what your situation, you'll still be able to make the best possible choices by using this simple guide. MILK Good Better Best 2% milk 1% milk Skim milk It has 3 fewer grams of fat than whole milk, yet still offers calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, and protein for your body. It's a useful stepping-stone as whole- and vitamin D-milk drinkers make the healthy transition to low-fat dairy. With a mere 2 grams of fat per cup, it slashes the fat found in 2% milk by more than half. This lower-fat version of milk still has 30% of the daily dose of calcium, as well as vitamin D. It's fat-free, yet provides about the same amount of calcium and protein as higher-fat options. This is the best choice, especially for heavy milk drinkers. Skim milk may take some getting used to because it’s thinner, but it has lower amount of saturated fat and your heart will love that. YOGURT Good Better Best Low-fat Low-fat + fortified Plain nonfat Greek Low-fat yogurt is made with skim or low-fat milk, which cuts calories and fat but still provides calcium and protein. Beware of added sugar (plain yogurt, flavored with fruit or topped with whole-grain cereal is your best bet). A great up-and-coming trend in the yogurt aisle is supplementing yogurts with vitamin D. There aren’t many food sources of vitamin D, which helps in immunity and cancer prevention, so this is a great way to get an extra dose. This plain, thick, smooth yogurt has 21 fewer grams of sugar and 60 fewer calories than it's fat-free, flavored counterparts but still leaves in a great amount of protein, calcium and vitamin D. Get our expert recommendations for the best yogurts. BREAD Good Better Best Whole grain 100% whole wheat Light 100% whole wheat Bread "made with whole grains" usually contains a mix of refined flour and whole grain flour. It has a lighter texture and taste than whole wheat, making it a good choice for people who are transitioning from white bread to 100% whole-wheat bread. While it's lower in fiber, it is usually enriched with vitamins and minerals. Bread made with 100% whole wheat doesn't contain any refined or enriched flour. It's less processed and higher in fiber than white bread and whole-grain breads. Make sure "whole wheat flour" is the first ingredient on the label or else it's an imposter! This combines 100% whole wheat with calorie control. Some of the whole-wheat varieties can pack up to 100 calories per slice. Light whole-wheat bread can help you cut up to 130 calories from your sandwich if you're watching your weight. Here's how to pick the best bread. CEREAL Good Better Best Cereal without marshmallows, bright colors or clusters Whole-grain cereal Whole-grain cereal that's low in sugar If you're going to eat cereal, avoid those made like desserts (with marshmallows, clusters, chocolate flavors and bright colors). Cereals that meet these criteria are enriched with vitamins and minerals (better than nothing), but they are highly processed, full of sugar--sometimes up to two tablespoons per serving--and seriously lacking in fiber. A cereal made with whole grains is a better choice, but don't believe anything you read on the front of the box. Look for whole grains to be the #1 ingredient on the nutrition label and make sure there is at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. Kashi Cinnamon Harvest and Kashi Autumn Wheat are good options that contain 6 grams of fiber per serving. The best cereal is made from whole grains and very little sugar (5 or fewer grams per serving). Grape Nuts and Total are good examples. If you’re used to cereal with more sweetness, add fresh berries or sliced fruit to help you get your 5-a-day. Get SparkPeople's top cereal picks here. PASTA Good Better Best Durum wheat pasta Whole-wheat pasta Omega-3 enriched whole-wheat pasta Standard spaghetti noodles, made from durum wheat, aren't inherently unhealthy. They're slightly less processed than semolina pasta and contain some protein and plenty of carbohydrates for energy. But durum wheat flour is refined and stripped of important nutrients like fiber. Whole-wheat noodles contain more fiber and protein per serving, while providing energy-giving carbohydrates. Load them up with vegetables and low-fat tomato sauce for a nutritious meal. Get more nutrition per bite with whole-wheat noodles that are enriched with omega-3’s. Commonplace in most supermarkets, they provide all of the goodness of whole-wheat pasta with an added dose of heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. DELI MEAT Good Better Best Chicken or turkey slices Low-sodium lean meats Whole cuts of meat (preferably homemade) Buying lean deli meat cuts like chicken or turkey is better than bologna, salami and processed meats, which are higher in fat and sodium and contain nitrates, which are believed to be carcinogenic. Low-sodium lean meats are better choices for your sandwiches. Look for a low-sodium version of your favorite lean lunch meat (such as turkey or chicken). Purchasing your own skinless chicken or turkey breast to grill or bake, then slice is the best way to go. It's lower in salt, less expensive, and won't contain any of the additives of processed or packaged meat slices--and you can cook it yourself to reduce the fat and calories, depending on your method. With all the options in the grocery store, it’s easy to find items to feel good about buying. But remember: Healthy eating isn't about perfection. All foods do have some merits and even if you can't eat ideally all the time, that's OK. By striving to make the best choices from what is available to you, you'll make a real difference in your health! This article has been reviewed and approved by SparkPeople resident expert Becky Hand, Licensed and Registered Dietitian.Article Source:

4 Good Reasons to Buy Local Food

If you’re buying California-grown organic strawberries because you know organic food is better for the environment, then you might want to reconsider your purchase—or at least your motivations. While choosing organic over "conventional" does reduce the pesticide burden on the ecosystem, shipping organic food thousands of miles across the country creates an even greater environmental woe—fossil fuel consumption. Says Barbara Kingsolver, author of the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, transporting fruit from California to New York, for example, is about "as efficient as driving from Philadelphia to Annapolis and back in order to walk three miles on a treadmill in a Maryland gym." In a 2005 issue of the journal Food Policy, researchers stated that although organic farming is valuable, the fact that organic food often travels thousands of miles to get to our supermarkets creates environmental damage that outweighs the benefit of buying organic. Before the advent of the highway, most food was grown or raised on family farms, packaged or processed nearby, and sold in local retail outlets. Today, this has become the exception to the rule, as the average North American meal logs more than 1,500 miles from farm to table. Although this shift results in an exceptional selection at the grocery store, it causes a host of other problems. Taste, quality, freshness, and nutritional value all decrease, and the environmental burden balloons. So what’s the alternative? Buy local. Buying food that a nearby farmer has grown or raised uses far less fossil fuels, and the benefits don’t stop there. Locally grown food is also better for:

  • Your taste buds: Traditionally, farmers selected breeds of crops for their flavor and growing abilities, and let them ripen until ready to eat. Now, more often than not, breeds are selected for their ability to withstand the rigors of cold storage and cross-country transport and are plucked from the vine far before their time. This results in tomatoes whose flavor only slightly resembles tomatoes and strawberries that are strawberries in name only. Buying local will yield food so fresh and ripe that your taste buds won’t know what hit them.
  • Your health: The moment an item of produce parts from its mother plant, its nutritional value begins to decline. Produce at the supermarket has likely been in transit or sitting in the display case for days or weeks. Local produce was probably picked in the last 24 hours and is still in its nutrient prime.
  • Farmers: According to Stewart Smith from the University of Maine, in the year 1900, 40 cents of every dollar a consumer spent on food went to the farmer. Today, only 7 cents goes into the pockets of food growers. The remainder is spent on storage, packaging, marketing, and shipping. Farmers are struggling more than ever as a result. Buying directly from local farmers can help reverse this trend.
  • Your local economy: In his book Eat Here, Reclaiming Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket, Brian Halweil states that, in comparison to imported produce, "a dollar spent locally generates twice as much income for the local economy." All that extra money circulating in your neck of the woods translates into better schools, safer streets, and nicer parks perfect for picnics with all the healthful foods you purchased locally.
Buying local also means buying what’s in season in your area and not buying what isn’t. Thanks to modern supermarkets, we’re so accustomed to having what we want when we want it (watermelon in April, asparagus in September and tomatoes in the dead of winter) that eating any other way sounds like deprivation. Yes, getting used to tomato-less winters can be a challenge. You'll soon realize that tomatoes taste better when you’ve waited for them, not only because they’re at their season’s best, but also because you’ve waited. Kingsolver says, "It’s tempting to reach for melons, red peppers, tomatoes, and other late-summer delights before the summer even arrives. But it’s actually possible to wait, celebrating each season when it comes, not fretting about it being absent at all other times because something else good is at hand." The variety of a local, seasonal menu is a boon to your health, too. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) recommends choosing a variety of foods, to cover all of your nutritional bases. Eating local fits the bill. There is no strict definition for mileage of local food, but generally anything grown within a 50- to 100-mile radius is considered local, and obviously, the closer the better. The best source for it is your local farmers market. You’ll find veggies, fruits, meats, and cheeses, and you’ll get to buy them from the hands that picked, dug, fed, or cultured them. Depending on what you’re buying, the price may be higher or lower than you’ll pay in a supermarket, but it will always be fresher and tastier. To find a farmer’s market near you, check out Another option is to join a buying club. Farmers deliver many orders to one person’s home (or another centralized location), and the rest of the club members pick up from there. To find a buying club in your area, visit, select your state, and look for the "Beyond the Farm" link at the top of the page. It will take you to a directory of buying clubs that exist in your state. Local food isn't just another passing trend. While it might be difficult or impossible to buy all of your food locally, any amount of local food you can find and purchase will still benefit the health of your community, the planet, and your own body, too.Article Source:

What It's Really Like to Live With the STD Everyone Jokes About

Five months into my relationship with my then-boyfriend, I found a single blister-like sore above the entrance to my vagina. It hurt so badly and was unlike anything I had seen on my body before, so I made an appointment with my doctor for the following day. “The swab came back positive for genital herpes, type 1," my doctor told me. I couldn't breathe. I started crying. My brain was unable to process what had just happened. “How!?” I asked through sobs. I knew nothing about herpes—just that it was incurable. I did everything right when it came to sex. I routinely got tested for STIs. I made my partners use condoms. I had open and—as far as I knew—honest conversations with them about sexual health. Which made me even more confused about my diagnosis. But then my doctor told me that a standard STI panel doesn't include a herpes test. Many doctors don’t like to test for it unless you have a visible sore they can swab. (Editor's note: Testing is often not recommended due to potential false positives. Read more about herpes here.) I knew you could contract herpes from unprotected sex, but I didn’t know you could contract it even if a condom is used. I also learned that there are two types. HSV-1 is typically referred to as oral herpes (or cold sores), whereas HSV-2 is called genital herpes because it occurs on the genitals. But there's a catch: You can contract HSV-1 genitally by receiving oral sex from someone with oral herpes like I did or, more rarely, from unprotected vaginal sex. My doctor wrote me a prescription for Valtrex. You’ve seen the commercials: a woman talking about how great her life is now that she’s taking an antiviral medication, couples frolicking while cheesy music plays. I didn't feel like frolicking the first time I took Valtrex. It made me so tired I could barely keep my eyes open. The diagnosis left me feeling dirty, ashamed, and undesirable. I felt like a terrible girlfriend. The diagnosis left me feeling dirty, ashamed, and undesirable. I felt like a terrible girlfriend. I was sure it was somehow my fault. I told my boyfriend in the worst way possible. I went to the local grocery store where he worked. Red-faced and bleary-eyed, I approached him while he was putting out fresh produce. His smile quickly shifted. “I have a break in 10. Go to my place and I’ll meet you there,” he said. Sitting in his apartment, I wondered: “Is this it? Is this how our relationship dies? Will he think I cheated on him?” When he got home, I started crying again. I told him what had happened. “I have herpes. And I don’t know how.” “It’s okay. We’ll be okay.” "Do you have herpes? Have you been with anyone who has?" "No. I don’t have it, and I’ve never been with anyone who has—as far as I know." Finding out I had herpes heightened my insecurities as a partner and sexual being. I was so consumed with guilt and shame that I gave my boyfriend a sleepy blow job while I was still recovering from my first outbreak. I wanted to make sure he still desired me. Once we could have sex again, he used condoms a couple of times—but then went back to no condoms. I had an IUD, and he wasn’t worried about herpes. I thought this was a good sign. I thought everything was returning to normal. A month after being diagnosed, he broke up with me. He said he no longer had the time to be in a relationship. Two months after that, I found out he had been cheating on me and had given me herpes. I now had two reminders of my ex: a broken heart and an incurable virus. With each outbreak, I would imagine my ex saying, “You’ll never get rid of me.” After reading everything I could on herpes and seeing how many people actually have it, I began to feel better about myself. At the most, it’s a skin irritation that occurs infrequently. It wasn’t going to define me. Arming myself with facts increased my confidence. I didn’t feel ashamed anymore. I didn’t feel dirty. Even my doctor said the worst thing about herpes is the stigma, not the virus. Healing is nonlinear. You’ll have good days, and you’ll have bad days—but you’re still healing. You’re still surviving. I survived. I started dating again. I realized I was still worthy of love. I was still worthy of good sex. And if someone didn’t want to hang out with me or have sex with me because of herpes, they were not someone I wanted. I expected dates to flinch, gawk, or ask me to leave, but in the two years I’ve had herpes, that's never happened. Instead I’m met with sympathy, curiosity, nonchalance, and, every so often, "Me too." Just like flexing a muscle, speaking about herpes made me feel stronger the more I did it. Contracting herpes—or any STI—is not the end of the world. You will date again. You will have sex again. Contracting herpes—or any STI—is not the end of the world. You will date again. You will have sex again. The virus may change you, but you’ll become even more aware of your body and its inner workings. You’ll be more committed to discussing sexual health with friends and partners. A diagnosis like this can make you question whether to love or hate yourself. I chose love. Because I’m all I’ve got. The number of people infected with three major STDs is at an all-time high (yikes!). We're tackling common misconceptions about STIs and STDs to help #ShattertheSTIgma. Because getting tested should be NBD.

The STD You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

The Basics Trichomoniasis (trich) is a common STI caused by a tiny parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. An estimated 3.7 million people are infected, but because only about 30 percent show symptoms, most people don't know they have it until they get a positive test result. How You Get It The parasite gets passed during unprotected vaginal sex (can be from penis to vagina, vagina to penis, or vagina to vagina). Trich usually doesn't affect other areas, like the mouth or anus, which means this is one STD that is relatively uncommon for gay and bisexual men. What’s It Like? Here’s where the not-fun part comes in: When trichomoniasis does cause symptoms, they're not exactly pleasant. Men may feel itching or irritation inside the penis, whereas women can experience a gross-smelling vaginal discharge, itching, and burning during urination. Painful sex can also happen for both genders. And pro tip: Anytime you're having painful sex, it's a good idea to stop immediately. Most people don't know they've got it until they get a positive test result. How Serious Is It? "It depends on what your definition of serious is," says Yesmean Wahdan, M.D., the associate medical director at Bayer Women's Healthcare. "If 'less serious' means a disease that can be easily cured, trich falls into that category." On the other hand, the inflammation that trichomoniasis causes can make it significantly easier to contract a more serious disease like HIV. 0 And, as with several STDs, things get more complicated if you're infected and pregnant: Trich is associated with preterm births and other negative pregnancy outcomes. What Can I Do? As with many other STDs, you can prevent this one by wearing a condom. The treatment for trich is easy. It's usually one megadose of antibiotics—metronidazole, tinidazole, or nitroimidazole. FYI: If you are treated with any of these antibiotics, do not drink alcohol. Side effects include extreme nausea and abdominal discomfort. We'll just leave it at that. “With trichomonas, get treatment and change your behavior while being treated—either with abstinence or condom use," says Yvonne Bohn, M.D., a gynocologist in Santa Monica. And remember that getting it once doesn't make you immune. Also, trich is not included in your usual STI screening panel (it often just includes chlamydia and gonorrhea). So unless you have symptoms that your doc thinks are in line with trich or you specifically request the test, it won't be included. The number of people infected with three major STDs is at an all-time high (yikes!). We're tackling common misconceptions about STIs and STDs to help #ShattertheSTIgma. Because getting tested should be NBD. Works Cited Infection with Trichomonas vaginalis increases the risk of HIV-1 acquisition. McClelland RS, Sangare L, Hassan WM. The Journal of infectious diseases, 2007, undefined.;195(5):0022-1899.

The 3 STDs You Probably Won’t Get Anymore (Thanks, Science!)

If you grew up in the 80s or 90s, you probably remember hearing a lot about genital warts, pubic lice, and hepatitis B. All three are sexually transmitted diseases, but thankfully, they're not as threatening as they once were. Full disclaimer: This is not a green light to have unprotected sex. These do still exist, and there's a host of other STDs out there that you need to protect yourself against (see: gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis). Genital Warts Roughly 90 percent of genital warts are caused by HPV. "HPV is a virus that can cause two things: genital warts and abnormal Pap smears," says Gil Weiss, M.D., an assistant professor of clinical medicine at Northwestern Medical. Roughly 90 percent of genital warts are caused by HPV. Some good news! Though unsightly, genital warts aren't cancerous. And we're seeing a lot less of them thanks to the HPV vaccine Gardasil, which was first introduced in 2006. The vaccine targets the types of HPV that cause cancer and genital warts. Read more about HPV here. Pubic Lice "I’ve seen maybe two cases of pubic lice in about 10 years," Weiss says. "I think it's just not as common as it used to be." Pubic lice, a.k.a. crabs, are actual lice that attach to hair in the pubic area (yep, just like head lice, but in a more unfortunate spot). In a 2009 study of U.S. college students, only 35 out of 817 students had an experience with pubic lice (that means 782 did not). It's still considered a common STD throughout much of the world (some estimate that anywhere between 2 and 10 percent of the global population has it), but records on the parasite in the U.S. are incomplete, making it tough to track. Even if you are unlucky enough to get it, it's easy to treat and usually doesn't cause any permanent damage. Hepatitis B Hep B is a liver infection that's transmitted via blood, semen, and other bodily fluids. It can be passed sexually and, if not treated, can lead to serious health problems like cirrhosis or liver cancer. But since 1991, there's been a major effort to eliminate hep B in the U.S. through the hepatitis vaccine. And it's working: In 2014, a mere 2,953 cases were reported to the CDC (compare that to the 1.5 million cases of chlamydia reported in 2015). Chances are, you got this vaccine as a kid. But even if you didn't, there's probably still time to get it now. The number of people infected with three major STDs is at an all-time high (yikes!). We're tackling common misconceptions about STIs and STDs to help #ShattertheSTIgma. Because getting tested should be NBD.

Chlamydia Rates Are at an All-Time High, but You Really Shouldn’t Worry

The Basics Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that's sexually transmitted (similar to gonorrhea or syphilis). It's also one of the most common STIs—and it's showing no signs of slowing down. Reported cases in the U.S. just reached an all-time high: 1.5 million in 2015. "Chlamydia is the one I see most," says Gil Weiss, M.D., an assistant professor of clinical medicine at Northwestern Medical. "It definitely reflects the national statistic." How You Get It You can get chlamydia from having unprotected sex (vaginal, anal, or oral) with someone who's infected. What's It Like? The good news: Chlamydia often doesn’t have any painful symptoms. The bad news: For most people, there are no symptoms at all, and you can still pass it on even if you’re asymptomatic. The good news: Chlamydia often doesn’t have any painful symptoms. "Asymptomatic women with an unsuspected case of chlamydia [can be] traumatized—especially when they come in for routine STI screening and I need to call them with the bad news," says Sherry Ross, M.D., an OB/GYN and women's health expert. Weiss also said that at least half the chlamydia cases he sees come as a complete surprise to the patient, because they didn't have any symptoms. That said, some people do experience abdominal pain, painful urination, and a discharge from the penis or vagina (ew, we know). How Serious Is It? Like many other STIs, chlamydia is easy to treat. However it can lead to more serious issues (inflammation of the urethra in men, pelvic inflammatory disease or infertility in women) if you don’t get it taken care of. Weiss also says that antibiotic-resistant strains of chlamydia are not as common as those of gonorrhea, which is comforting. What Can I Do? Practice safe sex and get tested. "Condoms are not consistently used with newly sexually active couples," Ross says. "So it doesn’t come as a complete surprise to me when chlamydia or gonorrhea are found on routine cultures and Pap smears." If you find out you have it, take your antibiotics as prescribed and you’ll be good in as little as a week. You will need to wait at least another seven days until you can have sex again—and make sure your partner gets treated too. Remember that just because you get it once doesn't mean you're immune. More good news: Scientists are working on a potential vaccine, but they’re at least four or five years away from testing it on humans. The number of people infected with three major STDs, including chlamydia, is at an all-time high (yikes!). We're tackling common misconceptions about STIs and STDs to help #ShattertheSTIgma. Because getting tested should be NBD.

Why You Shouldn’t Freak Out If You Get Herpes

The Basics Herpes is a super-common STD caused by the herpes simplex virus, of which there are two kinds: type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2). Though genital herpes is frequently caused by HSV-2 and oral herpes (think cold sores) is caused by HSV-1, researchers have noticed that HSV-1 can also lead to genital herpes. 0 Regardless, most people don’t know if they have either type, because symptoms are often mild or nonexistent. As a result, almost 90 percent of people who have herpes don’t know it. The CDC estimates that 776,000 people get new herpes infections every year. How You Get It “Herpes is very, very common,” says Raquel Dardik, M.D., an OB/GYN at NYU Langone Medical Center. You usually get HSV-1 from nonsexual contact when you're a kid, whereas HSV-2 typically gets transmitted during sexual contact with someone who has genital herpes. With HSV-2, it's also way easier for men to transfer the virus to women, as opposed to the other way around. Though getting diagnosed can cause anger or shame—or even make you question whether your partner has been cheating—remember most people who have herpes don’t know they do. “If someone has a herpes genital outbreak, you treat the disease, but the virus stays in the nerves in that area," Dardik says. "And you can shed the herpes without having an outbreak.” This is called asymptomatic shedding. In other words, your partner may have passed it to you, not knowing he or she had it in the first place. One more thing: "If you have cold sores [type 1] and get exposed to type 2, your reaction will be quite moderate," says Gil Weiss, M.D., an assistant professor of clinical medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. "If you already have one type of herpes, you may be immune to the other." What’s It Like? Nothing! Unless you’re having a herpes outbreak, you won’t see anything different in the mirror. If you do have an outbreak, it usually means a painful sore will appear on the genitals, rectum, or mouth. After about four days, the sore may break open and can take up to four weeks to heal. "If you go online [and Google herpes], you'll see very dramatic pictures," Weiss says. "But most people have very mild symptoms or don't know they have it." How Serious Is It? If by serious, you mean incurable, then yes, herpes is serious. But if serious means significantly impacting your day to day, then nope, herpes isn’t that serious. “My patients are often most upset about herpes,” Dardik says. “There seems to some real emotional stigma there. Even if your partner tests positive for the virus, it might be awkward up front but might not have any permanent impact on the relationship,” Dardik says. Even if your partner tests positive for the virus, it might not have any permanent impact on the relationship. Genital herpes does make it easier to contract and spread the HIV virus. And it can have more serious complications for pregnant women. So if you’re pregnant and have a history of genital herpes, you should talk to your doc. What Can I Do? Though herpes is pretty common, it’s not part of a routine STI panel. Doctors don’t like to test without symptoms because of the potential for false positives. If you do have symptoms, talk to your doctor about getting a herpes blood test (a type-specific HSV serologic test). Most doctors will prescribe acyclovir or valacyclovir (a.k.a Valtrex), daily antiviral medications that can reduce outbreaks and even help suppress genital herpes so it’s not passed as easily. Using condoms can also help reduce your chances of spreading or getting the herpes virus. But they're not 100 percent effective, since you can still transmit the virus even if you're not experiencing symptoms. And if you're having an outbreak, it's best to abstain from sex entirely. Researchers have been looking for a potential cure or vaccine for years. Most recently a company called Rational Vaccines completed a promising first phase of human clinical trials testing a vaccine called Theravax. But they’re not the only ones looking for a cure. In June 2016, another vaccine, simply dubbed GEN 003, completed its phase II trials with similar so-far-so-good results. A cure or vaccine would be huge for the one in six people who have genital herpes. Until then, we suggest sticking to open, honest convos with your partners. The number of people infected with three major STDs is at an all-time high (yikes!). We're tackling common misconceptions about STIs and STDs to help #ShattertheSTIgma. Because getting tested should be NBD. Works Cited Trends in herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2 seroprevalence in the United States. Xu F, Sternberg MR, Kottiri BJ. JAMA, 2006, Aug.;296(8):1538-3598.

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