Q: After I broke up with my last boyfriend, I found out I had chlamydia. So I got tested for everything, and once the chlamydia was treated, I got a clean bill of health. I just started seeing a new guy, and I want him to get tested for STDs. How do I ask? — Loretta B., Brooklyn, N.Y.
A: That's a great question. It shows you care about yourself and about those you're close to. We suggest you tell your new guy that you recently were tested for sexually transmitted diseases and are clean and healthy, AND that he needs to get tested if you're going to have a relationship. It's that simple. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 2012 saw the largest number of STD cases ever: 20 million new infections; a total of 110 million people currently infected.
Here's the latest info. Share it with him:
•There were 1.4 million cases of chlamydia — a bacterial infection that can trigger infertility in women, although complications are rare in men. Antibiotics can knock it out.
•776,000 new cases of genital herpes were reported. A vaccine is in clinical trials.
•Rates of syphilis rose 11 percent; there were 15,667 reported cases; gonorrhea is on the rise, too, with 334,826 cases. Both are generally treatable with antibiotics if caught early.
•HIV rates are pretty stable; around 50,000 new HIV infections are reported annually.
For your continued protection, use condoms, even if you're taking birth-control pills. Used consistently and correctly (that is the key), latex condoms effectively block transmission of HIV, gonorrhea and chlamydia. They may reduce the risk of picking up HPV (human papillomavirus), syphilis and genital herpes. And unless you're mutually monogamous, it's a good idea for you both to be tested every year.
Q: I heard there's an oxytocin nasal spray that can help my autistic nephew become more socially at ease. Is that true? And where can I get it? — Maria F., Harrisburg, Pa.
A: The nasal spray you are referring to is a synthetic form of the hormone oxytocin, the bonding hormone. Women have major oxytocin surges from sex and breastfeeding, and although men get a smaller dose from sex, research indicates that it makes them more inclined to monogamy.
A recent study did show that children with autism who were given a single dose had changes in their brain activity and behavior. However, researchers didn't find out if a single dose has lasting effects on social behavior or if more than one dose is safe. But a larger study called SOARS-B (Study of Oxytocin in Autism to Improve Reciprocal Social Behaviors) is under way. It may answer these questions. Until then, no one should be giving kids with autism this hormone. In fact, because every case of autism is highly individual, your nephew should be given medication and therapy only with proper medical supervision or through participation in a clinical trial.
What does improve outcomes is early intervention that tailors support and behavioral therapy to each autistic child's needs. Autism is a complex neurological disorder and can co-exist with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and cause difficulty integrating sight and sound, hyper nerve sensitivity and anxiety. Elements within this array of deficits may present themselves at different levels at different times during a person's life and can change depending on the environment. That's why these days we refer to autism as autism spectrum disorder, or ASD.
But we understand why you're interested in oxytocin: Treatment for ASD is only somewhat effective — there's no cure. A recent study found 40 percent of families with an autistic child use alternative therapies, and 4 percent of them were potentially unsafe, invasive or unproven, such as antifungal medications, chelation therapy and vitamin B-12 injections. So you'll help your sister and nephew most by avoiding false hopes for “cures” and working with them to keep early intervention therapy on track.