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Sexual impulses are ruled by the most primitive, subconscious parts of our mind -- a fact that magnifies our shame and self-revulsion when a sexual dalliance leads to disease.

But what seems uniquely degrading punishment is just an ordinary day for Neisseria gonorrhea, a bacterium with the simple goal of traveling from one human sexual act to another through a perpetual string of infections -- a plan that has worked for millions of years, and shows no signs of yielding to the best efforts of modern medicine and social planning.

Stinging discomfort during urination a few days after sex might be a simple urinary tract infection in women. But a discharge from the penis or vagina and persistent urinary pain starting around five days after intimate contact should prompt a visit to your local health department. "The Clap" is more than an irritation -- untreated men can develop testicle infections, and GC in women can cause pelvic infections and permanent scarring to the fallopian tubes, increasing the risk of tubal pregnancy or infertility. A few pustules on your hands or body can signal that the germ has entered your blood, potentially seeding the knee, hip or elbow -- the most common cause of joint infections among women in their twenties. Inoculation of the eye or throat can cause serious illness or even blindness. All these complications can often be avoided by widely available and inexpensive antibiotics.

Don't let your tortured conscience stand in the way of seeking treatment, or a lifetime of complications could become a self-fulfilling punishment. Remember also the serious consequences of infecting others -- including your unsuspecting partner. The infection will likely be traced back to you -- an event that could prove to be even more dangerous to your heath!

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