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by Abigail Van Buren

Honesty Is Alive and Well in State Full of Aloha Spirit

DEAR ABBY: About eight months ago, I started dating a man I'll call Wayne. He had been divorced for two years and told me I was the first woman he had dated since his divorce.

Soon after we started having sex, I had a gynecological exam that showed that I had chlamydia. When I told Wayne, he said he got it from his ex-wife. He also said the doctor told him chlamydia can remain dormant for years.

Wayne is 16 years older than I am. I love him, but I don't know what to think about this disease and our future together. Please help me. -- NO NAME

DEAR NO NAME: Chlamydia is treatable, so it should not prevent you from having a future with the man you love.

As I have written in my booklet, "What Every Teen Should Know," chlamydia, herpes and genital warts are the three most common sexually transmitted diseases. Chlamydia is the No. 1 sexually transmitted bacterial infection in the United States. It's conservatively estimated that 3 million to 4 million people get it every year.

Fifty percent of its victims experience no symptoms until months or years later, when they develop complications. The only way many learn they have chlamydia is from a partner who is sufficiently responsible and mature to inform them that they have been exposed and should be tested.

A male may notice a discharge or a burning and itching sensation when urinating.

The symptoms in women can be vaginal discharge, itching or unusual pain and/or low-grade fever. If you suspect you have chlamydia, be tested by a doctor. It is treatable, but the doctor's instructions must be followed to the letter. A follow-up examination is necessary to be certain that the cure is complete.

To prevent reinfection and complications, your partner(s) must be tested even if there are no symptoms.

Chlamydia can be avoided by abstinence or the use of a condom.