While education about the risks of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) has become more prevalent in schools, the past decade has still seen the rates of STIs increase in Australia and around the globe. It seems we are a globe filled with free loving, condom ignoring, sexy-folk.
STIs can lead to serious health complications when left un-diagnosed and untreated. Though these infections predominantly affect young people, the rate of infection in older age groups is also on the rise.
STIs aren’t picky. They don’t discriminate against age or ethnicity or socioeconomic circumstance. They don’t care if you’ve slept with one person or 100. The only way to protect yourself against them is to practice safer sex.
What is Safer Sex?
Safer sex is the term we use for taking precautions to prevent the spread of STIs, perhaps prevent pregnancy, and it can even encompass concepts such as consent and sexual negotiation.
We no longer use the term "safe sex" because quite frankly, there aren't any methods that are actually 100% safe - the use of barrier protection is simply minimising your risk.
I can’t stress this enough. Condoms are the only effective form of protection against STIs – though in the case of certain STIs like genital herpes, even condoms don’t offer full protection.
There is no excuse not to use a condom, and if your partner tries to convince you otherwise, ask yourself if they’re really worth it. Not be afraid to kick them out of bed if they protest about a lack of sensation or that their junk is just too big for them to wear a condom comfortably (because, yeah right). There are condoms specifically designed for larger penises.
They don’t have to be a mood-killer. You can incorporate putting a condom on your partner as part of your sex play. Or you can choose to use a female condom, which you can read all about in our review.
Use your condoms safely - check the expiry date, don't use them more than once (Yes that's actually a thing) and certainly don't use them if they're ripped, torn, or have holes in them.
Use ACTUAL condoms, cling wrap, rubber, or whatever else you think of wrapping around the penis in question is NOT an acceptable replacement.
Get Routine Checkups
Make STI checkups part of your regular health regime. Often all you’ll need to do is provide a urine sample or have a quick and painless swap taken for testing. You should be having regular cervical screenings, and STI checks are really no different.
If you have questions or concerns, talk to your doctor. If you’re not comfortable talking to your doctor about your sexual health, woman-up and get comfortable with it – helping you take care of your health is their job.
Have Open Communication
If you’re in a mutually monogamous sexual relationship, you may decide that unprotected sex is going to be an option you’re both comfortable with. Before engaging in unprotected sex for the first time, your partner and you should both be tested, to ensure you’re both in the clear before you throw away your rubbers (actually, just pop them in your bedside drawer for safekeeping).
It’s important to have honest and open communication about sex and your relationship when you’re having unprotected sex with a partner. That way, is something does happen and one of you has sex with someone outside of the relationship, you’ll be prepared to talk about it so you can make an informed decision about your sexual health.
A discussion about infidelity may be uncomfortable. It may even result in a breakup. But it’s worth it if that discussion protects you against STIs that may have been picked up in one encounter outside of the relationship.
If one of you has had sex with another partner, get retested to be on the safe side.
You can learn more about different common STIs and their symptoms via our recent post, Do Your Hot Bod a Favor and Get a Checkup.