PRACTICE SAFE SEX Don’t take a gamble

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sex

Let’s face it. Sex can kill. Your life is worth more than those few minutes of sexual gratification. Yes, sex is good and healthy but only if it enhances your life and not diminishes it, so only have it when you are 100 per cent sure you are safe. We give you guidelines to help you make sex safe for yourself.

We are, thankfully, past the point where HIV is an automatic death sentence, but it still is when you do not have access to information and drugs. Indeed, many people die each day in this country from HIV-related causes.

As the world marked World Aids Day in 2015 a new report was released by Unicef, which raised alarm over rising cases of HIV infections among Kenya’s adolescents. The Ministry of Health records show that about 10,000 teenagers died from Aids-related diseases in 2014. Whereas some of these may have acquired the virus at birth, the majority got infected because of having unprotected sex.

And worldwide, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are at an all time high, so there is no time to be careless with sex unless you want to gamble with your life. The threats are many. Gonorrhoea and syphilis are still with us, and the former is getting harder to eradicate because of resistant strains. Plus herpes, trichomoniasis, bacterial vaginosis, thrush, viral hepatitis, crabs and scabies are all on the cards of what you could catch through unsafe sex. HIV of course, the human papilloma (wart) virus, and chlamydia are always hovering around when you have unsafe sex. We now know that the wart virus triggers a majority of cases of cervical cancer, while chlamydia can cause infertility.

These and more reasons are why you should always practice safe sex, particularly if you often change partners or are not in a long-term faithful relationship. These guidelines will not only ensure you have safe sex, but that you can also enjoy it fully because you will have peace of mind. And that is what sex is all about – enjoyment – otherwise you should not be having it.

Whatever your age, gender, or sexual experience, you could be at risk of contracting any of the deadly sexually transmitted diseases. Since it became apparent that AIDS was not going to decimate the world with availability of anti-retroviral drugs and more awareness, there has been an arrogant conviction that protection is optional. This is wrong. Each day, over a million people worldwide catch an STD including AIDS.

Also wrong is the assumption that STDs are solely a problem of the sexually active (supposedly careless) young people and commercial sex workers. These two groups are, in fact, often more informed and careful than older lovers who may be convinced that they and their cohorts are safe, which often they are not. This group includes the freshly divorced or separated, the widowed and also married men and women who have indiscriminate sexual relationships outside their marriage.

You probably know the drill of condom use, but it does no harm to give you some reminders:

  • Store your condoms away from sunlight and don’t keep past the sell-by date.
  • Use a new one for every intercourse – never reuse a condom.
  • Check for rips and tears and don’t use if you notice any.
  • Have the condom in place from the start to the end of sexual contact.
  • If it splits, get emergency contraceptive and if not sure about your partner’s health status – antiretroviral drugs as a precaution.
  • Always remember the motto: “put it on before you put it in.”
  • Follow these steps to use a
  • condom correctly:
  • Carefully remove it from the foil packet and check if it is the right way round, ready to roll down.
  • Squeeze the end of the condom between forefinger and thumb and place it over the erect penis.
  • Use your other hand to unroll the condom gently down. Keep squeezing the end between forefinger and thumb.
  • Make sure the condom is rolled down the full length of the penis.

Risk comes from exchange of body fluids, so think about saliva, blood, urine, and faeces, as well as semen and vaginal fluids. While penetration is key, a scratch or bite that breaks the skin surface is also dangerous, as is oral sex. When practicing oral sex, many ignore the risk factors involved and go ahead and lick their lover without using a condom, ignoring the fact that infection can be passed orally. Women who engage in oral sex are particularly at risk.

The main safety net and reassurance that you are having safe sex is the use of a condom (male and female). One must take protection at all times whether it is intercourse, oral sex or using sex toys, especially if these are shared. While many claim that use of latex (as in condoms ) does not improve lovemaking, sometimes you simply have to do what’s needed – that’s if you value your life.

The condom test. . .

The condom test is a good way of knowing whether you have found a decent, sensible partner. If your newly found lover won’t use protection, then know you are in bed with a witless, irresponsible, and uncaring person. This is a person who does not care if you die the following day or you live the rest of your life in misery. He or she is not in love with you, but only with you for the thrill of the moment. Say goodbye and move on.

When your newly found love has become a long-standing and committed lover, the way forward is for both of you to get tested for STDs and HIV before having unprotected sex, and then to stay faithful. It may feel unromantic to suggest testing but remember it is only being realistic and caring. Even if your partner has had only one other partner and this person has had only one other partner, and so on and on, you are still potentially linked with a host of unproven and unknown infections. If you love each other, testing is the best way of demonstrating that love. If you don’t love each other, even less reason to take things on trust.

With sex toys used by non-long term partners, slip a condom over before use, and between uses, clean with antibacterial wipes or the sort of cleaning pads sold for the purpose by manufacturers. Check yourself regularly for anything unusual – itching, rashes, lumps, warts, discharge, fever, swollen glands, abdominal discomfort, and bleeding or pain during sex, urination, or defaecation.

Respond to symptoms by going for a check-up immediately. Sexual health clinic staff and doctors have seen it all before so there is nothing to be ashamed about. Most infections, if caught early, can be treated by antibiotics; the exceptions are herpes, some strains of hepatitis, and the HIV virus, which are for life. If you have contracted an STD, or have put yourself at risk of doing so, tell your current partner and seek clinical advice about whether you need to tell former ones.

Regular medical check-ups are a good idea even if you are both faithful; some STDs can lie dormant. Plus, of course, you can never be entirely certain of your partner’s fidelity. Temptations are always there and the weak sometimes succumb.

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Published in January 2015

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