Safe sex practices significantly reduce the risk of catching sexually transmitted diseases. Anyone who is sexually active is potentially exposed to STIs, and the various infections are more prevalent and common than many people imagine. And, contrary to what many people think, STIs are not solely transmitted by penetrative sexual intercourse. Other sexual practices pass on STIs so it is important to know the safe sex practices so you can reduce your risk of picking up an STI.
Condoms have a dual function. As an anti-pregnancy device and protection against STIs passed on by penetration, using condoms is the most common of safe sex practices. Although they do not guarantee 100% protection against either pregnancy or STIs, they are extremely efficient. Used condoms should be thrown away immediately and another safety rule is that the same condom should not be used for both vaginal and anal sex. The most effective type of condom is latex (rather than lambskin) and also, effectiveness is increased with the use of lubricant; water-based ones are best.
2. More Condoms
Doctors advise that if you are using condoms for penetrative sex, you should also be using them on dildos and vibrators – particularly if you share sex toys with your partner. You should also regularly clean your sex toys – antiseptic cleaners are best.
3. Other Forms of Protection
Safe sex practices also go beyond penetrative sex. There are dental dams available that offer protection for oral-anal sex and oral-vaginal sex. The most draconic advisors say that condoms should also be used when performing oral sex on a man because infection can pass from penis to mouth. This advice also applies to fingers and hands in that latex gloves (like medical professionals wear) should be worn.
4. No Douching
Some women douche because it makes them feel cleaner, others do it because their partner expects it of them. However, douching can increase your risk of contracting an STI because it can remove some of the vagina’s natural bacteria which, while keeping the vagina healthy, also fights infection.
5. Limit the Number of Sexual Partners
The risk of exposing yourself to sexually transmitted infections increases with the number of people you have sex with. By having fewer partners, you lower the risk. Remember exponentially, the circle of sexual contacts multiplies and multiplies with the number of partners each individual contact has. It is essential to practise safe sex with all partners.
6. Be a Monogamist
If you practice monogamy – i.e. having just one sexual partner – you greatly reduce your risk of infection. This doesn’t stop either of you bringing an STI to the partnership, but if you are in a faithful, long-term relationship, you should be able to be open about your previous sexual history. If in any doubt, tests for both of you can be quickly and simply done. If you are happy you are disease free you can dispense with a condom for sex, but use birth control to avoid pregnancy.
You’re sharing your most intimate body parts with another person, so you should both be able to be honest with each other. You should inform any new partner of your STI status and expect them to be equally as honest with you. Both being aware of the risks means you can make a mutual decision about whether to engage in sex, and yes, still practice safe sex. Be very wary of anyone who doesn’t want to disclose their sexual health and don’t be swayed by emotional blackmail. You have the right to know even if he/she is telling you that if you love them, you should trust them.
By their very nature, you could have an STI and not know it. The symptoms of STIs may not show for weeks or even months after you are first infected. If you are sexually active, and particularly with multiple partners, your safe sex practices should include regular testing for STIs. Every 3-4 months is a good idea.
9. Be Cautious
Many unwanted pregnancies arise because of a rash decision to have unprotected sex thanks to the influence of alcohol or drugs. So, if you are having unprotected sex, you are as much at risk of catching a sexually transmitted disease as you are getting pregnant. You don’t want either! If you indulge in alcohol or drugs to the extent that your communication abilities and decision making is impaired, you need to be around friends who you can trust to save you from risky situations. (Or, avoid the over indulgence in the first place.)
10. Sexual Abstinence
The bottom line is there really is only one foolproof, 100% guaranteed way to avoid STIs and that is to not have sex. That’s a huge lifestyle decision and not one many of us are prepared to make.
If you practice these safe sex tips, you will greatly reduce your risks of being exposed to, or contracting STIs. Do you openly discuss this important issue with your partner or is it a subject you never address?