“Guys who don’t wear condoms should be forced to have sex with other guys who don’t wear condoms.”
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
Although safe sex is not a popular subject, any discussion of sex would be incomplete without addressing it.
Let’s start first with the bad news…
Abstinence is the only 100% effective way to avoid unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
If you don’t want to be celibate the rest of your life, other options must be considered.
The good news is…with just a little bit of planning and care, you can minimize the risk while still enjoying sex.
Safe sex advice should not be taken lightly or from irresponsible sources.
As a result, we have heavily referenced material from WebMD and the CDC for this article. This material may not be as reader friendly as our normal material, but invest the time to read it thoroughly.
Education and knowledge are your biggest allies in mitigating your risks of unwanted consequences from sex.
WebMD Safe Sex Overview
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are spread by sexual contact involving the genitals, mouth, or rectum, and can also be spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus before or during delivery.
STDs, which affect both men and women, are a worldwide public health concern.
Although most STDs can be cured, some cannot, including HIV (which causes AIDS), genital herpes, and human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause genital warts.
If you are in a relationship, delay having sex until you have both been tested for STDs.
Some STDs, such as HIV, can take up to 6 months before they can be detected in the blood.
Genital herpes and the human papillomavirus (HPV) can be spread when symptoms are not present.
Even if you and your partner have been tested, use condoms for all sex until you and your partner haven’t had sex with another person for 6 months. Then get tested again.
- Watch for symptoms of STDs, such as unusual discharge, sores, redness, or growths in your and your partner’s genital area, or pain while urinating.
- Don’t have more than one sex partner at a time. The safest sex is with one partner who has sex only with you. Every time you add a new sex partner, you are being exposed to all of the diseases that all of their partners may have. Your risk for an STD increases if you have several sex partners at the same time.
- Use a condom every time you have sex. A condom is the best way to protect yourself from STDs. Latex and polyurethane condoms do not let STD viruses pass through, so they offer good protection from STDs. Condoms made from sheep intestines do not protect against STDs.
- Use a water-based lubricant such as K-Y Jelly or Astroglide to help prevent tearing of the skin if there is a lack of lubrication during sexual intercourse. Small tears in the vagina during vaginal sex or in the rectum during anal sex allow STDs to get into your blood.
- Avoid douching if you are a woman, because it can change the normal balance of organisms in the vagina and increases the risk of getting an STD.
- Be responsible. Avoid sexual contact if you have symptoms of an infection or if you are being treated for an STD or HIV. If you or your partner has herpes, avoid sexual contact when a blister is present and use condoms at all other times.
See this link for the complete article — http://www.webmd.com/sex/birth-control/tc/safe-sex-topic-overview
It’s tempting to dismiss the above advice and think it will never happen to you.
However…that’s exactly what 40 million other people do annually and end up contracting an STD.
If those stats aren’t sobering enough, millions of people have DIED from STDs such as AIDS/HIV.
AIDS / HIV
While progress is being made, the number of people contracting HIV continues to be a large problem. It still registers as a primary killer of people ages 25-44.
Even worse…the number of teenagers contracting the disease keeps growing. Up to 80% of infected Americans don’t even know that they are carrying the virus.
Global AIDS Statistics – 2010
|People living with HIV/AIDS||34 million||31.6-35.2 million|
|Percentage that are women||50||47-53|
|Children living with HIV/AIDS||3.4 million||3.0-3.8 million|
|People newly infected with HIV||2.7 million||2.4-2.9 million|
|Children newly infected with HIV||390,000||340,000- 450,000|
|AIDS deaths||1.8 million||1.6-1.9 million|
HIV is spread when semen, vaginal fluid or blood passes from an infected person into another person’s bloodstream. The virus typically enters through a break in the skin or tissue in the mouth, vagina, rectum, or tip of the penis.
Once infected…the virus breaks down the immune system that fight off other infections and illnesses. The gradual degradation of the immune system can result in deadly consequences.
The lethality of this disease combined with the epidemic level statistics MANDATES that safe sex be practiced at all times.
While AIDS alone provides enough stimulus to take safe sex seriously, other STDs should receive similar concern.
Left untreated, many STDs cause infertility, cancer, birth defects, miscarriages, and other serious problems.
Most people have heard of the various STDs, but few know much about them.
As a result, we have compiled a list of “other” STDs and a brief synopsis from the Center for Disease Control ( www.cdc.gov/std )
The most commonly reported STD in the United States.
Even though symptoms of chlamydia are usually mild or absent, serious complications can cause irreversible damage to a woman’s reproductive organs.
Chlamydia can also cause discharge from the penis of an infected man.
Chlamydia is transmitted during vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
Sexually active females 25 years old and younger need testing every year.
It’s easy to cure via antibiotics if caught early.
Gonorrhea grows in the warm, moist areas of the reproductive tract, including the cervix (opening to the womb), uterus (womb), and fallopian tubes (egg canals) in women, and in the urethra (urine canal) in women and men. The bacterium can also grow in the mouth, throat, eyes, and anus.
More than 700,000 people in the U.S. get infected each year.
People contract gonorrhea by having anal, vaginal, or oral sex with someone who has the disease. Gonorrhea can be transmitted via fluids even if a man does not ejaculate.
Women and men sometimes exhibit no symptoms.
Common symptoms in men include a burning sensation when urinating, or a white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis. Sometimes the testicles will become swollen or painful.
In woman, the symptoms are similar to a bladder or vaginal infection. They include a painful or burning sensation when urinating, increased vaginal discharge, or vaginal bleeding between periods.
Women with gonorrhea are at risk of developing serious complications from the infection, even if symptoms are not present or are mild.
Anyone who is sexually active should discuss his or her risk factors with a health care provider and ask whether he or she should be tested for gonorrhea.
Gonorrhea can be cured with the right treatment. However, medication will only stop the infection, it will not repair any permanent damage done by the disease.
Genital herpes is a common infection in the United States.
Nationwide, 16.2%, or about one out of six, people aged 14 to 49 years have genital HSV-2 infection.
Transmission from an infected male to his female partner is more likely than from an infected female to her male partner. Because of this, genital HSV-2 infection is more common in women (approximately one out of five women aged 14 to 49 years) than in men (about one out of nine men aged 14 to 49 years).
Most individuals infected experience either no symptoms or have very mild symptoms that go unnoticed or are mistaken for another skin condition.
When symptoms do occur, they typically appear as one or more blisters on or around the genitals, rectum or mouth. The blisters break and leave painful sores (called an “outbreak”) that may take two to four weeks to heal.
Repeat outbreaks of genital herpes are common, in particular during the first year of infection. Symptoms of repeat outbreaks are typically shorter in duration and less severe than the first outbreak of genital herpes.
People get herpes by having anal, vaginal, or oral sex with someone who has the disease. Herpes can be found in and released from the sores that the viruses cause. The viruses can also be released from skin that does not appear to have a sore.
Generally, a person can only get HSV-2 infection during sexual contact with someone who has a genital HSV-2 infection.
HSV-1 can cause sores in the genital area and infections of the mouth and lips, so-called “fever blisters.” HSV-1 infection of the genitals is caused by mouth to genital or genital to genital contact with a person who has HSV-1 infection.
Health care providers typically diagnose genital herpes by visual inspection of an outbreak. Sometimes, the infections can be diagnosed between outbreaks with a blood test. A person should discuss such testing options with their health care provider.
There is no treatment that can cure herpes. Antiviral medications can, however, prevent or shorten outbreaks during the period of time the person takes the medication. In addition, daily suppressive therapy (i.e., daily use of antiviral medication) for herpes can reduce the likelihood of transmission to partners.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI).
There are more than 40 HPV types that can infect the genital areas of men and women. These HPV types can also infect the mouth and throat.
Most people with HPV do not develop symptoms or health problems from it. In 90% of cases, the body’s immune system clears HPV naturally within two years. But, sometimes, HPV infections are not cleared and can cause:
- Genital warts
- Rarely, warts in the throat — a condition called recurrent respiratory papillomatosis.
- Cervical cancer and other, less common but serious cancers, including cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and oropharynx (back of throat including base of tongue and tonsils).
The types of HPV that can cause genital warts are not the same as the types that can cause cancers. There is no way to know which people who get HPV will go on to develop cancer or other health problems.
HPV is passed on through genital contact, most often during vaginal and anal sex. HPV may also be passed on during oral sex and genital-to-genital contact.
HPV can be passed on between straight and same-sex partners—even when the infected partner has no signs or symptoms.
A person can have HPV even if years have passed since he or she had sexual contact with an infected person. Most infected persons do not realize they are infected or that they are passing the virus on to a sex partner. It is also possible to get more than one type of HPV.
Syphilis is caused by a bacterium that results in distinctive sores.
Sores occur mainly on the external genitals, vagina, anus, or in the rectum. Sores also can occur on the lips and in the mouth.
Syphilis can be transmitted during vaginal, anal, or oral sexual contact.
The symptoms come in 3 stages.
First…a single sore (or multiple sores) will mark the primary stage at the location where syphilis entered the body. The sore is usually firm, round, and painless. It lasts 3 to 6 weeks and heals regardless of whether or not a person is treated.
If the infected person does not receive adequate treatment the infection progresses to the secondary stage.
Skin rashes and/or sores in the mouth, vagina, or anus (also called mucous membrane lesions ) mark the secondary stage of symptoms. This stage usually starts with a rash on one or more areas of the body.
Rashes associated with secondary syphilis can appear from the time when the primary sore is healing to several weeks after the sore has healed. The rash usually does not cause itching. This rash may appear as rough, red, or reddish brown spots both on the palms of the hands and/or the bottoms of the feet. However, this rash may look different on other parts of the body and can look like rashes caused by other diseases.
The symptoms of secondary syphilis will go away with or without treatment. Without appropriate treatment, the infection will progress to the latent and possibly late stages of disease.
About 15% of people who have not been treated for syphilis develop late stage syphilis, which can appear 10–30 years after infection began. Symptoms of the late stage of syphilis include difficulty coordinating muscle movements, paralysis, numbness, gradual blindness, and dementia.
In the late stages of syphilis, the disease damages the internal organs, including the brain, nerves, eyes, heart, blood vessels, liver, bones, and joints. This damage can result in death.
Syphilis is easy to cure with antibiotics, but the earlier caught…the better. Any strange sores or lesions should be brought to the attention of your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
While an unintended pregnancy is not an STD, it is still a concern requiring the practice of safe sex.
A 2011 study reported that 49% of pregnancies in the United States were unintended
Even worse…four out of five pregnancies among women aged 19 years and younger were unintended.
If a pregnancy is not planned before conception, a woman may not be in optimal health for childbearing.
For example, women with an unintended pregnancy could delay prenatal care that may affect the health of the baby. They could be drinking alcohol, smoking, or doing drugs.
Clearly…the deleterious effects of unwanted pregnancies are numerous and necessitate responsible sexual activity.
Here is a list of ways to minimize your risk while engaging in sex:
- Use condoms or dental dams whenever possible.
- If you decide to roll the dice, avoid ejaculating in the mouth or vagina.
- If you see symptoms that are suspicious of STDs, see a doctor IMMEDIATELY!
- Floss and brush regularly – but not right before oral sex.
- Use only water-based lubricants with latex as oil based products destroy it.
- Condoms are a great way to keep sex toys clean and safe.
- If applicable…use latex gloves prevents cuts from long fingernails.
- Get tested regularly and know your status..
The spread of STDs would decline significantly if people were regularly tested. However, we acknowledge that this utopia rarely exists.
In the absence of testing, here are some warning signs to look for in your partner that may indicate a higher risk for STDs.
- Have they had sex with many people? (You can ask, but also use your intuition and always assume a higher number than they tell you.)
- Do they have intercourse without a condom or think it is ok to occasionally do so? (If they don’t use protection with you, it means they probably haven’t been responsible with others too.)
- Do they have unprotected oral sex?
- Have they even had more than one sex partner at a time?
- Do they inject illegal drugs or had sex with someone who does drugs?
- Have they ever been with a prostitute?
- Have they ever had a one night stand?
The absence of these warning signs does not guarantee that your partner is STD free.
Conversely, the presence of these signs does not guarantee you will get an STD.
Nevertheless, it is YOUR responsibility to protect your health, so these signs will help provide a more accurate picture of the risks you may be assuming.
One of the most overlooked aspects of safe sex is being able to honestly discuss the issue with your partner.
Unfortunately…most people find ‘having the talk’ difficult.
In particular…if you have an STD, it’s extremely difficult to discuss it because their is a stigma and risk of rejection.
On the flip side…if YOU’RE clean…it’s difficult to rely on the quality of any information gathered from “the talk.” (Our advanced articles on how to detect a liar can help you in this area.)
The bottom line is that you have a responsibility to discuss the matter in a responsible manner.
The good news is that if you do it right…you can actually arouse more attraction and respect in your relationship.
Someone who acts with maturity and character is extremely attractive.
Even if YOU have an STD, discussing the matter in an open and mature manner will mitigate much of the perceived harm.
STDs have become quite common (approximately 1 in 5 people in the U.S.A. have an STD). Because it is no longer uncommon, you should not be afraid to be open and honest. Delaying the truth will only lead to hurt, mistrust, and an even worse reputation.
Either way…one of the best ways to approach “the talk” is to first share some mild sexual history about yourself. This will start the ball rolling and often make your partner more comfortable to share the same.
If you want to escalate the conversation, say something like…
“I’d really like to become more intimate with you, but before we progress any further sexually, it’s important for us to be responsible and discuss safety.”
You can then follow it up with questions like…
“How do you feel about safe sex?”
“Is there anything I should know about your ‘status’?”
“Have you ever been tested?”
These questions may be difficult, but they exhibit a level of emotional maturity that will separate you from most others.
Many guys/girls are easy to replace on physical appearance.
It’s much rarer to find someone who respects themselves enough to act responsibly where others take shortcuts or avoid it.
Safe Sex is YOUR responsibility.
Knowledge is one of the best tools to ensure sex is fun, positive and safe.
While this article should never replace your own research and advice of a doctor, it hopefully enlightened you to some of the risks involved and common strategies to address them.
Even if you’ve heard it all before, the concept of safe sex has a tendency to fade quickly into the backdrop…especially when the excitement of a new relationship and hormones are flowing.
Remember that behind every unwanted pregnancy or STD is a person thinking it wouldn’t happen to them.
Don’t be a victim too!