How to have safe sex is something everyone should be asking their sexual partners. Condoms are the easiest and first answer but there are other things we have to think about as well. Such as…
It seems like a simple enough question, but thanks to the lack of sexual education (at least in America), and the inherent stigmatization that such miseducation produces, there is still a great deal of confusion as to when, and how frequently, sexually active adults should be tested for Sexually Transmitted Infections and Diseases.
Fortunately, most medical professionals agree on a few standard policies that will ensure both your sexual happiness as well as your peace of mind.
The answer to this is actually simple: You should be tested every six months to a year. Less if you are having protected sex in a monogamous relationship, more if you are having unprotected sex with multiple partners (which we don’t recommend!) – this is not how to have safe sex.
Admittedly, there are a few finer details that make this policy difficult to adhere to. For one, there’s the social stigma: condom usage, for instance, can be unpopular for several different reasons, be it a loss of sensation, the awkwardness of buying them in public, or the fear of killing the mood by having to find and put one on.
Then there comes the more innocent but no less dangerous mistakes that come from being uninformed about STIs: those who think that all diseases are permanent and socially scarring and that herpes is a death sentence is more likely to take the wrong precautions, lash out at their partners unnecessarily, and simply miss out on more fun than the rest of us.
In nearly all scenarios like these, be they someone’s reasoning for not wearing condoms or for not getting tested, the rationalizations I hear always come down to simple embarrassment. And my response about how to have safe sex is always the same:
Responsibility is sexy. Be a grownup. Talk with your partner. Wear a condom. Get tested every six months.
The best way to assume responsibility is to get educated. The more you know about the different types of STIs that are out there and the threats they pose (and more importantly, don’t pose), the less embarrassed or afraid you will be to discuss them with your partners, and the less averse you will be towards ensuring your own sexual health.
While six months is the standard baseline for any individual, it is true of course that depending on your age, gender, sexual orientation and then type of disease, you should be tested more or less frequently.
To that end, with each STI I have listened to the frequency of checkups for each of these subgroups. I am the first to admit that I have failed to include transgender people as well as individuals with predominantly alternative sexual lifestyles. This is not out of neglect, but rather because I believe theirs are groups so complex as to deserve their own article.
Whenever you have unprotected sex with a new partner. This may sound extreme, but honestly, if you’re having unprotected sex with so many new people so often, then you’ve got bigger problems on your plate.
That being said, HPV has earned its reputation for a reason: left untreated, HPV can cause cervical cancer in women and oesophagal cancer in men (yeah, just from going down, guys). And you should know that women are at a higher risk than men, to the extent that there actually isn’t a test for HPV in men. Instead, men are expected to see their physician once symptoms present themselves. Fortunately, there is now a vaccine available for both men and women, and doctors recommend that children under the age of twelve receive two shots of the vaccine as well.
In short, while this is only the tip of the iceberg as far as learning about Sexually Transmitted Diseases, the day-to-day practices of prevention and how to have safe sex are simple…
Wear a condom, and stay open and communicative with your partner. Doing so demonstrates not only responsibility, but also mutual respect that will only lead to greater connection, satisfaction, and intimacy.