The holiday season is a time of year to be particularly vigilant about guarding yourself against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and there are few better occasions to remind ourselves of the continuing danger of HIV/AIDS than 1 December – World AIDS Day. HIV remains a major global health pandemic that has claimed more than 25 million lives over the last three decades.
While treatment with antiretroviral drugs may allow those infected to enjoy productive lives, there still isn’t a cure for the disease. More than 34 million people live with HIV worldwide – you owe it to yourself to do whatever you can not to become part of that statistic by practicing safer sex.
STDs, including HIV, can be passed from one sexual partner to another whenever semen, vaginal fluids or blood – for example through open sores or cuts – enters a person’s body. , Many sexual activities carry some risk of infection, but the most dangerous include those in which bodily fluids touch the moist and soft mucous membranes inside the mouth, vagina, rectum, nose or at the tip of the penis, especially during vaginal, anal and oral penetration without protection.
Contrary to popular misconceptions, oral sex and coitus interruptus (withdrawing before ejaculation) without protection represent relatively high-risk activities.
Reduce your risk of STDs with these tips:
- Be monogamous: By having a sexual relationship with only one person, you greatly reduce the chances of contracting a STD. Ensure that your partner is being faithful to you, too.
- Communicate: Establish a sexual relationship based on trust. Talk to your partner about your sexual health concerns and agree on which sexual activities you both feel comfortable with and how you’re going to protect yourselves from infection.
- Know your status: Get tested for HIV and other STDs. Ask your partner if and when they were last tested and what the results were.
- Use condoms: Male latex condoms offer 85 percent or greater protection against HIV and other STDs. Learn how to use them correctly and consistently every time you engage in physical sexual activities. Try female condoms and use dental dams (rectangular sheets of latex) during oral sex.
- Use water-based lubricants: Not only do they increase sexual stimulation, they also reduce the chances that the condom will break and decrease the risk of damaging any sensitive mucous membranes during intercourse.
- Come prepared: Always have a sufficient supply of condoms and lubricants handy and never engage in sexual activities with a partner who refuses to use these.
- Be sober: Intoxication with alcohol and other drugs increases the likelihood that you will engage in risky sexual activities you would normally avoid.
- Have fun: There are many enjoyable things to do together that carry no or only small risks of catching an STD, such as hugging, kissing, touching, massages, sexy conversations and other forms of foreplay.
How Clicks Clinic can help you
Did you know Clicks offers HIV testing and counselling at our clinics? To make an appointment at a Clicks Clinic, call 0860 254 257 or book online at Clicks Clinics online. HIV home test kits are also available for purchase in-store.
Shop online at Clicks.co.za for condoms
Don't be caught unawares – rather stock up on condoms here so that you can ensure you're practising safe sex at all times.