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Abstinence is one effective strategy for avoiding sexually transmissible disease. However, sex happens!‘Unsafe sex’ in a safe relationship?
If you are sexually active, there is a range of ways to avoid acquiring sexually transmissible infections. One is to have sex with a partner who does not have a STD. However, with some STDs, it can be difficult to know whether an infection is there, or if it is active (eg, herpes, genital warts, chlamydia).
Condoms, used correctly with a water-based lubricant, will reduce the risk of many STDs during penetrative (anal and vaginal) intercourse. Dental dams are used as a barrier for oral sex, and can prevent the transfer of herpes simplex and hepatitis A between sexual partners. Latex gloves also provide barrier protection for sexual activity involving fingers, and will protect against HIV, herpes and hepatitis A.
If you have sex with casual partners, the best way to avoid STDs is to always use condoms and/or dental dams with your sexual partners. People have short and long-term relationships. If in a relationship of three months or less always protect yourself and others by having sex with condoms and lube or dental dams.
Negotiated safety – where both partners test negative for STDs and decide not to use condoms within their relationship – can provide a safe context for unprotected anal and vaginal intercourse. Three things are essential to making negotiated safety work as an agreement.
Talking. Talking with your sexual partner openly about wanting to stop using condoms and dams and about the need to be safe from STDs.
Testing. Being tested for STDs at least three months after the last time you had unprotected sex with anyone, including your current partner. This period will allow enough time for most STDs to show up on a test, however, a few STDs such as herpes and hepatitis B take longer to be detected. Talk with your GP about the incubation period for STDs. Negative test results mean that you can have unprotected sex with your sexual partner without fear of STDs.
Trusting. Once you make the agreement you have to be willing to stick with it. This means being monogamous or talking with your partner about unprotected sex you have had outside the relationship. If you had unprotected sex outside the relationship you will need revert to barrier methods for at least a three month period and then get tested again.
The contraceptive pill does not provide protection against any STD.
For the latest information on STDs go to the Sexually Transmitted Diseases Services website.
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