We can’t have a discussion about world sexual health without talking about actual physical health. So far, a lot of the conversation we’ve been having has been about, well, having a conversation. Sexually transmitted infections are no different. Let’s have a conversation about them. 

This isn’t a health class lesson about STIs. The internet is filled to the brim with clinical information sexually transmitted infections. If you want more information about various STIs, vaccines, HPV, and pap smears, check out Laci Green’s Video here.

What this is is a discussion about safety and communication. Let’s get this out of the way first: there’s nothing taboo about talking about sexually transmitted infections or safe sex. Let’s just talk about it.

Keeping Yourself Safe 

No one wants a sexually transmitted infection, but that doesn’t stop them from spreading. Being open and communicating before you have sex is a crucial step not only in protecting yourself and your partner(s) but also in laying the groundwork for an honest, healthy relationship. 

Use condoms:

Some people, particularly those in African countries, are strongly against the use of condoms—yes, some people even here in the US. Ever heard “If you love me, you won’t wear a condom”? Because that’s a load of crap. Condoms prevent the transmission of STIs and unwanted pregnancies. Condoms don’t have to decrease the pleasure. Get the right condoms for you! Using condoms isn’t just safe sex, but it’s smart sex. Sex should be good. Really good. Protection and safety makes for really good sex. Trust me. 

Not sure how to tell your partner you really do want to use condoms every time? Say It With A Condom has you covered! Check out their site here: https://www.sayitwithacondom.com/ 

Get Tested:

Getting tested is an important part of having a healthy sex life. You can protect yourself and your partner. You should always get tested between sexual partners and remember that some STIs can take up to 3 months to show up on a test. Getting tested once doesn’t mean you’re totally in the clear. Getting tested multiple times is the safe thing to do. 

Rather get tested at home? Check out the at-home STI test by MyLAb: https://www.mylabbox.com/ 

While we’re talking about getting tested, all of you out there with a vagina should not underestimate the power of your pap smear. Having an abnormal pap smear doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re in trouble, but it does give your doctor really important information about whether or not they need to watch your health more carefully. People with vaginas should get their first pap smear when they’re 21 and every 3 years after that. They might be uncomfortable, but they’re really important. Protect yourself and your vagina. 

Prepare:

No, literally, PrEP. PrEp is a preventative prescription medication that can be taken daily just like birth control pills. Except instead of preventing pregnancy, PrEP protects people against HIV. If you don’t have HIV and you don’t want to get HIV and you feel you’re at risk of potentially contracting HIV, ask your doctor about PrEP. According to the CDC, PrEP decreases your chances of contracting HIV by 90%. That’s pretty amazing. And, as an added bonus, it’s covered by most insurance! 

To learn more about PrEP, visit www.greaterthan.org (https://www.greaterthan.org/prep/#what-is-prep)

This isn’t just about safe sex; it’s about protecting yourself so that you can live life your way and on your terms. 

Have a conversation:

In any relationship, communication is the key to success. Whether it’s a professional, personal, or sexual relationship, communication is absolutely essential. Before you have sex with a new partner(s), have a conversation about STIs—you and your partner deserve to know. 

You’re already talking about consent and sexual desires and fantasies. Sexually transmitted infections should be a part of this conversation. Get the relationship, sex, and health that you want and deserve. 

Sexually Transmitted Infections in Retirement Homes 

Fun fact: The highest rate of sexually transmitted infections is in elderly communities. Why? Because they don’t know about safe sex, protection, and sexually transmitted infections in the same way we do. Elderly people don’t stop having sex, and sometimes they start having sex with other people they’re meeting in their retirement homes or communities. The result? Sexually transmitted infections are spreading. Fast. 

You might be wondering why this matters for everyone. Well, it matters because they lack the same education that is being taken away from some children. Sexual education needs to be given to everyone. The elderly, the adults, the young adults, and teenagers alike. Let’s protect each other and make sure everyone have the information and tools that they need! In fact, teens that understand STIs and birth control effectiveness or lack thereof tend to put off their first sexual experience until later in life. 

Safe sex is good sex! 

What Counts as Sex 

Some children, yes, children in middle schools—I know this because, as a parent, I was informed about this in my own daughter’s middle school…over 10 years ago—are confused about what counts as sex. In the aforementioned middle school, sexually transmitted infections were going around because the students didn’t seem to think that oral sex counted as sex. 

Sex is sex. Oral sex, anal sex, vaginal intercourse. You name it, it’s sex. All sex is sex. All sex should be had safely. 

You deserve to have pleasurable sex. And you deserve to have safe sex. Talking about sexually transmitted infections, protection, and consent are all vital to having a healthy sex life. World Sexual Health Day includes physical health. 

Let’s start the conversation. Sexually transmitted infections aren’t taboo or shameful. They’re real life. Let’s protect ourselves and each other. When was the last time you talked about sexually transmitted infections with your partner?

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