By Dr Nicolas LAGUE
Medical Director – General and Tropical Medicine CMI – HCMC
Zero risk does not exist in sexually, right? But having safe sex can avoid you a lot of big disagreements. Safe sex doesn’t have to be a passion killer. Safe sex means protecting yourself and protecting your partners against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). It helps you to stay healthy and can even improve your sexual experiences.
What are we talking about when we talk about Safe sex?
There are many ways to have safe sex. One of the best ways is to use a barrier, such as a usual condom, or a female condom. The condom covers parts of the genitals, so they protect you and protect your partner from the contact of the body secretions which are the main ways of transmission of STDs.
Performing regular STD tests is also a way to have safe sex, even if you always use condoms and you feel perfectly well. Most people with STDs do not have symptoms, so you can’t suspect anything. That is why the only way to know if someone has an STDs or not is by getting a test.
Don’t drink too much alcohol or do not use drugs; Yes, this is another way to have safe sex. Being under the influence of alcohol or drugs can make you forget the importance to use a condom or how to use it properly.
Another important point is the manipulation of the condom itself. It should not be with long nails. You have to prevent your partner to open or manipulate it with his/her long nails (it risks to damage the condom).
Be careful with the storage of the condom. It should not be left in the sun or exposed to high heat.
How does STDs spread?
STDs are usually transmitted from one person to another during any sex. There are many different STDs; some are transmitted by body fluids, such as the semen, vaginal secretions, and blood. Others can be transmitted by mere skin-to-skin contact in an infected body area.
All STDs infect the genitals so using no condom implies a high risk of contagion of the following diseases:
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection
Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and genital warts
Possibly hepatitis C
Some STDs can also infect the lips, mouth, and throat. Oral sex without a barrier implies a high risk of contagion of the following diseases:
Some STDs can also be transmitted by mere skin-to-skin contact, without secretions being exchanged. Skin-to-skin contact between the genitals can transmit the following diseases:
Genital pediculosis (pubic lice)
Should I have Safe sex if I already have an STDs?
Do not have sexual intercourse if you have symptoms of an STD (such as sores or warts around the genitals, a rare discharge from the penis, vagina or anus, or itching, pain, irritation, or swelling of the penis, vagina, Vulva…etc.). But if you cannot avoid it, use a condom.
Consult a doctor to start STDs treatment as soon as possible.
If you have an STDs that can be cured (such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, or syphilis), take all the medicines your doctor prescribed you, even if the symptoms disappear sooner. The infection remains in the body until the treatment is finished. Your partner should also receive treatment at the same time. Do not have sex until both treatments are over and wait for the doctor authorization.
If you have an untreated STDs (such as HIV infection or herpes), talk to your doctor about the medications you can take to lessen the chance of transmitting it to your partner.
Always tell your sexual partners that you have an STDs before having sex to have safe sex and prevent infection.
How can I ask my partner to get tested?
The best time to talk about the need to get tested is BEFORE you start having sex. Getting tested when starting a new relationship is extremely important and one of the best ways to prevent STDs. It is normal to feel a bit uncomfortable during the conversation, but you will feel better after. You never know, your partner could be glad to talk about it! Conducting tests to detect sexually transmitted diseases has nothing to do with deceiving your partner or not trusting him/her. People can have an STDs for years and not know it. As most people with STDs don’t present any symptoms, Tests are the only way to know for sure if you have any STDs or not, so it is logical to get checked periodically.
How to talk about STDs Test with his partner?
Some sentences that can help you:
“It’s difficult to speak about that, but you are someone important to me. Could we go together to take some STD tests?”
“I want you to know that last month I was tested for STDs and the test was negative. Have you ever been tested? I would like us to be sure that we are taking care of ourselves.”
“For me, honesty is important, so I want to tell you that I tested for STDs last month and found out I had Chlamydia. I took medication, and I no longer have it, but after that, I realized that STDs are common and silent. Have you ever taken the tests?”
How do I talk to my partner about the test results?
It is not easy to tell the person you are dating that you have any STDs, but it is what you have to do because it will help you take care of your health. It is crucial that you also report to your ex-partners so they also get tested.
What to do if I think I have an STDs
Try to stay calm and remember that you are not the only one in this situation. Millions of people have STDs, and many of them have partners. Try to start the conversation with a calm and positive attitude. Having an STD is simply a health issue and does not involve anything about you as a person.
Get tested for sexually transmitted diseases; locate a trusted Health Center to help you to do the tests and get the right treatment.
There are many myths about sexually transmitted diseases. So read objective information.
Look at the right time.
Get ready to answer your partner’s questions. Let him know that some medications can cure or help treat STDs.
Choose a moment without distractions or interruption and look for a private and relaxed place. If you are nervous, you can practice out loud alone or with a friend you trust. It may sound strange, but talking loudly can help you understand exactly what you want to say and feel more confident.
If you are positive to the STDs test, you may need to give your partner some time and space to process the news; it is normal. Your partner can also consult his doctor to know how to protect himself. In short, the conversation can get you closer.
Getting tested means taking charge of having an STDs. Also, once the tests are done, there is nothing to worry about. The earlier you know you have an STD, the better is: Many STDs are easily cured with medications. There are also treatments for non-curative STDs, which are relieving symptoms and decreasing the chances of spreading to your partner.