Safer Sex is For EveryonePrevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases is of utmost importance for those wishing to stay healthy. Even those couples where both partners are already infected with HIV need to follow safer sex guidelines. The need for protection does not cease after one becomes HIV infected. HIV Reinfection through unprotected sexual encounters makes treatment of existing HIV disease much more difficult. In addition, infection with other STDs such as syphilis or gonorrhea is detrimental to the health of anyone, but especially those living with HIV. It's clear that safer sex is a must for all couples. Here are some ways you and your partner can protect yourselves from contracting STDs and HIV.
AbstinenceAbstinence, or the voluntary choice to refrain from sexual activity is the only 100 percent effective way to prevent HIV and STD transmission. Non-coital forms of sexual intimacy range from holding hands, hugging, kissing, and dancing to mutual masturbation, petting, and the use of stimulating devices such as vibrators. While abstinence is an effective means of safe sex, it may be difficult to maintain commitment.
CondomsLatex condoms provide the most effective means of preventing HIV and STD transmission during sexual encounters. But to be effective, condoms must be used correctly.
- An erect penis can leak seminal fluid prior to ejaculation. This fluid can contain infectious organisms that have the ability to cause infection in others. For this reason, condoms must be applied onto the penis prior to any oral, vaginal, or anal contact is made.
- Condoms can break, allowing seminal fluids to leak. To reduce the possibility of this occurring, a water based lubricant must be used to decrease friction during intercourse.
- Oil based lubricants such as baby oil, Vaseline, or certain lotions can weaken a condom and should never be used.
- Sheepskin condoms do not provide an effective barrier to HIV and other STDs.
- Spermacides, such as nonoxynol-9 increase the risk of HIV transmission and should never be used.
The Female CondomWhile data on the effectiveness of the female condom is limited it is a good alternative for a woman whose partner is reluctant to wear a condom or is unable to due to a latex allergy. Female condoms allow a woman to assume control over safer sex. Slipping inside the vagina, the female condom provides a lubricated barrier that is stronger than latex. It can be inserted up to eight hours prior to intercourse, providing for the spontaneity that often is lost with latex condoms.
Dental DamsDental dams are rectangular squares of latex that are used during oral sex, both oral-vaginal and oral-anal. During sex, latex dams are stretched across your partner's genitals to prevent your tongue from touching your partner's bodily secretions. They are an effective method of disease prevention, but can be difficult to hold in place. A dab of water soluble lubricant placed on the genital side of the dam can help hold it in place.
Remember, as romance blooms and temperatures begin to rise, staying healthy and living life to its fullest depends on the proper and consistent use of protection. Being safe does not mean losing intimacy. Being safe means staying alive.