Women's Health Matters

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Safer Sex

There are many infections a woman can get in her genital area. Germs that live in or on a person's genitals cause these diseases. These germs can be passed from one person to another during sex. Safer sex is any sex where you choose behaviours that make it less likely you will get an infection.

When we talk about safer sex, we often talk about body fluids. That is because some of the most serious infections, such as hepatitis and HIV, can be transmitted in body fluids such as blood, semen or vaginal juices. You can be infected with these diseases, if body fluids from an infected person enter your vagina, anus or mouth. Some sexual activities are riskier than others are. Learn about the risks associated with different kinds of sex and what you can do to protect yourself.

Although safer sex may mean protecting yourself and your partner(s) from the exchange of body fluids, it really means any changes you make in your sexual activities to protect each other. For example, women who have herpes can often feel a tingling before herpes sores appear. Making sure your partner doesn't touch the infected area and modifying your sexual practices before the cold sores appear, and while they are visible, is a form of safer sex.

Honest communication is the key to safer sex. Talk to your partner about the possible risks you take when you have sex, and decide together which risks you are willing to take. Safer sex can be good sex. It encourages the two of you to communicate and it often makes sex-play last longer, building the intensity.

Other Safer Sex Tips

Never touch a sore caused by a sexually transmitted disease. Some kinds of infection can be carried on your hand, at least for a short time.

Drinking alcohol or taking drugs can influence the decisions a person makes about sexual risks. Be aware of how drug and alcohol use affects your decision-making around sexual activity.

Lesbians are not automatically free from sexually transmitted infections just because they have never had sex with a man. Lesbian partners also need to talk about safer sex.

Sharing needles to inject drugs is another way for someone to catch an infection. If you or your partner injects drugs, you need to take some protective steps. There are some ways to make needle use safer.

Can We Ever Stop Having Safer Sex?

Sometimes when a couple has been together for a while, they want to stop using condoms or to stop limiting the ways in which they have sex. If you and your partner are thinking about this, you need to be very honest with each other about your past. Most people have more than one sexual partner in their lives. A previous partner may not have known they had an infection and you may not know now. Unprotected sex always involves some risk but the risk is low if:

  • you have both been tested for sexually transmitted infections
  • neither of you had sex in the six months before the tests with anyone else
  • you can trust each other not to have sex with other people during your relationship (or to tell you so you can protect yourself)
  • neither you or your partner shares needles to inject drugs

Be careful not to talk yourself into this. We all want to trust our partners, but if you're not sure, you are probably not ready.

 

 

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Infections and Safer Sex

Safer Sex

Risks Associated with Sexual Activity

Regular Check-ups

Infections

  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital