Safe sex isn’t just about ‘not making babies’. To enjoy a loving sexual relationship with your partner, you need to be free of any sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Although STDs are a widespread problem, there are preventative measures that couples can take. Talking about sex with your partner, being tested together and learning how to minimize the risks of infection are all ways of setting you and your partner up for a healthy sex life.
A widespread but highly preventable problem
An STD is an infection spread between people during sexual contact. This includes touching, as some STDs are able to carry across from skin-to-skin.
Although some twenty million new STD cases are diagnosed in the U.S every year, it is widely acknowledged that many STDs are highly preventable.
Figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) remind us of the potential risks attached to unprotected sex. You are at risk if you fail to take your sexual health seriously.
If you don’t make an informed decision about having sex with a partner you know little about, it can have dire consequences.
Your aim is to have safer sex as a couple and avoid the prospect of becoming one of the reported STD numbers. It makes sound sense to take a proactive and responsible approach to your sexual health.
Talking about sex
Not everyone is comfortable having a conversation about sexual health and good practices. However, if you are going to engage in sexual activity, you must be ready to talk about sexual health.
It can be embarrassing to have a conversation about practicing safe sex with your partner. Especially when it’s a new relationship and you are still getting to know each other.
Talking about condoms and other forms of contraception might be awkward and a real passion-killer. Even so, it is not worth taking the risk of having sex with each other until you have had the conversation. You must come to agree about where you both stand on the subjects of sexual health, your sexual history, and contraception.
Get tested together
If you are in a new relationship and plan to have sex, get tested. It would be a good idea to search for STD testing near you. You can even arrange to get tested together.
Even if you have been together for a while and have already started having sex, you should still get tested. If either partner has been in a previous sexual relationship, you should definitely get tested. Keep in mind that even people that have never had sex can still contract STDs from shared facilities, like toilets.
Whatever the circumstances. If you are deepening your relationship it makes sense to talk about getting tested together. This will confirm that there are no issues. Ideally, it would be best to do this early on in the relationship.
You are less likely to consider a one-night stand or other risky sexual activity if you are not drunk or under the influence of drugs. Staying in control of your faculties and remaining sober will help you avoid taking any unnecessary risks.
People who don’t know their partner’s sexual history and don’t feel the need to ask should be considered as ‘risk takers’. Sexual risk taking should be viewed as a warning sign. Risk takers are more likely to have engaged in unprotected sex in their past. Risk takers are also more likely to end up in situations where their decision making has been compromised, like getting drunk or high and sleeping around.
These are all potential recipes for one night stands and unprotected sex. And remember, your seemingly sensible mature partner may have been a risk taker in their past. So getting tests done can set the record straight and let you move on in the knowledge that being intimate together is safe.
Not always obvious
It should be pointed out that it is not always immediately obvious if your partner has an STD. Most STD’s are not visible and can only be detected through lab tests. Other diseases have incubation periods before becoming detectable or showing any symptoms.
Do not make the mistake of assuming that you or your partner would know if an STD infection was already present. So get up to date on your test results before deciding to have sex with a new partner.
Honesty is always the best policy in a relationship, especially when it comes to sexual health history. So take the time and get to know your partner. Get comfortable about exchanging reliable information about each other’s sexual history. Get tested and reduce the risk of contracting an STD.
Natalie Martin is a freelance writer, and when she is not working on her next article she can usually be found in her garden. She attended the University of Cincinnati before turning to writing, and now spends much of her time drawing attention to some of the major health problems that are plaguing the country today. Natalie resides along the Gulf Coast with her 6 year old Labrador Retriever.