Staying informed about issues pertaining to your sexual health is critical. The following information is provided as a reference to various issues regarding sexual health.
It's normal to have questions about sex and sexuality, and finding the answers to those questions is key to maintaining a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Human beings experience their sexuality on multiple levels. It is influenced by our biology, emotional experiences, culture, and ethical and or religious upbringing: it's important to understand these factors, how they affect you and influence your life.
Sexuality is an integral part of human existence; love, affection, and sexual intimacy contribute to healthy relationships and individual well-being. Along with the positive aspects of sexuality, there are also illnesses, mixed emotions and unintended consequences that can affect sexual health. An open discussion of issues pertaining to sexuality is important in promoting sexual health and responsibility.
According to the World Health Organization sexual health is influenced by a myriad of factors that range from attitudes towards sex, socio-economic status, sexual behavior and lifestyle, to biological and genetic predisposition to disease. Serious affects to a person’s sexual health can include complications from HIV, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), reproductive tract infections (RTIs), unplanned pregnancy, abortion, infertility, cancer caused by STI’s, and sexual dysfunction. An individual’s sexual health can also be influenced the state of their mental health, physical illness, and a history of violence.
The following information is not intended to replace the advice of a licensed medical official. It is for your information only. Should you have more specific questions or if you have been the victim of sexual assault please contact the resources provided on this page.
Literally speaking there is no such thing as "safe sex". Participating in any type of sexual activity can put you at risk for contracting STI's or HIV, becoming pregnant and emotional issues surrounding intimacy.
Practicing "safer sex" can help reduce these risks. Talk about sex with your partner, peers, and educator or healthcare professional about what you can do to make your sexual experiences safer, and more fulfilling.
1. Talk about sex first
STIs and unintended pregnancies affect both partners, not just one person. If you feel uncomfortable discussing sex and birth control with your partner then you shouldn't be having sex. Be straight forward and talk about sex before it happens so that you both know what the other one expects.
2. Always use a condom. Always!
Using condoms will help reduce your risk of contracting (or passing on) an STI or becoming pregnant. Condoms must be used correctly and consistently in order for them to be effective. Condoms are less effective in preventing diseases such as herpes and HPV, but they do reduce the risk of transmission. Condom use is essential, especially in relationships that are not monogamous.
3. Use birth control!
To help prevent both pregnancy and STIs you should correctly and consistently use a birth control method like the Pill, contraceptive injection or diaphragm (for pregnancy prevention) and a condom (to prevent STIs). If your partner says no to contraceptives that may prevent STIs, like condoms, it's probably time to rethink your relationship. Nothing is worth the potential lifetime consequences of a few minutes of unprotected fun.
4. Discuss your sexual history.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your partner about his/her and your sexual health. If you want to know how many partners they have had, whether or not your partner has been tested, and what your partner wants to do to prevent STD transmission then ask! An open dialogue is in your best interest.
5. Don't judge a book by its cover.
A lot of STIs don’t show symptoms. You will not be able to tell by looking at your partner if he/she has an STI. Keep in mind that anybody can contract an STI, so judging your partners on their looks, background, wealth, or group of friends will not tell you whether or not they have an infection that could potentially damage your health.
6. No means NO!
There is no defense for committing sexual assault. If there is any confusion as to whether or not your partner is consenting to sex then stop. Mixing sex and alcohol can lead to situations in which both parties are unable to make smart decisions for themselves. Click here to read about how men and women can avoid the consequences of date rape.
7. Don't feel pressure about having sex.
Or have sex out of fear—fear of hurting someone's feelings by saying no or fear of being the "only one" who isn't doing it. Everyone wants to fit in their social groups, but you should never compromise your values to be "part of the crowd." If you don't want to have sex, be honest, discuss the reasons behind your decision with your partner and stay true to you.
8. Respect your right to make your own decisions.
There is no imaginary "deadline," no ideal age, no perfect point in a relationship where sex has to happen. If your partner tells you that he or she is not ready to have sex, respect their decision, be supportive and discuss the reasons behind it. It is your choice and right to decide when and how you want to have sex.
9. The best protection doesn't mean less affection.
Abstinence is actually the most effective way to protect against STIs and prevent pregnancy. But practicing abstinence doesn't mean you are prevented from having an intimate, physical relationship with someone. There are many other ways to be intimate and not have intercourse: however, you must be aware that alternatives, like oral sex, carry their own risks. Click here to read more about practicing abstinence and risks of oral sex.
10. Make sexual health a priority.
Whether you are having sex or not, both men and women need to have regular check-ups to make sure they are sexually healthy. Women should have annual gynecological exams.