How to Take Precautions Against STIs
Safer sex practices go beyond just the use of condoms. By knowing about and practising safer sex, you will be able to minimise the risk of getting an STI(s).
Is Safe Sex Possible?
As long as you have sex with another person(s), it is not completely safe. The foolproof method is to abstain or have solo sex/masturbate.
The alternative is to have only one sexual partner and remain monogamous with him/her. The more sexual partners one has, and the more he/she engages in anonymous sex and unsafe sexual practices, the more at risk that person is of getting sexually-transmitted infections (STI).
To reduce the risks of getting an STI(s), one can choose to practise safer (protected) sex instead.
Sex educators have realized that in this day and age, it is not practical nor realistic to merely preach the message of abstinence and monogamy to teenagers and young adults. Instead, proper education and promotion of safer sex practices are more effective in preventing the further spread of STIs, including HIV.
What Exactly is Safer Sex?
Safer sex refers to those sexual activities that do not involve the exchange of bodily fluids – semen, pre-ejaculation fluid (commonly known as pre-cum), vaginal fluid and blood – between one person and another. These activities can be divided into two main categories.
Non-penetrative Sex (Outercourse or dry sex)
These sexual activities do not involve vaginal, anal or oral penetration:
- Bathing and showering together
- Sharing of sexual fantasies
- Erotic massage, body stroking and caressing
- Mutual masturbation and fingering
- Frottage (dry humping) – Rubbing of one’s genitals (usually the male) against other parts of the person’s body, for example, the thighs, armpits, between the breasts or behind the knees.
- Virtual sex – Having simulated sex over the phone, in chat rooms, via instant messenger or on web cams.
- Kissing can be risky when one partner is bleeding in the mouth and his/her blood gets into the other partner’s system through cuts/open wounds in the latter’s oral cavity.
- Mutual masturbation can be unsafe when there are cuts or sores on the hands and on the genitals; when pre-cum, semen or vaginal fluid is used as a lubricant; or when bodily fluids are exchanged through the opening of the penis or cuts in the vagina.
Penetrative Sex (Intercourse)
For vaginal and anal intercourse, latex condoms should be used with water-based lubricants (e.g. KY and Durex). Studies have shown that latex condoms are generally effective in blocking the transmission of viruses and bacteria that cause STIs. Oil-based lubricants (e.g. Vaseline) should not be used as these break down the latex, impeding the effectiveness of the condom as a barrier.
In addition, proper usage of condoms includes observing the following:
- Keeping the condoms in a cool, dry place.
- Checking the expiry date of the condoms.
- Carefully tearing the packaging.
- Wearing the condom properly, with an air reservoir left at the tip to accommodate the pressure of ejaculation.
- Applying generous amounts of lubricants before and during penetration to reduce friction and wear and tear of condoms.
- Replacing condoms and reapplying lubricants during long sessions of sexual intercourse to prevent tearing and breakage of condoms.
- Using a new condom for every sexual act.
- Not using multiple condoms at one time – The condoms are more likely to slip off or tear, rather than provide extra protection.
For fellatio, condoms are recommended too. Those who do not like the taste of latex can use flavored condoms. For cunnilingus and rimming, dental dams can be used.
By practising safer sex, not only do you protect yourself against STIs, you are also protecting the health of your spouse and current/future sexual partners.