In light of SHAG week, LSU CASH’s Workshop Coordinator and volunteer writer, Megan McKone gives her guide to protection.
Happy Sexual Health and Guidance (SHAG) week!
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are spread by sexual contact, they can be passed on via the skin, mouth, genitals or bodily fluids such as saliva or sperm. You could have an STI and not even know it; some STIs are particularly difficult to be detected and not everyone shows symptoms. In a lot of cases, symptoms only begin to show after you’ve had the disease for a while, by this point it is more difficult to treat the STI than when it was first transmitted. This is why it is so important to get regular STI checks – especially if you are sleeping with multiple partners – to protect your sexual health and your partner’s.
STIs can either be caused by bacteria or viruses, bacterial STIs can be treated using antibiotics however there is no cure for viral STIs but they can be treated. Getting regular STI checks can diagnose the infections early and prevent more people from contracting the disease.
How Often Should I Get an STI Test?
Ideally, if you are sexually active you should be getting checked about once a year or each time you have a new sexual partner and are not using a condom.
What are Condoms made from?
External condoms are made from either latex, polyisoprene or polyurethane. Polyisoprene and polyurethane are both thin, flexible plastics. Some people can be allergic to latex so it is sensible to keep latex-free condoms (polyisoprene or polyurethane) just in case. Latex condoms are less likely to break or slip off during sex but latex-free condoms are still safe to use and are 98% effective at preventing pregnancy.
What is the Perfect Condom?
It is important to choose a condom size that fits otherwise the condom will be too tight and likely to tear or the condom will slip off, in both of these cases the condom is rendered useless. Never use a condom that is expired or one that has been exposed to heat, this reduces the effectiveness of the condom and can make them more likely to break. To prevent STIs it is important to put the condom on before any genitals make contact. While pulling out the wearer should hold the base of the condom to prevent it from slipping off. Putting a small amount of lube inside a polyurethane condom can help to reduce friction.
Where Can I get Condoms?
You can sign up to the Consent and Sexual Health’s C-Card to get free condoms. When you sign up you get given a card that allows you to get free condoms from participating venues. Otherwise, condoms can be found in supermarkets, pharmacies, health and beauty stores or can be ordered on Amazon.
How to Dispose of a Condom?
Condoms are single-use only this means that after each use they should be disposed of. Used condoms can be placed in the general waste bin, it can be wrapped in tissue and placed in the bin for a more discrete disposal.
Are there any Condom Myths?
Myth: Wearing two condoms is safer than wearing one
Truth: Wearing two condoms will only cause friction and make the condom more likely to break
Myth: Condoms break easily
Truth: Condoms do not break easily, latex or plastic condoms are flexible and stretchy. It is important to put on a condom properly to reduce the chances of the condom breaking. Avoiding sharp nails, jewellery or biting the condom but condoms do not easily break.
Myth: If I don’t have lube I should just use oil or Vaseline
Truth: Vaseline has oil in it, so does lipstick. Oil can dissolve the condom so during sex with a condom it is important to be aware of this and avoid products with oil. Oil affects latex and isoprene condoms. Polyurethane condoms can be safely used with oil
Myth: You don’t need a condom if you’re having oral sex
Truth: Some STIs can be transmitted through oral sex such as chlamydia
Myth: All condoms are safe
Truth: Not all condoms are safe! Novelty condoms are not safe, only buy condoms from reputable brands, your sexual health is never something you should compromise.
What to do if the Condom Breaks?
If the condom breaks and there is the possibility of getting pregnant emergency contraception may be needed to avoid pregnancy, this could be the morning after pill from the pharmacy. If the condom breaks during sex just get a new condom if needed and after sex make sure to get an STI test.
What are Female Condoms?
Female condoms are worn inside the vagina, they are worn to prevent sperm entering the womb. Female condoms are 95% effective, the small, closed end of the condom goes into the vagina. The penis goes into the larger ring, the female condom acts somewhat like a passage that sperm cannot pass through, this protects against pregnancy and STIs. Female condoms are used for male-female sex.
Do not use a female and male condom at the same time as they could stick together, and this could cause them to break.
Sex should be enjoyed but it should also be safe. CASH are running numerous events throughout SHAG week (November 23rd to November 29th) visit our Instagram or Facebook page to find out more. In the meantime, happy testing!
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Featured header image by Christos Alamaniotis.