Looking after your sexual health
Having sex can be a fantastic way to have fun and physically illustrate your love for your partner. However, as we're ideally taught early on, sexual intercourse does carry some risks. The rate of sexual transmitted infections, commonly known as STIs, continue to remain high in Australia, with many people being diagnosed with common diseases like chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and others, as well as more serious diseases like HIV, every year. While many of these are treatable, waiting too long before doing anything can result in complications such as further infections, infertility, and even cancer. Luckily, there are a number of things you can do to ensure your sexual health remains in top shape.
Educate yourself and get tested
While most schools offer at least some sort of sexual education program, often times they are not able to cover everything or may occur so infrequently that their lessons are forgotten. Educating yourself about risks and prevention strategies, and remaining consistently vigilant, can greatly reduce your chances of contracting an STI.
Similarly important is knowing how to recognise signs of a potential STI. While symptoms differ depending on what STI you have, obvious things to look out for include strange pains, inflammation, irritation, swelling and bleeding around the genitals. While these would be hard to miss, sometimes you can have an STI without having symptoms. For this reason, you should visit a sexual health clinic and get tested if you're having sex, particularly if you have a new partner. Getting rid of it early means the chances of you spreading it to someone you care about are squashed.
Properly use contraception and be hygienic
While abstinence is the only surefire way of ensuring you won't contract an STI, using barrier contraception is the next best thing. Knowing how to properly put on a latex condom is something everyone, male or female, should learn. Unless you're trying for a baby, you should be using a condom for all sexual encounters. Regularly inspecting, grooming and cleaning yourself before and after sex is also vital. You should never have sex if you have any of the aforementioned symptoms. Get checked first.
Encourage open dialogue with your partner
If you've got a new sexual partner, it's important that you're both honest and open with one another about your sexual histories. This is to make sure that you won't infect one another with any disease you may or may not know that you have. Holding one another accountable by always stressing the need for condoms is also an important step. Sometimes it's easy to get lost in the moment, but as long as one person is thinking about health and safety, you'll be fine.
All that said, sex should not be something to be scared about. Educating yourself, using contraception, communicating with your partner, and getting tested at a sexual health clinic, such as Travellers Medical Services, when necessary means you can enjoy yourself without worrying.