Do you want to enjoy sex and also protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections? You can do this by practicing safe sex. Sexually transmitted infections are spread through skin-to-skin contact, through barriers that do not protect from infections, or body fluids from an infected person. Safe sex practices protect yourself and your partner from getting sexually transmitted infections, having unwanted pregnancies, or experiencing displeasure or pain during sexual activities.
Sexually transmitted infections are an important health problem because they affect large numbers of people, causing complications that reduce their quality of life. While there is no risk of infections if you abstain from sex, it is impractical for most people. Safe sex practices, if followed appropriately, can protect you from sexually transmitted infections and unwanted (teenage) pregnancy.
What are the benefits of practising safe sex?
Practicing safe sex is very important in having an enjoyable sex life. The benefits you and your partner may get include:
- Protection from sexually transmitted diseases. These diseases are usually passed from one person to another during vaginal, oral or anal sex, or close intimacy. Some of these diseases are carried in body fluids like sperm, vaginal fluids, and blood. It may also be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact.
- Different barriers or protection methods prevent you from getting pregnant when you do not want to. This also helps to avoid aborting unwanted pregnancies that may affect your health.
- Safe sex practices make you enjoy having sex. It prevents you and your partner from experiencing pains while having sex thus making you get the desired pleasure.
Safe sex practices that protect you from getting sexually transmitted diseases
You can prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in any of the following ways:
- Avoiding sexual activities. Abstinence is not practical for most (young) people. Where it is suggested, educators must inform you contraceptive options.
- Have only one sex partner at a time and ensure you know their status.
- Use of barriers such as condoms during any sexual activity. Latex condoms, when used properly, will reliably prevent pregnancies and most sexually transmitted infections.
- There are condoms for use by men and by women.
- The most commonly available condoms in Nigeria are lubricated latex condoms. They are available free of cost to adolescents, youth and adults at Primary Healthcare Centers around the country and are also available for purchase in pharmacies and stores.
- How to use condoms male condoms
- Carefully open the wrapper and take out the condom.
- Place it on the tip of your fully erect penis. If you’re uncircumcised, pull back the foreskin first.
- Pinch the air out of the tip of the condom.
- Unroll it all the way down your penis.
- When sex is finished, hold the condom in place at the base of your penis while you pull out.
- Remove it and throw it in the trash.
- How to use female condoms
- Carefully open the wrapper and take out the condom.
- Get in a comfortable position, such as standing with one foot on a chair or squatting.
- Squeeze the sides of the inner ring at the closed end of the condom.
- Insert the condom into your vagina like you would a tampon.
- Push the condom in as far as it will go until it rests against your cervix. The outer ring will hang outside your body slightly.
- Use your hand to guide your partner’s penis into the condom.
- When sex is finished, twist the outer ring and pull it out. Throw it in the trash.
- Practice personal hygiene.
- Wash your hands before and after touching your partner.
- Use a latex glove if you are not sure of your partner's status.
- Urinate immediately after sex to reduce your chances of a urinary tract infection.
- Regular get screened (you or your partner) to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections. Testing at Primary Healthcare Centers is free for HIV in Nigeria. You can also request tests for hepatitis and other sexually transmitted infections. You can also purchase self-test kits from the pharmacy in your community. The package will contain instructions on how to do the test reliably.
- You can get vaccines for some sexually transmitted infections, such as hepatitis. You can get the vaccines at Primary Healthcare Centers or from hospitals in your community.
- You can access preventive services for HIV or other infections if you have experienced rape, sexual violence by your partner or have been accidentally pricked with a used injection needle.
- With rape or other sexual violence, contraceptives will be offered to you, such as the 'morning-after' pill. You can request for this if it is not offered to you.
Other safe sex practices that can protect you and your partner
- It is best that you and your partner talk about each other's sexual history, preferred sexual activities, and sexually transmitted infections if you have (had) any. This must happen before any sexual activity.
- When you and your partner both agree to have sex, discuss ways to practice safe sex together.
- You can check for injuries or discharges from your body (e.g. penis or vagina) or that of your partner.
- It is important to get yourself, and your partner tested to remove any doubts. You can also take vaccines that can prevent some sexually transmitted diseases.
- To prevent unwanted pregnancies, you can use condoms, pills or other contraceptive methods.
- It is also important to properly use condoms or dental dams (mouth barriers) to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. You can make a dental dam by cutting a condom to size covering the vagina during oral sex.
- To enjoy sexual activities, you can reduce pain by using water-based lubricants and ask your partner to prolong foreplay. This can improve how well lubricated you are before penetration. If this does not help, you should speak with a healthcare provider. They may identify the cause of pain and resolve the problem.
- Avoid any sexual activity that you are afraid of, or that feels uncomfortable or painful to you. Ask your partner to stop and let them know you won't be continuing that particular activity.
Condoms are essential to safe sex practices. Here are a few tips on their proper use:
- You can put a male condom on at any time before or during sex on an erect penis. You should wear a female condom before you start sexual activities.
- Take care not to tear the condom when you open the package. Hold at the edge and open by tearing from the grooves. Don't open the package with your teeth or other sharp objects.
- Throw away expired condoms. They will not protect you from sexually transmitted infections.
- Put on male condoms after your penis is erect and before it touches any part of your partner. Female condoms should be worn by the female as well before it touching your partner.
- Keep male condoms on the entire time, from start to finish.
- Female condoms should have a ring outside the vagina. If you feel your partner's skin on your body, stop and replace it with a new condom that is properly inserted.
- Use a new condom every time. That means for every erection and after every ejaculation.
- Condoms available in Nigeria have a reservoir tip to collect the semen when you ejaculate.
- Ensure that the ones you wear fit you properly, try on two or three sizes to be sure of your size. Do this before you expect any sexual activity, so you are prepared.
- If you feel the condom break or tear during sex, stop right away, pull out, and put on or insert a new condom. Do not use two or more condoms simultaneously, as his can cause the condom to tear.
- When you remove the male or female condom, make sure the semen doesn’t spill out.
It is always great when you enjoy sex and you are protected from diseases. Do not feel embarrassed to get condoms. They are very useful to prevent sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies. You can contact your healthcare provider if you are not sure which safe practices are best for you.
If you or a loved one has a sexually transmitted disease, do not make it affect your life because it is an infection like any other. You healthcare provider will prescribe an appropriate treatment to get you back in good health.