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sexual health

 

Sexually Transmitted Infections and prevention

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are more common than many people realise. And there are plenty of them. Most people know that HIV (the virus that can leads to AIDS-related illness) can be passed through sexual intercourse. But so can other STIs, such as:

  • Genital Warts
  • Herpes
  • Crabs' (pubic lice)
  • Chlamydia
  • Syphilis
  • Gonorrhoea

And there are others (Hepatitis B, for instance, can be passed this way). But most can be easily avoided, particularly through using condoms. Or practising non-penetrative sex (sex not involving the penis or a sex toy entering the vagina or anus). With regards to genital warts, however, it is important to avoid genital to genital contact (if the wart virus is "live"), or avoid genital contact with fingers or hands that have warts on them. Also, with regards to herpes, it is also sensible to avoid oral sex with someone who has active cold sores on their lips.

So if you want to protect yourself (and avoid soreness, itching and possibly much worse), practice Safer Sex and, in particular, use a condom! Frequently asked questions about STIs and the Government's efforts to reduce infection levels.

Chlamydia
Even though many people have not heard of it, Chlamydia is the most frequently occurring Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) in the UK. It is currently on the increase and can affect women, men and babies. Chlamydia trachomatis is a bacterium, which lives inside body cells and causes genital infection. If you have ever had unsafe sex you may be at risk, even if you feel perfectly healthy. Chlamydia has been dubbed ‘the silent infection', because in most instances it causes no obvious symptoms, it can have very serious long-term health effects. People often don't realise that they have become infected and therefore go without treatment, often infecting their sexual partners. It is most commonly found in people who: are under 25 years of age; are sexually active but do not use condoms; and / or have recently changed their sexual partner.


The signs and symptoms of chlamydia in women include: vaginal discharge; abnormal menstrual cycle; urethritis (infection of the urethra, the tube from the bladder), which may cause pain when passing urine; and lower abdominal pain. Symptoms for infected males may include a urethral discharge and dysuria (pain when passing urine). If left untreated chlamydia could even lead to: ecotopic pregnancy (a pregnancy developing outside the womb); infertility in women, and sometimes infertility in men.


It is estimated that about 50% of men and 70% of women with chlamydia do not have any symptoms. Yet, even if there are symptoms, they may only last for a few days and then disappear. With the infection almost always transmitted by vaginal, anal and possibly oral sex, the protection of a condom will help to prevent sexual transmission. So once again the moral of the story is to always use a condom.


Lubrication and Safer Sex
Over the last 15 years people have got used to talking and thinking about condoms. We all know how important they are for preventing HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Infections. But we don't yet talk enough about lubrication. Which we should, because it can make condom use more effective and much more pleasurable.


Condoms and femidoms are already lubricated. They have to be for us to get them on and off. But they actually work and feel better when extra lubrication (such as KY jelly) is used. Water-based lubrication increases sensitivity when carefully put on the outside of the condom or around the vagina and anus. But it must be water-based. Vegetable oil won't do! (It'll rot the condom.)
Whereas KY jelly or the lubrication should make the whole experience more enjoyable. And safer.

SAFER USE OF CONDOMS

  • Always choose a suitable condom for the sexual activity e.g. extra strong for anal sex, rough sex, or sex when one partner has a genital piercing
  • Do not store condoms in warm places, check the expiry date on the packet, and check for either the CE mark, or the British Kite mark. Be careful when opening the packet!
  • Always use a water-based lubricant
  • Always ensure the condom is put on the right way round. If you find it's not, discard it and use another
  • Never re-use a condom. Always use a fresh one.
  • Put the condom on before the penis touches the genital area
  • After climax, hold the rim of the condom while withdrawing
  • Remove the condom away from the partner's genital area
  • Ensure the condom remains on until the penis has been withdrawn but take the condom off before the penis goes completely soft.
  • Then tie in a knot to prevent leakage and place in a bin (do not flush down the toilet!)

W ATER-BASED LUBRICATION

Water-based lubrication can make condom and femidom use more effective and much more pleasurable.

Condoms and femidoms are already lubricated. They have to be for us to get them on and off. But they actually work and feel better when extra lubrication (such as KY jelly) is used. Water-based lubrication increases sensitivity when carefully put on the outside of the condom or around the vagina and anus.

Lubricants also help prevent the condom splitting. But it must be water-based. Any alternative methods of lubrication that are oil-based will rot the condom very quickly and render it useless. Lubricants to avoid include massage oil, vegetable oil, vaseline, spit, lipstick, sun tan lotion etc!

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