Valentine's Message 14 Feb 2013 - STI and Condom Awareness Week 10 - 16 February 2013
Love hurts, love scars
Love wounds, and marks
Any heart, not tough
Or strong enough
To take a lot of pain
Take a lot of pain
Love is like a cloud
Holds a lot of rain….
The above lyrics come from the famous song “Love Hurts", written and composed by Boudleaux Bryant and first recorded by “The Everly Brothers” in July 1960.
Love is that intense feeling of deep affection for someone and expressed through a deep romantic or sexual attachment. So does love hurt?
Alicia Keys reminds that “Love is blind”. So many songs have been written about the emotions, feelings and realities of being in love. Is love blind?
A simple quick answer would not be sufficient to satisfy all that the mystery of love brings with it. This article by no means aims to do that. “When love comes knocking at your door, just open up and let it in” …. Oh my, I am in a singing mood as I contemplate the topic of love. When love enters the front door of ones heart it seems that all common sense departs through the back door of our minds.
All caution to the wind. Yet a key issue as one begins to fall in love and before one is overcome by a deep desire to be intimate, one should contemplate firstly with wisdom, mutual respect and understanding the risks involved. Using those wonderful days of intense love to build a foundation of trust and respect based on honesty and the ability to communicate about all things, not only the wonderful matters of the heart, are key to developing a loving relationship which will be able to prevent and protect one from the harm. This is the first step towards a love that will stand the test of time.
Sexually transmitted infections (also known as STIs or STDs for "sexually transmitted diseases") are infectious diseases that spread from person to person through intimate contact. STIs can affect guys and girls of all ages and backgrounds who are having sex.
Unfortunately, STIs have become very common among teens. Because teens become sexually active earlier than before they too are at risk for getting some STIs, hence it is important that they learn what they can do to protect themselves.
STIs are more than just an embarrassment. They are a serious health problem. When an STI is untreated, some can cause permanent damage, such as infertility (the inability to have a baby) and even death (in the case of HIV/AIDS).
One reason STIs spread is because people think they can only be infected if they have sexual intercourse. That is wrong. A person can get some STIs, like herpes or genital warts, through skin-to-skin contact with an infected area or sore.
Another myth about STIs is that you cannot get them if you have oral or anal sex. That is also wrong because the viruses or bacteria that cause STIs can enter the body through tiny cuts or a tear in the mouth and anus, as well as the genitals.
STIs also spread easily because you cannot tell whether someone has an infection if the infection is in the asymptomatic stage. In fact, some people with STIs don't even know that they have them (being asymptomatic). These people are in danger of passing an infection on to their sex partners without even realising it.
Some of the things that increase a person's chances of getting an STI are:
- Sexual activity at a young age. The younger a person starts having sex, the greater his or her chances of becoming infected with an STI.
- Lots of sex partners. People who have sexual contact, not just intercourse, but any form of intimate activity, with many different partners are more at risk than those who stay with the same partner.
- Unprotected sex. Latex condoms are the only form of birth control that reduce your risk of getting an STI, and must be used every time. Spermicides, diaphragms, and other birth control methods may help prevent pregnancy, but they do not protect a person against STIs.
Preventing and Treating STIs
As with many other diseases, prevention of STIs is the key. It is much easier to prevent STIs than to treat them. The only way to completely prevent STIs is to abstain from all types of sexual contact. If someone is going to have sex, the best way to reduce the chance of getting an STI is by using a condom every time.
People who are considering having sex should get regular gynaecological or male genital examinations. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, these exams give doctors a chance to teach people about STIs and protecting themselves. And secondly, regular exams give doctors more opportunities to check for STIs while they are still in their earliest, most treatable stage.
In order for these exams and visits to the doctor to be helpful, people need to tell their doctors if they are thinking about having sex or if they have already started having sex. This is true for all types of sex; oral, vaginal, and anal. Let the doctor know if you have ever had any type of sexual contact, even if it was in the past.
Do not let embarrassment at the thought of having an STI keep you from seeking medical attention. Waiting to see a doctor may allow a disease to progress and cause more damage. If you think you may have an STI, or if you have had a partner who may have an STI, you should see a doctor right away.
If you do not have a doctor or prefer not to see your family doctor, you may be able to find a local clinic in your area where you can get an exam confidentially.
Not all infections in the genitals are caused by STIs. Sometimes people can get symptoms that seem very like those of STIs, even though they have never had sex. For girls, a yeast infection can easily be confused with an STI. Guys may worry about bumps on the penis that turn out to be pimples or irritated hair follicles. That is why it is important to see a doctor if you ever have questions about your sexual health.
Talking about Condoms and Safe Sex
It is much smarter to talk about condoms before having sex, but that doesn't make it easy. Some people, even those who are already having sex, are embarrassed by the topic of condoms. But not talking about condoms affects a person's safety. Using condoms properly every time is the best protection against sexually transmitted diseases (STIs), even if you are using another form of birth control like the Pill.
So how can you overcome your embarrassment about talking about condoms? Well, for starters it can help to know what a condom looks like, how it works, and what it's like to handle one. Buy a box of condoms so you can familiarise yourself.
The next thing to get comfortable with is bringing up the topic of condoms with a partner. Practice opening lines. If you think your partner will object, work out your response ahead of time. Here are some possibilities:
Your partner says: "It's uncomfortable."
You might answer this by suggesting a different brand or size. Wearing a condom may also take some getting used to.
Your partner says: "It puts me right out of the mood."
Say that having unsafe sex puts you right out of the mood. Permanently!
Your partner says: "If we really love each other, we should trust each other."
Say that it's because you love each other so much that you want to be sure you're both safe and protect each other.
Your partner says: "Are you nervous about catching something?"
The natural response: "Sometimes people don't even know when they have infections, so it is better to be safe."
Your partner says: "I won't enjoy sex if we use a condom."
Say you can't enjoy sex unless it's safe.
Let me continue to use the theme of love songs; is it possible to be “safe in the arms of love”? Only by knowing ones risks and engaging in a loving and responsible relationship with someone that you can feel safe and comfortable with. Loving someone with whom you are able to communicate effectively and openly with. Being able to initiate discussions that are related to all issues of health and safe sexual practices without fear or judgement will enable you and your partner to develop a trusting and the intimate relationship and it will protect you both. Do not play the blame game, rather be responsible and have clearly defined actions in the event of one of the partners testing positive with a STI. Getting tested together and ensure that both receive treatment in the event of an STI is also important to effective treatment.
Yes it is possible to be, “safe in the arms of your love”.
So tired of livin' solitaire
Someday I'm gonna be
Safe in the arms of love…
Sung by Martina McBride
POSITIVELY ALIVE cc
Employee Wellness Consultant and Specialist Trainer
Images from Zwagain Graphics http://zwangaingraphics.co.za/pages/posters.html