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Friday, February 13, 2009

Safe sex

Health risks associated with sexIn this first decade of the 21st century the various risks connected with having sex have (alas) increased. The figures for HIV, chlamydia and gonorrhoea are all going up. This is almost entirely because so many people – whether they're heterosexuals or homosexuals or 'bi' -- don't practise safe sex.Britain is a pretty promiscuous place. A survey published by Bradley University in late 2008 showed that the UK is the ‘one-night stand’ capital of western industrialised nations. In Europe, the order was:
*Czech Republic.

Statistics show that men and women are taking more and more sexual partners. Crazy practices like going to orgies, joining sex clubs and indulging in ‘dogging’ (multiple sex in car parks) are quite widespread. In the male gay world, ‘cottages’ and multi-partner saunas continue to be fairly popular.And in many of these situations, people don’t use a condoms!As for teenagers, unfortunately they are now losing their virginity very young – and frequently at an age where they don’t have any idea about how to protect themselves against the unwanted consequences of sex. So inevitably, there are times when teenage love-making, instead of being beautiful and fulfilling, leads to disaster. Understandably, in all age groups a lot of men and women think that ‘it won’t happen to me'. But in the year 2009, there is so much sex infection around that you really do need to be very careful. Unless you are totally faithful to one partner – and he or she is totally faithful to you – you are at some risk.

What are the risks of unsafe sex?
The chief ones are:
*unwanted pregnancy.
*venereal diseases (such as gonorrhoea and, much less commonly, syphilis).
*other sexually transmitted infections (such as herpes, pubic lice, and viral warts and especially the 21st century‘s major risk - chlamydia).
*HIV - the virus which can cause AIDS.
*cancer of the cervix.
*female infertility – due to pelvic infection caused by sex with an infected guy.It’s almost inevitable that other sexual infections will arise during this century – especially if the human race keeps going in for unsafe sex! Germs have a nasty way of exploiting people’s behaviour, which is why – soon after the swinging 60s and 70s – herpes and HIV suddenly emerged.

Back in the 20th century, many people, both straight and gay, enjoyed sex with a variety of partners assuming that there was very little danger. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case – since disease rates have increased so much. Today, it’s only common sense to practise safe sex.

What is safe sex?
You could say that the only totally safe form of sex is masturbation. Technically, all sexual activity with a partner carries some risk, though the danger of infections is practically non-existent if the two people are completely faithful to each other. ‘Petting’ with the hands is a relatively safe form of sex, and is certainly much less risky than intercourse. So if you’re a teenager and you can keep to hand-petting (rather than ‘going all the way’), you will definitely be safer. What about ‘petting’ with the mouth? This is a bit more risky, since it can pass on infections like gonorrhoea and herpes (and very rarely syphilis). But at least it can’t get you pregnant! It is now known that oral sex can pass on HIV, though a UK Government committee has assessed the risk as relatively low – and therefore not as great as that associated with vaginal or rectal intercourse.

If you are going to have sexual intercourse with someone who is not a regular, faithful partner, you should always use a condom. This can be either a male condom or (much less commonly) a female one. The condom should be worn throughout the entire act of intercourse – putting it on when you are halfway through is simply asking for trouble. Other 'barrier methods' of contraception, such as the diaphragm or cap, do offer some but very little, protection against the transmission of infection. Another form of barrier is a ‘dental dam,’ which quite a few people now use when giving or receiving cunnilingus – that is, oral sex given to a woman by her partner (male or female). It certainly provides at least some protection against germs.

Alcohol and other drugs
One of the greatest risks to your health is having sex when you've drunk too much alcohol. Many people who would normally practise safe sex do become pregnant, or else catch HIV or venereal diseases, through having unprotected sex while drunk. Some other recreational drugs do also ‘lower your resistance’ – and so make you more likely to run into trouble sexually.Women should be especially aware of the recent rise in ‘drink-spiking’ – the practice in which a man slips a drug into your glass with the intention of making you so woozy that you won’t be able to resist sex.But overall, alcohol is probably the UK’s most important cause of unsafe sex. If you are on a boozy night out, and you’re in doubt as to whether it would be safe to have sex with someone - don't!

Four final sex tips to remember
*Avoid casual sex.
*If you don't want to have a baby, use contraception.
*If you do have sex with someone who is not your regular, faithful partner – use a condom throughout.
*Remember that alcohol can make us forget all we know about practising safer sex.

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