• Sarah Amato

Safe Sex Practices To Keep In Mind This Valentine's Day



This year, make sure your Valentine stays happy by being on top...of your safe sex practices and sexual health.

Understanding how to be safe during sex is important for people of any age and gender or sexual identity. Most of us only received education about something so utterly normal and basic to human nature through the internet. So here’s to hoping this article is the first thing you accessed looking for more information about practicing safe sex, and not some wierd p*rn which will probably make you feel at even more of a loss.


Here we are running down a few steps and precautions you should be taking if you plan on completely disregarding the 2m distance rule this Valentine’s. 1. Contraception


Contraception is not only used to prevent pregnancies. It is also very important to avoid the transmission of STIs. Therefore it is not necessary only for straight couples to be informed and prepared with contraception before indulging in sexual ventures.

Statistically, gay men are at a higher risk than others to contract STIs such as HIV, gonnorhea and early syphillis, whereas for wlw couples*, it is significantly less.

Normally, penetrative sex puts people at a greater risk of STIs without the use of contraception. It is very easy to purchase condoms from any pharmacy and even supermarkets.

Do not shy away from asking questions if you have any. Normally a pharmacy is a safer and more informed space, where you may have discreet conversations with the employees about which condoms to get and even how to use them.

Using contraception to avoid pregnancy is also very important if having children is not what you would like to achieve out of your Valentine’s Day celebration this year. Most contraceptive methods are normally aimed towards AFAB* people.

There are many options for contraceptive methods and it is important to research and have conversations with your doctor about the effects each will have on your body, any risks and what would work best for you.

You may opt for the pill, a medication ingested daily. Consistency is key with this contraception, it is important to take it at the same time everyday to maximize its effects and for it to be a reliable contraception. There's also the option of an IUD. This is a small device inserted into the uterus which makes it difficult for the sperm to fertilize the egg and even for the egg to be embedded in the uterine lining if it has been fertilised. The procedure to get an IUD inserted is about 20 minutes, but may cause some pain. Ideally, you discuss this contraception with a gynecologist who will run tests and make sure it is possible for you to have it. Some less common modes of contraception are spermicide*, the female condom and a diaphragm*. It all depends on what you think will work best for you. It is also important to remember that none of these contraceptive methods guarantee 100% that pregnancy will not occur. So it would be wise to employ multiple methods at the same time and also check your menstrual cycle and use the pull out method.


As of 2016, the over the counter morning after pill has also been available in Malta. Albeit abortion still being deemed a crime on our islands, there is the option to avoid pregnancy by ingesting this medication. There are two types of pill: one which can be taken up to three days after having intercourse and one which may be taken up to five days after. These should be available at all pharmacies in Malta.


2. Having open conversation

Being open and honest with your partner is important, whatever the situationship or relationship may be. Be honest about when you have been tested, if you know about any STIs you may have, and about your preferences for safety and contraception. It may be awkward, but it does show mutual respect.

Being honest and having conversation will also help make things lighter and less intense especially if you are having a first time experience.

3. Getting tested

It is important to get tested for STIs regularly, especially if you have multiple partners or often change partners. No shame in that, simply remember to be responsible and put your mind at ease while having fun.

The GU Clinic at Mater Dei may be reached on 25457494 or 25457491. You may also email at guclinic@gov.mt. Since this is a public service, waiting lists may be long, so if your issue is urgent you may also make an appointment at a private clinic such as St James Hospital. You may also get a general blood test done with certain general practitioners which will test for a few of the most common STIs - HIV, gonorrhea, Hepatitis B and C among others. Check with your GP or clinic to know whether or not your GP offers this service.


It is worth knowing that PrEP - a medication for HIV patients is also readily available in Malta. It is a pill that when taken correctly may prevent the spread of HIV. It is important to know that as long as HIV is undetectable in the patient’s blood work, it is untransmittable. This does not mean that the use of contraception should be overlooked, but it does mean that PrEP is an effective medication which is prolonging the lifespan of people who are HIV positive and making its effects on their body and health less aggressive.

Keep up to date with the improvements and breakthroughs made in medicine for the treatment of STIs. Moderna has started testing an HIV vaccine. Resources are available, treatment is available and contraception is available.


 

* wlw = woman loving woman, a term often use to describe lesbian relationships or relationships between people who are assigned female at birth. * afab = assigned female at birth

*spermicide = a gel which kills sperm *diaphragm = worn inside the vagina, blocking the cervical wall


 

This Valentine', be responsible and spread the love, not a life changing virus! 💗

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