Sexclamation ! - Part Three
It's day two after my visit to the sexual health clinic yesterday. How do I feel? Surprisingly calm. After a hot tub, and a large gin and tonic, on reflection, I decided it wasn't too bad. I did have that turn turkey moment on the exam couch, but it was quick and over in a jiffy. No, smirks, giggles or rude remarks. I was just another sausage in the STI sausage machine of life.
However, I am anxious about getting the results. If they are positive, what on earth am I going to say and do? But I tend to take life one step at a time these days. There's really no point worrying about things that may never happen. Put it this way, if I only have four days left on the planet in the knowledge I'm disease free - I guess I'll get on enjoy them. Live in the moment.
So while I'm waiting, I'll get on write a few other important aspects of sexual health. In my first post I promised to write about condoms and STI transmission, so here goes. Listen out, as you may find things are not what they seem.
Here's the thing. So many people say to me in the clinic, that they don't need testing because they always use condoms...? Hmm. What does this mean? The problem is this. What people say they do and actually do are two different things. And in fact, they are probably not getting the 100% protection from what they think they are doing.
Here is a list of things users typically do when thinking of/or trying to use a condom:
1. Put the condom on after penile penetration. This is too late. As soon as you mix body secretions, those little organisms will have made a kamikaze jump from one genital skin surface to another. In fact some couples admit to only applying the condom just before ejaculation. There is a lot of pre-ejaculatory fluid and vaginal secretions in the genital area long before the final countdown!
2. Put the condom on after stimulating their partner with their fingers. If there are vaginal or penile secretions on the fingers, these will be transferred to the outside of the condom as it is rolled onto the penis. The penis is now covered in a sprinkling of organisms at the moment it is inserted into the vagina. - Should a couple pause then to wash their hands before applying the condom? Who is going to be able to or want to do this? Or should a third party apply the condom for them? I jest! Totally impractical!
3. Put the condom on inside out. Condoms are only designed to be rolled onto the erect penis one way. If you, perhaps in the heat of the moment, or in the dark, put the condom wrong side up on the top of the penis and unroll it, it will unroll, but it is not fit for purpose and this may well increase the chance it will burst.
4. Reusing a condom! Yes - it happens. Do not do this! They are single use only!
5. Use a latex condom with oil based lubricants e.g. lipstick (use your imagination here), baby oil, suntan oil etc. Experiment: If you blow up a condom like a balloon, and drop baby oil onto it, it will explode. How often is this going on in bedrooms all across the globe? And men frequently do not disclose a burst condom to their partner!
6. The condom only covers the genital skin of the shaft of the penis. Skin to skin contact with the rest of the genital area, still means some bugs can hop across the great divide.
Consider the infectiousness of the organisms. Chlamydia and gonorrhoea are highly infectious organisms that spread in semen and vaginal secretions. So a condom applied 100% correctly will be a good way of preventing the spread of this. HIV (the Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is also in this category. But viral infections like HPV (the Human Papilloma Virus) and herpes are present in large areas of genital skin and spread by skin to skin contact. So condoms are less effective at preventing the spread of these infections.
We have to live within our society every day, in the knowledge that nothing is ever 100%!
The fact that many couples use condoms most of the time undoubtedly helps prevent unplanned pregnancy and the spread of infection on a world-wide basis. BUT, on an individual basis, even if you use condoms all the time, this does not guarantee you will not get an infection. This is why young people, or people with frequent changes of partner or overlapping partners are recommended to have regular STI checks.
This is also why, if you are being treated for an STI, for example chlamydia, you will be advised not to have sex during treatment, not even with a condom. Because, the condom does not give 100% protection.
I do want to strongly advise anyone reading this that condoms play a vital role in contraception and STI prevention. It is important to use condoms as carefully and consistently as you can. But, even if you think you do that already, it is still important to go for testing. It also highly advisable to use effective contraception as well as a condom. (I will write about contraception in my next post.)
So why don't couples want to use condoms? They complain that they spoil the sex sensation. Some condoms are made of latex and are inappropriate for those with latex allergy.
There are a large variety of condoms available now. These include latex free condoms. Condoms can also be purchased in different sizes to ensure a better fit. A new condom, the Origami condom has been developed and may be on sale soon in the USA. It is unique in that it is made of silicone, so it's latex free. It has a concertina shape, slips onto the penis so does not have to be unrolled, and contains a fluid medium that mimics sensation of the vagina. Some say it enhances sexual pleasure. If this does come to market, I think it may prove a very valuable tool, and fit for purpose, considering the points made above. Let's watch this space.
But for now my message is, use condoms carefully, consistently and every time, until you know you are in a long term monogamous relationship. But there is still a real need to regular testing even if you are following this advice.
It's day three after my STI tests tomorrow. How to get through to day five? Wait and see.
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