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With silent giggles and nudges, everything about sex is usually discussed, except…. Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). We usually pretend like we know it all. But do we really know the answers to all those awkward and uncomfortable yet important questions about sex? We hear about safe sex. What is this safe sex and why is it important to have safe sex?
Below are the five most frequently asked questions :
1. Do any Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) spread through smooching/ saliva? Does oral sex have higher risk for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)?
Yes, STIs such as syphilis, herpes, gonorrhea and chlamydia can be transmitted during smooching/saliva/oral sex. Rimming can also transmit hepatitis A and B, intestinal parasites like Giardia, and bacteria like E. coli. The chances of an HIV-negative person will get HIV from oral sex with an HIV-positive partner are extremely low. However, it is hard to know the exact risk because a lot of people who have oral sex also have anal or vaginal sex. The type of oral sex that may be the riskiest is mouth-to-penis oral sex. But the risk is still very low, and much lower than with anal or vaginal sex. Though the risk of HIV transmission through oral sex is low, several factors may increase that risk, including sores in the mouth or vagina or on the penis, bleeding gums, oral contact with menstrual blood, and the presence of other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
The risk of HIV transmission through oral sex is even lower if the HIV-negative partner is taking medicine to prevent HIV (pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP) or the HIV- positive partner is taking medicine to treat HIV (antiretroviral therapy or ART) and is virally suppressed.
2. This might sound silly, but we have extra thin condoms in market, are they safe to use?
Ultra-thin condoms aren’t more likely to break than regular condoms — like all condoms you can find in a drug store or health center, they’ve been rigorously tested for quality, and wouldn’t be on the market if they were more likely to break (that would make them defective).
There are lots of different kinds of condoms out there, in styles like ultra-thin and ribbed, and made of materials like latex, polyurethane, and polyisoprene. They all protect you from pregnancy and STDs, except for natural condoms like lambskin ones, which don’t protect so well against STDs. Condoms are much less likely to break when they’re put on correctly, and used with plenty of lubrication (natural or store bought) to reduce friction. So if you’re concerned about the possibility of the condom breaking, you can prepare by learning how to put on a condom, and buying some lube like K-Y, Astroglide, and ID Glide, which you can get in most drug stores.
Following these guidelines when using any kind of condom will help avoid blowouts or slip-ups:
- Keep the condoms out of direct sunlight and away from exposure to high temperatures.
- Check expiration dates.
- Make sure the package is sealed and has no holes — make sure you can feel an air pocket in each package.
- Open the package right before you need it, and use your fingers (not your teeth, which can tear the condom).
- Stick with water- or silicone-based lubes rather than oil-based ones.
3. Heard frequent anal sex leads to anal cancer, is it true and how to identify its symptoms?
Yes. Anal sex can lead to infection with human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV infection isn’t cancer but can cause changes in the body that lead to cancer. HPV infections usually go away by themselves but having an HPV infection can cause certain kinds of cancer to develop. These include cervical cancer in women, penile cancer in men, and anal cancer in both women and men. HPV can also cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils .All of these cancers are caused by HPV infections that did not go away. Cancer develops very slowly and may not be diagnosed until years, or even decades, after a person initially gets infected with HPV. Currently, there is no way to know who will have only a temporary HPV infection, and who will develop cancer after getting HPV.
Certain men are more likely to develop HPV-related cancers:
- Men with weak immune systems (including those with HIV) who get infected with HPV are more likely to develop HPV-related health problems.
- Men who receive anal sex are more likely to get anal HPV and develop anal cancer.
However, some healthcare providers do offer anal Pap tests to men who may be at increased risk for anal cancer, including men with HIV or men who receive anal sex. If you have symptoms and are concerned about cancer, please see a healthcare provider.
There are two steps you can take to lower your chances of getting HPV and HPV- related diseases:
- Get vaccinated
- Use condoms
The HPV vaccine is recommended for the following men (2 doses 6 to 12 months apart)
- All boys at age 11 or 12 years (or as young as 9 years)
- Older boys through age 21 years, if they did not get vaccinated when they were younger
- Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men through age 26 years, if they did not get vaccinated when they were younger
- Men with HIV or weakened immune systems through age 26 years, if they did not get vaccinated when they were younger.
4. What are the chances of getting HIV for men who have Sexually Transmitted Diseases?
If you get an STD you are more likely to get HIV than someone who is STD-free. This is because the same behaviors and circumstances that may put you at risk for getting an STD can also put you at greater risk for getting HIV. In addition, having a sore or break in the skin from an STD may allow HIV to more easily enter your body.
Activities that can put you at risk for both STDs and HIV:
- Having anal, vaginal, or oral sex without a condom;
- Having multiple sex partners;
- Having anonymous sex partners;
- Having sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can lower inhibitions and result in greater sexual risk-taking.
5. Safe sex would help prevent from getting HIV, however are there any vaccinations that may help preventing getting STDs?
There are safe and effective vaccines recommended against hepatitis B, human papilloma virus (HPV), and hepatitis A. Kindly speak to your doctor to see if you can receive them.
Note: Currently, there is no vaccine against HIV, but there are some antiretro viral medicines that are used as PrEP (pre exposure prophylaxis). PEP (post exposure prophylaxis) to be taken within 72 hrs of exposure and to be continued for a month.