Love, sex and STIs

Disclaimer: The following are the views of the author and should not be taken as medical advice. Please speak to a health professional to seek medical advice.

So often you get into a relationship, things become serious and you start being intimate with that person. The classic boy meets girl, they fall in love and they live happily ever after narrative. However, the part that isn’t spoken about is sex. Or more specifically that, in some instances, at a certain point after couples are comfortable, trusting and stable within a relationship, the use of condoms becomes optional and eventually fades away.

Ideally, the only time you should stop using condoms is when you are planning a family. Otherwise you should be using condoms. All the time. Having unprotected sex can literally change your life through something like unplanned pregnancy. Yes, you can use other forms of contraceptives to plan the timing of pregnancy such as the pill, injection and implants. However, the possibility of becoming a parent unexpectedly is not the only reason for taking precautionary measures. Remember HIV and other STIs?

Most of us have heard of chlamydia, HPV and syphilis but do yourself a favour and actually Google images of STIs (not for the faint of heart). These outcomes alone require you to make drastic changes to your daily life but can be completely avoided.

Taking the above into consideration, there are circumstances why couples decide to engage in unprotected sex. In some cases, couples become comfortable and decide that since they have been together for a certain period that they don’t need to use condoms anymore. Sadly, in other cases condom use is not discussed in relationships, with male partners making the decision and women simply have to comply.

When it comes to HIV, things have progressed and we have you covered with information. If you and your partner both decide not to use condoms or using a condom complicates your relationship, you can still protect yourself from getting infected with HIV. First thing first: you need to get tested and receive counselling and information on available options to prevent or treat HIV.

These are some other HIV prevention options, depending on what your healthcare centre offers:

  • Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) pill once a day every day.
  • Your partner can undergo medical circumcision, which reduces his risk of acquiring HIV.
  • If your partner is HIV-positive, getting antiretroviral treatment (ART) and following the regimen can lower his viral load. Achieving an undetectable viral load reduces the uninfected partner’s HIV risk to virtually zero.
  • If you are potentially exposed to HIV, visit a health professional immediately to discuss the possibility of post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). For PEP to work, it needs to be taken as soon as possible after exposure.

However, you need to do your due diligence and read up or speak to a healthcare professional on these options first.

Ultimately, it all boils down to the fact that engaging in sex (with or without a condom) should be your choice. You should never feel pressured into it. More importantly, love yourself by putting your health first. You and what you want are the most important factors in this regard.

Please look out for the next edition of Inside My Purse where I’ll unpack the issue of consent within relationships. Note that I’m not an expert, I’m just a conscious and concerned young woman who wants to help make sure my fellow women are safe, happy and healthy.

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