A few days ago, I went to my neighbourhood shopping centre, and I could not believe it was already that time of the year when my eyes are obstructed by red and white colours. I was reminded that February is the month of love.
February 14, known as Valentine’s Day, has been historically marked by people in romantic relationships celebrating their love. Over the years, Valentine’s Day evolved, and now it is celebrated by everyone who wants to show appreciation, love, and affection to those close to them. Things have progressed so much that even if you are not romantically involved, you can buy yourself a box of chocolates or write a love letter: that is called self-love. In the workplace, employees are gifted with tokens of appreciation for their hard work. People celebrate their best friends (aka Galentine’s Day) and families receive beautiful cards crafted by their kids. All kinds of love are thoroughly in the air around this time.
To all the romantic lovers out there and to those hoping to find love this month, I have some tips for you on how to celebrate love safely and responsibly. Since love is in the air and the mood is right, let us discuss the must-haves inside your purse when you step outside your home, whether you have scored a date or just going to a groove. If you do not have a place to go yet, you might consider brushing up on your selfie game to encourage those direct messages to slide in before the end of the month.
For those who prefer to be made up, of course inside your purse you need to have make-up, on point. But more importantly, carry your own transport money so that whenever you want to go home, or if your date goes wrong, you have the means to go home and not be stranded. Many of us know women who have found themselves in scary situations, so it is important to be aware of your surroundings and make a plan to be safe.
We get it, emotions are high during this period and sex may not be expected. In that case, please always carry condoms inside your purse. After all, it is the 21st century and women are more empowered about sex and their sexuality. When used correctly, condoms are highly effective in preventing the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), as well as unintended pregnancy. There may also be other HIV prevention options available depending on where you are located, such as daily oral pills (known as pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP), which is highly effective when taken every day as instructed. However, PrEP does not prevent other STIs or pregnancy.
We all have heard stories of young women who unintentionally fell pregnant on Valentine’s Day. Pregnancies among adolescent girls and young women remain a global crisis. A recent report highlights the lack of comprehensive sexual education as one of the key drivers of unintended pregnancies, alongside gender-based violence and sexual assault. If you consent to sex and are using any form of contraception, talk to your healthcare provider if you have any questions about how to use it as intended to prevent unplanned pregnancy. If you are not using any contraception but are sexually active, please visit your nearest healthcare centre to learn more about available options and to find one that works for you.
This week, we are also observing STIs and Condoms Awareness week (February 10-16). This campaign aims to educate about STIs and to encourage sexually active individuals and couples to use condoms and get tested for STIs and take appropriate treatment. During this month of love, you could communicate with your sex partner(s) to take things to the next level in your relationship by going for HIV and STI screening. If any of the results are positive, it is not end of the world! Talk to your healthcare provider to find out how to get treated and manage the infection.
Love is the air, so put on your heels on (sneakers are also fashionable!), get your hair and nails done, and celebrate love safely and responsible. May your love flourish beyond the month of love.