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Guide to Safe Sex Practices: 7 Ways to Practice Safe Sex

What Is Safe Sex?
Safe sex is when people take specific measures before or during sexual activity to reduce the risk of sharing sexually transmitted diseases or infections (STDs/STIs), including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), human papillomavirus (HPV), genital herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis.

Sometimes, the phrase “safe sex” is used to refer to contraception practices (which help prevent unwanted or unplanned pregnancy) in addition to STI prevention. It’s important to note that many contraceptive methods (such as birth control pills) are not effective ways to reduce the risk of STIs.

How Do STIs Spread?
STIs usually spread through sexual contact. Different STIs spread in different ways, but the most common modes of transmission include:

●Transfer of bodily fluids: Most STIs are transmitted by the transfer of or exposure to body fluids (especially semen, vaginal fluid, and rectal mucus), so many methods for safe sex aim to avoid transmission of fluids during vaginal, oral, and anal sex. Certain STIs (including hepatitis B and HIV) can also be spread through blood-to-blood contact in non-sexual contexts, including sharing needles or coming into contact with an open wound.
Genital skin-to-skin contact: Some STIs, including HPV, herpes, and syphilis, can be spread by intimate skin-to-skin contact, especially with a sore, genital wart, or infected area on another person’s genitals or skin.

7 Safe Sex Practices
Here are some standard practices for safer sex:

1. Barrier methods: Barriers during sex aim to prevent direct contact between each partner’s genitals by limiting exposure to bodily fluids. Among the most common barrier methods for safe sex are latex condoms (external polyurethane) and internal condoms (sometimes called female condoms). Latex condoms are barriers worn on the penis during intercourse, and internal condoms are placed inside the vaginal canal before vaginal sex. Other barriers include dental dams, which can be used as a barrier over the vulva or anus during oral sex, and latex gloves, which can be used as a barrier over the hands to prevent contact with an open wound. In addition to their use during sexual intercourse, you can use condoms or other barrier methods over sex toys to avoid transmission of fluids between orifices or partners.

2. No-contact sexual activities: No-contact sexual activities are sexual experiences that do not include physical touch, eliminating the possibility of fluid transmission. Examples of no-contact sexual behaviors include phone sex, sexting, mutual masturbation, and cybersex.

3. Non-penetrative sexual activities: Non-penetrative sexual activities like making out, handjobs, and fingering limit partners’ exposure to each others’ bodily fluids, reducing chances for STI transmission (as compared to high-risk activities like vaginal, oral, or anal sex). However, non-penetrative sexual practices do not protect against STIs transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact, like herpes or syphilis.

4. Immunization: You can reduce your risk for STIs like hepatitis B and HPV by being immunized preventatively by a licensed health care provider.

5. Medication: Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a method of taking specific prescription drugs to reduce your chances for HIV infection. The most common PrEP drugs use a combination of tenofovir and emtricitabine, and should only be taken under the direction of a healthcare professional. These drugs have proven effective against HIV transmission, but cannot reduce your risk of other STIs. Contraceptive pills (also called birth control pills) are not an effective method to prevent STIs.

6. Treatment as prevention: Treatment as prevention (TasP), sometimes called “undetectable = untransmissible” or “U=U,” is a method of limiting the transmission and spread of HIV by treating people living with HIV with antiretroviral medication. When managed properly through medication, the levels of HIV in someone’s body can become so low that tests cannot detect it. When an HIV-positive person reaches undetectable status, studies show that the virus can not be transmitted to someone who is HIV-negative.

7. Limiting sexual partners: Engaging in sexual activity with a new partner runs the risk of exposure to an STI, so one way to reduce your risk is to limit your sexual partners to people who communicate about their medical and sexual history and agree to use safe sex practices in a way that makes you feel comfortable.

Credit: MasterClass for PharmahubNG


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