Safer sex

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A term for describing sexual practices that present a lower risk of catching sexually transmitted diseases than other, riskier practices.

With the realization that risk of transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in various sexual activities is a continuum rather than a simple dichotomy of risky/safe, US health workers began to talk of safer sex rather than "safe sex". However, in most of the rest of the English speaking world, including the United Kingdom and Australia, the term "safe sex" is still mainly used by sex educators, perhaps in the recognition that with the strict adherence to these techniques the risks of catching the more dangerous STD's are quite low.

Most attention has focussed on controlling the HIV (AIDS) virus, but each STD presents a different situation.

Safer sex practices include:

  • Abstinence. Solitary masturbation (including phone sex) is completely safe.
  • Monogamy. However, be aware that many monogamous people have been infected with sexually transmitted diseases by non-monogamous partners.
  • Knowing your partner.
  • Communicating with your partner.
  • Being assertive in saying what you want and don't want.
  • Not using recreational drugs, including alcohol, in a way that increases the likelihood you will "forget" other safer sex guidelines.
  • Appropriate testing for STDs.
  • Barrier methods. The condom for men, "female condom" for women having sexual intercourse, and "dental dam" (a sheet of latex, originally for dentistry) for oral sex on a woman (a piece of plastic wrap may also be used) are standbys.

Note that most methods of contraception (birth control) other then the barrier methods mentioned above are not effective at preventing the spread of STDs.

The spermicide Nonoxynol-9 has been claimed to reduce the likelihood of STD transmission, however more evidence is needed to verify this, and it cannot be recommended for this purpose at this time.


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