Jacquie Richardson, CEO of Positive Life, on making this as much of a wellness priority
The relaxation of the Covid-19 restrictions will no doubt see us all hooking up again after long periods of being at home and sexual inactivity.
For many, this may cause some anxiety and worry as they begin again to navigate their sex life and how best to protect their sexual health.
We at Positive Life believe that we need to pay as much attention to our sexual health as we do to our physical and mental health, so as you get back out there here are our top tips to remind you how to do that.
1. Get tested regularly
When it comes to having good sexual health, testing regularly is key. Knowing if you have an STI or HIV not just helps to protect your health, but also the health of your sexual partners. Positive Life can provide free and confidential advice and HIV testing – more information is available on our website – www.positivelifeni.com/abouthiv - or by calling our helpline on 0800 137 437.
2. Always use protection
If you do nothing else – do this. It is essential to use a condom to reduce the risk of contracting or transmitting STIs or HIV. Positive Life offer free condoms as part of our safer packs - contact us for more information on how to get yours.
3. PEP may be available if you have been exposed to HIV
PEP, which stands for post-exposure prophylaxis, may be available if you think you have been exposed to HIV. It’s a month-long course of antiretroviral drugs and you’ll need to visit your local A&E, or GUM clinic to be assessed for treatment.
4. PrEP may be available if you are part of a high-risk group
PrEP is a preventative medication that may be available if you are deemed to be at high risk. Again, you will need to visit your local GUM clinic to be assessed but in general it is available free on the NHS for anyone assessed as eligible.
5. Don’t ignore symptoms
Symptoms of common STIs and HIV can take a significant amount of time to appear. If you’re worried, you should get tested as soon as possible and not engage in any sexual activity until you obtain your results. Again, check out our website or give us a call for more information and support.
6. Be wary of alcohol as it lowers your inhibitions
We all enjoy a night out or a glass of wine or two at the weekend, however drinking does impair our judgement and ability to make good choices. So, if you do engage in unprotected sex on a night out, get tested 10 days after your encounter – just to be sure.
7. Don’t take “I got tested really recently” for an answer
It’s a fact that some people may just tell you what you want to hear to have sex. Merely being told that your sexual partner has recently been tested should not be a green light – take care of yourself, practice safer sex and use a condom.
8. It only takes one encounter
At Positive Life we know that many people still believe that HIV and STIs only affect people who have multiple partners. While that may increase the risk, the reality is that it only takes one encounter – so the message is, don’t take risks and always practice safer sex.
9. Talk to your partners
We need to have these conversations. Get used to openly sharing your sexual history with a partner before engaging in sexual activity. This may feel uncomfortable at first but will prevent even more awkward conversations in the future and, most importantly, protect both you and your partners’ health.
10. Make informed decisions
Sex should be fun and there are many great options to help protect your sexual health. Make sure you know what they are and decide what is best for you. When we know better, we do better.
For more information regarding your sexual health and HIV visit www.positivelifeni.com