Sexuality and healthy sexual expression are normal, important parts of life. Sometimes, life events such as stress, depression, or chronic disease (such as HIV) can make it more difficult for people to feel comfortable or able to healthily express their sexuality. The reason behind these difficulties may be physical or emotional.
Having good sexual health includes feeling comfortable with your sexuality, the kinds of sex you are having and who you are having sex with.
It is important to be aware of some risks associated with being sexually active, and how to prevent those risks. One result of unprotected heterosexual sex could be pregnancy, which can be prevented by using contraception or condoms. Sexually transmitted infections (also known as STIs or STDs) can also be passed through sex, whether anal, oral, or vaginal, no matter if the partner is male or
female. There are a couple of types of sexually transmitted infections. First, there are infections that are bacterial, like Chlamydia or Gonorrhoea, which are most often spread through fluids (like vaginal discharge and semen). These can usually be cured by antibiotics, but can cause long-term damage if left untreated.
There are also viral infections, which can be passed through fluids or through skin to skin contact. Some examples of these are Herpes or HPV. HIVis another STI which can be passed through fluids exchanged during sex, which is why it is important to use a condom. Having an STI can make you more vulnerable to getting HIV, and having HIV can make you more vulnerable (because of a weaker immune system) to getting an STI.
For people who are HIV+ or whose sexual partner is HIV+, practicing safer sex is a healthy way to help reduce risk. Some ways risk can be reduced are by: always
using a condom (male or female) correctly, having a low viral load (through taking HIV treatment correctly), using a water-based lubricant, and not having sex when you are not able to negoiate safer sex e.g when you have been drinking alcohol.
Negotiating healthy sexual relationships where you feel respected and valued and that protects one another is everyone’s responsibility.