Safer Sex, Drugs, and Partying!
Not only is tomorrow Halloween, but it is also a Saturday. Lots of folks (including me) will be heading out into the night to celebrate after the little ones finish their trick-or-treating. Halloween is one of my favourite excuses for a party and a party is an excuse to step away from the busyness of work and life, to let your hair down, do some things you might not normally do, and generally have a good time. While chocolate-makers use Valentine’s Day to peddle their wares, we in the Health Promotion department are claiming this holiday to push our products – safer sex and safer drug use.
Safer sex and safer drug use fit under the broader umbrella of harm reduction. A harm reduction approach first acknowledges that people are doing things that can put them at risk for harm, and then says “hey, let’s try to minimize the harm done to that person and others”. When it comes to encouraging people to use condoms and clean needles to prevent the spread of HIV, harm reduction is only partly driven by concern for the individual who is putting himself at risk. It is also about reducing harm to the broader public, since preventing one HIV infection prevents future infections as well as future healthcare spending to deal with those infections.
But partying safely is about more than safer sex and safer drug use. It’s about more than condoms and clean needles, especially for women. It’s about confidence and self-respect; about physical safety and preparedness; about thinking and planning ahead, and setting limits and boundaries for yourself and others. There are studies showing that people are at higher risk of contracting HIV when they are drinking, because they are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviours like having unprotected sex and injecting drugs. But do we really need studies to tell us that? Drinking relaxes the brain and body, affecting judgment, slowing reactions and generally lowering inhibitions. This is probably why many people enjoy drinking, but it’s also something to consider when you decide where you will be partying and with whom.
Unfortunately, women still don’t have much say when it comes to safer sex. Because male condoms are used by men and female condoms are not particularly discreet, we still basically depend on our male sex partners to agree to use them. This is an important fact that we take very seriously at PWN. It’s also why we are advocating for the development of microbicides which could be controlled and used discretely by women to protect against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). In the meantime, don’t leave your condoms at home if you go partying this weekend!
PS – did you know that the female condom can be inserted up to 8 hours before sex? That means you can stick it in before you head out the door and not worry about interrupting things “in the heat of it”, so to speak …
This blog represents the ideas of individual writers, and does not necessarily reflect any formal stance taken by Positive Women’s Network.