STI Prevention Starts with Foreplay- Conversation that Is
A few pieces last week brought it home again that aging doesn’t eliminate the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). In fact, it could make it a little higher. If you figure safe sex doesn’t apply because your partner doesn’t have a STI or you can’t get pregnant, reconsider.
According to a recent report in MEDSURG Nursing Journal, rates of HIV and other STIs have increased in people over 40. Syphilis, Chlamydia, and gonorrhea are not at all uncommon. HPV is also on the rise.
Perhaps you’re already living with a viral STI like herpes or HIV. If that’s the case or if you’re trying to avoid STIs, safe sex know-how is important.
What exactly is safe sex? Safe sex is the best you can do to protect yourself and your partner(s) from sharing any STIs either of you might have. It includes behaviour choices and what we sexual health folk call “risk reduction”- handy tools like condoms or dental dams. Safe sex (or safer sex, which is more accurate) isn’t perfect- some STIs can be transmitted through skin to skin contact, like herpes and HPV. Which is why the conversation before sex is important.
Conversation can be the toughest part, as many women living with HIV can attest. But no matter what your STI status, an awkward talk about safe sex is better than none at all. Talking about your desires can include a point about feeling confident with condoms for any penetration (including oral) and dams for oral sex on you. As my nurse-friend Evelyn points out, it’s way better to talk about safe sex than to deal with an unhappy result after the fact, whether with your lover or at the doctor’s.
Risk reduction means doing things differently than you might have before- using condoms for penetration, for one. So what if you no longer can get pregnant? You can still get an STI and more folks our age are, especially with online dating all the rage.
Dating Confidential researcher Cindy Masaro (I’ve sung her praises before) and I recently talked. She’s finding it’s really interesting how women say they’ll have sex with someone they’ve met online soon after meeting them in real life. Even though they’ve shared all kinds of intimate info online, they haven’t talked about safe sex. The assumption that their new love “would have told me” is the general rationale.
Given that lots of people who have HIV don’t know it (here in Canada it’s estimated that 26% of people with HIV don’t know it yet), is this a rationale that seems wise? I’d say no.
If you’re still not convinced, consider this- with perimenopause and post-menopausally, our bodies change. We have less natural lubrication, which can make the tissue more likely to tear during penetration. That puts us at more risk for STI transmission.
So talk to your guy or gal. It shows confidence and caring.
Photo: Free Digital Images/ Markuso