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The old adage “Prevention is better than cure” is very important when it comes to STI’s. Many sexually transmitted infections can lead to serious problems and some can be life threatening. It makes sense to take precautions as far as possible to prevent getting infected. If you are unsure about any symptoms see a doctor as soon as possible.
Still the easiest and most effective way to protect yourself from getting infected with an sexually transmitted infection (STI).The condom forms a barrier between you and your sexual partner, thereby reducing the risk of getting infected.
Always put the condom on before you start having sex, make sure the condom is in date and that you do not accidentally tear it when you open the packet. If you change from say, vaginal to anal sex, make sure you use a new condom, always holding the condom at the base of the penis when you withdraw and making sure you withdraw whilst erect.
It is also important to note that oil based lubricants will damage latex condoms ,so stick to water based lubricants.
Provided the condom is put on correctly, stays on throughout the sex, and doesn’t break, it should protect you from most STI’s, including HIV, hepatitis, syphilis, gonorrhoea and chlamydia.
However, It is important to note that condoms do not give complete protection against STI’s such as Herpes or genital warts, as these viruses can be in an area not covered by the condom and there is still a risk of transmission.
Even so, it is still important to use a condom as it will give some protection, even against these infections.
A barrier protection method for oral- vaginal or oral-anal sex (rimming), called a dental dam.
PREP (Pre exposure Prophylaxis) for HIV prevention
This is a new way of trying to combat the spread of HIV and involves HIV negative people taking one of the drugs we use to treat HIV ( usually Truvada) on a daily basis, to try and prevent getting HIV. Although it is now widely available in the US, currently your only options of getting it in the UK is by entering a study or getting a private prescription for the drug. It is very important to note that PREP should not be used as a substitute for condoms and it will not protect against other STI’s. If you think you are at high risk of getting HIV, maybe you have an HIV positive partner, or you engage in high risk behaviour, it is worth discussing this option with your doctor.
PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis) for HIV
If you have had a high risk exposure, it is important to see an HIV doctor as soon as possible. There are now treatments that we can prescribe, ideally within 72 hours of the exposure, that can cut the risk of getting HIV. Once a risk assessment has been done, we can then decide if taking PEP is indicated. It consists of taking HIV medication for a month. PEP should only be prescribed if the risk was sufficiently high to warrant it and needs to be started within 72 hours, so the sooner you see a doctor the better. I offer a risk assessment consultation with prescription for a week starter pack for £150
- HPV vaccination: This vaccine protects you against the 2 most common types of HPV that cause genital warts. (type 6/11) and the two most dangerous types of HPV (16/18) that cause cervical/anal or throat cancer. I recommend this vaccine to all my sexually active female and male patients
- Hepatitis A: A virus that infects the liver and causes acute illness. Recommended for all gay men
- Hepatitis B: A virus that infects the liver and can cause chronic hepatitis. With risks such as fibrosis, cirrhosis and liver cancer and eventually lead to liver failure. Recommended for all gay men or anyone with an increased risk of blood exposure such as healthcare workers.
Other ways of protecting your sexual health
- Regular STI screening
- Knowing your limits when it comes to alcohol (and drugs)
- Having a screen , prior to having unprotected sex
- Being open with your partner about any other sexual contacts that might have put you at risk
- Be on the lookout for any suspicious symptoms and abstaining till you get them checked out
- Speaking to your doctor.
If you worried or need more information please call 02031979100.
I have over 14 years experience providing sexual health screening and I offer a completely confidential, professional, non judgemental service from start to end. If you are not sure if you have been at risk, then I offer a normal consultation to discuss the possible risks and whether screening would be appropriate. We discuss and agree all costs beforehand so you know exactly where you stand and I will always provide you with clear and accurate advice based on current British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH )guidelines.