Island Sexual Health Society Be informed, not surprised!

Sex safety overview

2010 July 05

Practising sex safety means protecting yourself from “sexually transmitted infections”:/infections/ (STI/STDs) and unplanned “pregnancy”:/pregnancy/.

Part of sex safety is keeping up to date about safety practices. There are many tools and skills you can use to make sex safer, and these safety recommendations are frequently updated with new developments.

h3. Sex safety techniques

* “Know the risks”:#risks
* “Use barriers and prevent sharing bodily fluids”:#barriers
* “Regular infection screening”:#screening
* “Birth control”:#birthcontrol
* “Healthy relationships”:#relationships
* “Abstinence”:#abstinence

h3(#risks). Know the risks

Anyone who has sexual contact is at risk for catching a sexually transmitted infection (STI/STD).

Different kinds of STIs can be spread by:

* skin to skin contact or sharing sex toys– no intercourse required! (herpes, hpv)
* oral sex or deep kissing
* unprotected vaginal or anal sex (all)
* non-sexual activities like sharing equipment for drugs (straws, needles, etc), or using unsterilized needles for tattoos, piercings, or accupuncture

These infections can be passed from woman to man, man to woman, woman to woman, or man to man. Some can even be passed from an infected mother to her newborn baby.

It is not usually possible to tell if someone has an STI because many of them are “silent” infections; many people who have an STI don’t even know themselves that they have it! Your risk of STIs is based not only on your present or past partners, but also on all of the present and past partners of those partners. It’s no wonder they get passed around so much!

Some STIs can be cured with medication (chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis), but others cannot be. Some are caused by viruses that can stay in your body for a long time (going away, then coming back again) and some even stay in your body forever. With these viral types, you can only treat the symptoms when they arise, but you can never totally “cure” the virus.

Find out more about:

* “infection types and symptoms”:/infections/

h3(#barriers). Use barriers and prevent sharing bodily fluids

Latex and polyurethane barriers can block sperm as well as the bacteria and viruses that cause sexually transmitted infections (STI/STDs).

Condoms are cheap, easy to get, easy to use and they are your best defense against STIs. Everyone should carry their own supply.

* “How to use condoms properly”:/sex-safety/using-condoms/
* “Using condoms to prevent pregnancy”:/birthcontrol/condom/
* “Using female condoms”:/birthcontrol/female-condom/
* “Using oral dams”:/sex-safety/dental-dams/ for safer oral sex

Other ways to reduce your risks of sharing bodily fluids and catching an infection include:

* limiting your number of sexual partners
* not sharing sex toys (use a new condom for each person)
* not having sex with someone who has had a lot of sexual partners
* avoiding sex if you are intoxicated or unreliable

Some STIs can also be spread through non-sexual activities like sharing equipment for drugs (straws, needles, etc), or using unsterilized needles for tattoos, piercings, or accupuncture.

h3(#screening). Regular infection screening

We offer complete, confidential “infection testing”:/infections/. “Make an appointment”:/about/appointments/ to get tested or find out more.

h3(#birthcontrol). Birth control

Our detailed “birth control”:/birthcontrol/ section explains different methods of contraception and how to get them. We offer most types of birth control at our clinics.

Most methods of birth control do not protect against infections; you need to use condoms and barriers as well.

h3(#relationships). Healthy relationships

It’s important for both partners to support sex safety. Our “healthy relationship”:/sexual-identity/relationships/ tips and warning signs can help you protect yourself.

h3(#abstinence). Abstinence

The only way to be completely protected from STIs and unplanned pregnancy is to abstain from any kind of sexual contact.

Our “detailed abstinence page”:/birthcontrol/abstinence/ explains which activities you need to avoid in order to prevent infections and in order to prevent pregnancy.

h3(#Sex Toy Safety). Sex Toy Safety

_Enjoying Sex Toys_
Sex toys can certainly be fun and can be enjoyed by yourself or with others! There are certain things one should know before using sex toys though…!

_Toys and cleanliness_
Washing toys in-between use is VITAL! STI’s such as Chlamydia, HPV and Gonorrhea (just to name a few!) can be transmitted via shared sex toys. Also, when using toys from anus to vagina, bacteria from the anus can cause irritations in the vagina resulting in things such as yeast infections! To find out how to wash toys read on!

_Storing your fun_
It is important to store your sex toys correctly so you can enjoy them for longer. Some types of sex toys are very sensitive and need to be stored properly.

_Enhancing your relationships_
Although you may comfortable with using toys, it is important when sharing toys that all parties are aware they will be used. You wouldn’t want to spoil the mood by unpleasantly surprising your partner! Best to disclose toys with others if you’re planning to share! Communication and talking with your partner about their comfort level in using toys is important.

*How to Care for Your Toys*

_Washing_
Most toys can be washed by scrubbing with mild soap and warm water. It is important to scrub gaps or indentations if present on the toy because these areas are prone to harboring bacteria and viruses. Rinse the toy with warm water and air dry after.

If using toy cleaners, some may be more effective. Most cleaners usually have anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties to them and kill on contact. The toy cleaner sold at the clinic has the added of bonus of not having to rinse with water after cleaning. Toys can simply be swabbed with cleaner using cotton balls or cloth.

It is always advised to USE A CONDOM with applicable sex toys. This can reduce the risk of some STI’s and will also be easier to clean after! Just remove the condom and clean any part of the toy that was exposed.

_Storage_
It is best to keep your toys out of direct heat or sunlight as some toys can melt! Toys are best kept wrapped in a breathable material in a drawer or cupboard.

It’s also useful to store toys with batteries out of the toy as this can make batteries last longer! It is will also protect your own personal health as batteries corrode over time and may leak onto your toy.