Safe sex is having sexual contact while protecting yourself and your sexual partner against sexually transmissible infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancy. Sexual contact that doesn’t involve the exchange of semen, vaginal fluids or blood between partners is considered to be safe sex.Unsafe sex may put you or your partner at risk of STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, Mycoplasma genitalium, HIV or hepatitis B, or may result in an unplanned pregnancy.
Condoms and safe sex
Condoms offer the best available protection against STIs by acting as a physical barrier to prevent the exchange of semen, vaginal fluids or blood between partners. Safe sex is also called ‘safer sex’ to highlight the fact that condoms and other barrier methods are not 100 per cent effective in preventing STIs. However, condoms do offer the best available protection when used correctly.
For vaginal, anal and oral sex, you should use condoms. Points to keep in mind include:
- The male condom is a fine, strong, latex-rubber sheath available in a variety of sizes and styles. Condoms made from polyurethane are available for people allergic to latex.
- The female condom resembles a regular condom made of polyurethane, but is designed to fit inside the vagina. The female condom is pre-lubricated and is ‘one size fits all’.
- You should use other barrier methods – for example, condoms on vibrators and other penetrative sex toys, a latex glove for digital penetration of the vagina or anus, and a dental dam (a sheet of latex worn over the female genitals) during oral sex.
- Remember that a diaphragm (a cap worn high in the vagina to cover the cervix) offers good protection against pregnancy, but low protection against STIs.
- To be effective, condoms must be used from the start of sex to the very end as STIs can be transmitted via pre-ejaculate.
- Always use a new, lubricated condom every time you have sex. Check the use-by date and open the packet, being careful not to tear the condom with fingernails, jewellery or teeth.
- If you need extra lubricant, use only water-based lubricants. Other lubricants can damage the condom.