Regular STI testing is key to safe sex
By Aidan Mouellic, Staff Writer
I don’t know many people who practice entirely safe sex. The cloud of chemicals that turns us all into fanatical sex machines also makes us skip important steps in protecting our health and that of our partners. Using birth control and condoms is a crucial step in preventing unwanted pregnancies and many sexually transmitted infections (STIs), but those two methods of protection do not adequately protect people during typical sexual acts that many of us perform. Oral and anal sex are two acts that a lot of people perform without using barrier protection, but both forms of sexual intimacy can and do transmit STIs. It’s less glamorous and enjoyable performing oral sex on someone when their plastic-wrapped genitals resemble your grandmother’s couch, but it mitigates the risk of contracting a life-altering STI.
You’d think that the rate of STIs would be on the decrease, thanks to years of sex education in schools and resources for safe sex being more widely available, but the rates of infection are increasing. In Vancouver, cases of syphilis doubled between 2011 and 2012, which has caused Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) to describe the situation as having reached “epidemic proportions.” According to VCH, the majority of people who have syphilis are unaware since symptoms are rarely visible.
Another recent Canadian study concluded that 14 per cent of individuals between the ages of 14 and 59 are infected with the herpes type-2 virus. Once again, many of the people who are infected with herpes are unaware of their STI-positive status.
We should all be getting regular STI testing and also be disclosing our test results to our sexual partners if we want to engage in unprotected sexual acts.
The pornography industry is a good example of both how to have sex and how not to have sex. At first glance, everyone on screen is rarely ever wearing a condom or using a dental dam. Guys and girls who grow up watching porn before engaging in sexual acts themselves are led to believe that you can do some crazy things with strangers without using proper protection—and that it’s okay. Porn is not reality. The view of sex that porn portrays is rarely positive or educational. Unlike MythBusters, no porn video begins with, “We are trained safe professionals—do no try this yourself unless proper safety procedures are followed.” In a way, porn gives permission to young, immature people to engage in unsafe sex. But hey, all the actors in the porn videos I watch look healthy, and I never hear anything about STI porn epidemics! That’s because the porn industry does some things right and all actors within the industry are extremely professional and get regular STI testing to ensure that nobody will end up with more than fake moans and fun.
Some may say that I’m paranoid about getting an STI, and I agree that I have some anxiety about contracting an unwanted disease, but asking for peace of mind when going down on someone is more appealing than having to MacGyver a dental dam out of a banana-flavoured condom. It seems as if people stop talking about safety measures once sex education class is over, but as we all become more sexually active, we should be as vigilant as ever. If one is comfortable enough to have sex with someone else, then the two should also be able to discuss their STI statuses or get tested together; if someone isn’t cool with that, then it’s important to resort to traditional safety measures.
Making sex safe, fun, and worry-free should be everyone’s goal. Regular STI testing on yourself and your new partners will help to ensure everyone’s safety and promote a healthier and more informed society.