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What is Safer Sex?

Preparation and Communication
Reduce Anxieties and Medical Risks.


Almost every activity in our lives involves some risk or danger. Rather than being active, most of us prefer to proceed with appropriate safety measures. We enjoy rich foods, but we try to keep up with our exercise programs. We drive cars on the highway, but we wear seat belts. Giving and receiving sexual pleasure also involves risk, and safer sex means responsible risk reduction.

In today’s world there are a handful of infections that are passed from one person to another by certain sorts of sexual activity, and well over 20 percent of the United States population currently has one or more of these infections, according to estimates from the federal Centers for Disease Control.

One of these, the HIV virus leading to AIDS, is deadly. Others such as chlamydia or gonorrhea cause serious medical problems if undetected and untreated. Still others, such as human papillomavirus (genital warts), hepatitis, or herpes are incurable, can be transmitted by someone who does not know he or she is carrying the infection and can cause a lifetime of intermittent suffering.

As a rule, solo activities involve no risk, as do pleasures such as hugging, kissing, rubbing and mutual masturbation. The most significant risk occurs in sexual activities when a body fluid is passed from one person to another.

For HIV/AIDS, the fluids that carry the infection are semen (and pre-ejaculate), vaginal fluids, blood and breast milk.

Saliva, tears, sweat, urine, and feces have not been found to transmit HIV/AIDS significantly. But saliva does carry herpes and hepatitis, and fecal matter transmits all sorts of diseases if accidentally brought in contact with vagina, penis, or mouth.

Disease transmission requires that the body fluid of an infected person goes into someone else's body. For HIV/AIDS the infection is almost always received through the internal lining of the vulva/vagina or anus.

Contracting HIV/AIDS through the mucosal tissue of the mouth is possible but far less common. However, cuts, abrasions or micro-lesions of the skin, including the skin of the penis but especially inside the mouth, are always cause for serious concern. The mouth is also readily receptive to many infections besides HIV. For this reason, safer sex practices are recommended when a mouth is going to come into contact with the genitals or the anus, and deep wet kissing should be enjoyed only if you know that neither you nor your partner has active herpes or hepatitis.

Every sexual activity that pleases you can be enjoyed more safely. The main rules of safer sex practice are preparation and communication, and the two keys to safer sex are barrier protection and "chemoprophylaxis" or disinfection.

Barrier protection means that a sheet of latex or polyurethane prevents a risky fluid going from one person's body into another. Most people take barrier protection to mean use of a condom during genital intercourse. Find a brand that works well for you and your partners, and make sure you are practiced at using it properly. The "female condom" is favored by many women and their partners as a reliable way to make sure that ejaculate does not remain in the vaginal canal. The most common brand of polyurethane female condom is called "Reality."

But barrier protection goes beyond genital intercourse. Unlubricated male condoms make safer any mouth-to-penis contact and can be purchased with flavoring, or a mint can be placed in the mouth to minimize the taste of latex while engaging in the activity. Kitchen wrap or dental dams (square sheets of thin latex) can be creatively used as a barrier protection during mouth-to-vagina or mouth-to-anus contact.

Chemoprophlyaxis means that potentially infected fluid should be exposed to disinfectant. The best sexual disinfectant currently available is nonoxynol although alternatives will probably soon be on the market. Make sure that your condoms have a lubricant containing nonoxynol. Experts disagree whether a lubricant you may use for sexual pleasuring should have nonoxynol or not, because if used inside the vagina or anus it can cause irritation to the tissue, which increases receptivity to viral infection. The best solution is to purchase a lubricant that contains nonoxynol and a counter-irritant such as avena sativa (oatstraw powder).

Prepare yourself for playful, pleasurable, and safer sex. Find out what you need, and what brands work for you. And communicate, communicate, communicate. Talk with your partners, preferably well ahead of time. You can make safer sex practices sexy and fun, and make the talking part of the anticipatory pleasure.

We all have many questions about specifics of safer sex practices. Seek the advice of a professional sexologist, or find a healthcare practitioner who is well informed in this area.

Safer sex practices should help you enjoy your sexuality with a greater sense of relaxation and security. We recommend frequent and consistent practice. Enjoy your sexuality safely – it is an act of love for yourself as well as for your partner.For information on sexual anatomy see fractology.org

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