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Sexual Health Risks

Sexual Health Risks

In this article weíll look at what sexual health risks different activities pose, as well as top ways to minimise your risk.

Safe Sex

This article has been medically approved by Pharmacist Sumaiya Patel - GPhC Reg No: 2215078


Different sexual activities can carry different risks of getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI). In our article below, weíll look at these activities and risks in more detail.

How to protect yourself and your partner

In nearly every case, condoms will help to reduce the risk of infection. You should use a condom for all sexual contact, including oral, anal, and vaginal sex. A dental dam can be bought or made from a condom to prevent direct mouth to vagina or mouth to anus contact during oral sex.

Always buy condoms that have the CE mark or BSI kite mark on the packet. This means they've been tested to high safety standards.

Many people with an STI donít know they have one, so you should consider getting regular STI testing, even if you feel fine. If you think you have an STI, itís important that you get tested as soon as possible so you can start treatment if it is needed. This is not only important for you, but also to protect others.

Vaginal penetrative sex

This is when a penis enters a vagina. Unprotected vaginal penetrative sex may lead to:

  • Pregnancy
  • Chlamydia
  • Genital herpes
  • Genital warts
  • Gonorrhoea
  • HIV
  • Syphilis

Infections can be passed on even if the penis isnít fully inserted into the vagina, or if climax is not reached.

Anal penetrative sex

This is when a penis enters an anus. Unprotected anal penetrative sex may lead to:

  • Chlamydia
  • Genital herpes
  • Genital warts
  • Gonorrhoea
  • HIV
  • Syphilis

Anal sex has a higher risk of infection compared to many other sexual activities because the lining of the anus is thin and easily damaged.

If you choose to use lubricant, make sure you only use water based. Oil-based lubricant like lotion or moisturiser can cause condoms to fail.

Oral sex

Oral sex is any act that involves the mouth and vagina, penis, or anus. Unprotected oral sex may lead to:

  • Chlamydia
  • Herpes
  • Genital warts
  • Gonorrhoea
  • Hepatitis A, B & C
  • HIV
  • Syphilis

Youíre at risk of getting or passing on STIs if youíre giving or receiving oral sex. This risk increases if someone has sores or cuts around the mouth genitals, or anus. Semen, vaginal fluid, and blood can sometimes contain bacteria and viruses, and these can travel into a partnerís body more easily through breaks in the skin.

Generally, your risk of infection is lower if you are receiving oral sex, but it is still possible for STIs to be passed on.

If you have a cold sore and you give a partner oral sex, you can infect them with the herpes virus. Similarly, the herpes virus can be passed from the genitals to mouth.

Fingering

This is when fingers penetrate the vagina or anus. Its uncommon for fingering to spread STIs, but not unheard of. If there are any cuts or sores on the fingers, no matter how small, the risk of giving or receiving an STI increases.

Some people gradually insert their whole hand into a partnerís vagina or anus. This is called fisting. Similarly to fingering, the risk of infection is higher if either person has any cuts or broken skin. You can lower this risk by wearing surgical gloves.

Sex toys

The term Ďsex toyí covers a wide range of items. Any object that can be used in sex can be called a sex toy, even if thatís not what itís for.

Itís important to keep sex toys clean. If youíre sharing sex toys you should wash them between each use and always use a new condom.

Sharing sex toys can transmit infections like chlamydia, syphilis, and herpes. If there are cuts or sores around the vagina, anus, or penis and blood is present, thereís also a risk of transmitting hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV.

The best method to clean your toy depends on the material that itís made from, but generally a mild antibacterial soap and a damp cloth will be fine.

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