Why Safe Sex And STI's?

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What Is Safe Sex?

The term safe sex can have several implications and connotations associated to it. Primarily, safe sex involves the avoidance of bodily fluids between sexual partners to avoid the transmission of Sexually Transmitted Infections. Safe sex can further include the use lubricants to avoid condom breakage and sexual health, avoiding unsafe materials in sex toys and ensuring sexual aides are kept clean to prevent infection.

 

A Banana With A Condom On It Demonstrating The Importance Of Safe Sex Education With All Young People

 

What Is The Difference Between STI's And STD's?

In recent years many people might have noticed that there has been a shift between the usage STD and STI. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, a medical reason in the sense that diseases are often associated with as an explicit medical problem with clear and obvious signs and symptoms. However, some of the most common STD's have virtually no side effects, or the signs are minute and/or unclear - in some cases it is almost impossible to determine if a person is carrying an STI unless blood tests, or fluid swabs have been conducted. As such, from a clinical sense, some sexually transmitted viruses or bacteria could create an infection but may or may not necessarily lead to a disease. This could be likened to such STI's as Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, herpes and Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Secondly, disease has a far stronger connotation in its usage than infection, to be labelled as someone carrying a disease can create unfair stigma onto an individual as opposed to someone carrying an infection. There are some in the medical community which dispute the difference in labelling and continue in their usage of STD, therefore it is important to note that STD and STI are essentially the same thing.

 

Types of STI's:-

Unsafe sex practices and unwanted pregnancy are significant health issues for Australian of all ages and in particular for vulnerable members of the community. Below you'll find a list of some of the more common STI's, their symptoms and how they are transmitted. This will give you an idea in how to avoid sexually transmitted disease, or notice some of the signs that a vulnerable person may be infected. Condom usage will protect people from most STD’s but there are still risks associated with sexual activity which must be kept in mind.

 

Brightly Coloured Condoms Which Are Used To Protect People From Sexually Transmitted Illnesses

 

Chlamydia:-

Chlamydia is one of the more common STI's in society and is transmitted through unprotected contact during vaginal, oral or anal sexual activity with an infected partner. Chlamydia is often difficult to detect because not everyone will exhibit symptoms of being infected. Some people will experience fevers, abdominal aches and pains, and unusual discharges of the genitals, whereas other people will showcase any of these. Women are particularly vulnerable to chlamydia as it can easily and quickly cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). During PID an untreated STI can quickly progress and infect other parts of the female reproductive system, which could include the fallopian tubes or even the uterus resulting in permanent damage to a women's reproductive organs. In turn, this can run the risk of an ectopic pregnancy which sees a foetus undergo its development outside the womb which can be life threatening. Chlamydia can be detected through a simple urine sample, or fluid swab from the vagina, penis, or anus. If detected during the early stages, chlamydia will be treated with an oral antibiotic.

 

Gonorrhoea:-

Gonorrhoea is another common STI which is spread through bodily fluids and sexual contact with the infection. It is an illness which can affect both men and women and is most easily spread between individuals with multiple sex partners. Common symptoms of a gonorrhoea infection are a fluid discharge from the vagina or penis, difficulty and/burning during urination, burning or swollen glands in the throat. Similar to a chlamydial infection, women are exceptionally vulnerable and could lead to PID, ectopic pregnancy and permanent damage to the reproductive system. It is important to note that Gonorrhoea may also infect the mouth and throat, eyes and rectum whereby it can spread to the blood and joint making it a life threatening infection. To diagnose Gonorrhoea, a urine sample can be taken or a fluid swab of orifices to determine if there is a Gonorrhoea culture present. It is curable and can be treated with an oral or injectable antibiotic.

 

Importance Of Consent Can Help Prevent Sexually Transmitted Illnesses And Prevent Sexual Assault

 

Genital Herpes:-

Genital herpes is a contagious and incurable illness spread through skin-to-skin contact through vaginal, oral or anal sex. Genital herpes can lay dormant in the system for extended periods of time, and may never showcase any symptoms, despite remaining an infectious carrier. There are considered to be two types of Genital Herpes; type 1 and type 2. Type one will generally will showcase itself around the mouth, but can also present symptoms in the genitals, whereas type two will primarily occur around or on the genitals. When symptomatic, both strains will appear as blisters, or cold sores on the lips or genital region. Herpes has no known cure, and the sole treatments are only concerned with easing the symptoms and reducing the regularity of outbreaks with ongoing maintenance. Even when the infection is not symptomatic it can still be discovered in the body's nerve cells. Herpes can cause outbreaks periodically whereby the infection becomes highly contagious.

 

HIV/AIDS:-

HIV, also known as the Human Immunodeficiency virus, is the virus responsible for AIDS. HIV affects the body by destroying the immune system by killing off blood cells which prevent infections. HIV thus attacks the Immune System drastically affecting the body's ability to fight off other infections and illnesses. Transmission of HIV is through unprotected sex and through exposure to bodily fluids. Previously, HIV was thought to be a death sentence, though there are now a variety of medications and treatments that make living with HIV to be far more comfortable, and prolonging the life of HIV positive individuals. Recently there have been advancements made in the form of PrEP which could change HIV by preventing the spread of infection. PrEP works as a pre-exposure measure to ensure one does not get infected, whereas previous treatments involved (PEP) or post exposure treatments which had lower rates of success. There is currently no known cure of HIV, with treatments for HIV making the virus manageable, and having the ability to make the viral load undetectable significantly lowering the risk of infection. HIV is detected through blood tests.   

 

Hiv Is A Preventable Illness When Safe Sex Practices Are Used

 

Syphilis:-

Syphilis infections are transmitted from individual to individual during vaginal, oral, and anal sex. It can also be transmitted through direct contact of syphilis sores, known as chancres. Chancres are the first sign of syphilis and are painless, genital sores appearing on the penis or vagina. Chancres, as well as being one of the first signs of syphilis, also drastically increase the infected individuals chances of contracting HIV, with studies demonstrating figures anywhere between two to five times more likely. Whilst the sores may dissipate over time, the body cannot fight the infection alone and it will eventually spread to other organs which include the liver, heart, blood vessels and joints - this is called secondary syphilis. If the infection reaches this stage and has still not been treated, the infection can then spread to the nerves, eyes and brain and potentially result in death. Syphilis is unique in the sense that it requires a two-step confirmation progress and this is acquired through a tissue, blood or fluid sample from a syphilis sore, following this a Rapid Plasma Reagin test or venereal disease research laboratory test.

 

Viral Hepatitis:-

Viral Hepatitis is an infection which affects the liver and can be ultimately caused by a number of differing viruses through unprotected sexual contact. There are three known variants of Hepatitis.

Hepatitis A Virus (HAV). HAV can cause short term limited liver function. Although this can be quite serious, it does not end up as a chronic infection. HAV is generally spread through oral and rectal contact and is preventable via vaccination.

Hepatitis B virus (HBV). HBV results in a serious liver disease that can cause immediate sickness and has the potential to cause a lifelong liver infection. A lifelong liver infection can be very dangerous as it can cause cirrhosis (liver scarring), cancer as well as liver failure which will result in death. HBV is generally spread through unprotected sexual contact, fluid/blood to blood contact. It can also be spread through the sharing of needles and poor hygiene of tattoo/piercing equipment. HBV is also preventable through vaccination.

Hepatitis C virus (HCV). HCV is the most dangerous of the three variants owing to the fact that there is no vaccine for HCV. Further, treatments for managing HCV have so far not always been effective. Whilst HCV can result in immediate illnesses, more often than not, it becomes a silent and chronic infection of the liver which results in cancer, cirrhosis (liver scarring), liver failure and death. HCV is more commonly transferred through blood to blood contact, but can also occur during sexual contact.

 

 

It is important for all people to receive safe sex information, and it is especially important for people with disabilities to receive adequate sexual health information. Owing to the fact that people with disabilities are often thought to be sexless, they often don’t receive the same level of information as to other individuals if they receive any information at all. Numerous organisations, inclusive of Adult Lifestyle Centres and Family Health Planning NSW, are actively engaged in raising this awareness so that vulnerable members of the community can learn to protect themselves from unsafe sexual practices.


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