I recently met a woman who is entering the dating scene after 25 years of marriage. She is excited about the prospect of dating a new man but scared by statistics she’s heard about STDs and adults. It is true that the STD rate in older adults is increasing. She confided in me that STDs were something she never had to worry about and wanted to know how she could keep sex safe.
My answer: There is no such thing as safe sex. Sexual activity that involves the exchange of bodily fluids with mucus membranes puts you at risk for HIV and other STDs. But there is such a thing as “Safer Sex” and here are a few ways to make sex safer:
- Condoms: There are male condoms and female condoms. There are condoms made out of latex, polyurethane and animal skin. It’s important to note that only latex and polyurethane protect you from HIV. Animal skin condoms (lamb skin, sheep skin) are porous and HIV is small enough to pass through. It’s also important to know that oil based lubricants can break down latex, so make sure to use water-based or silicone-based lubricants with latex condoms.
- Dental Dams: These are sheets of latex that help protect fluid exchange during oral sex on a female. Dental dams are hard to find in pharmacies but you can make your own homemade dental dam by cutting up a non-lubricated condom. Simply cut off the tip of the condom and cut up the side and you have a rectangular shaped, homemade dental dam!
- Know Your Status: It is your responsibility to know your HIV/STD status. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends HIV testing as part of your routine clinical care. If you don’t know your status, ask your primary care provider or GYN provider to be tested.
- Have The Talk: Once again, you are responsible for your health. It’s up to you to initiate a discussion about safer sex with your partner. This type of communication will make the issue clear for the both of you and help build trust and openness.
My intention is not to scare you, it is to EMPOWER you! This is only the tip of the iceberg. If you need more information, please feel free to contact us. The Planned Parenthood website is also a good resource, especially for young adults.