Where STIs are Concerned: Ignorance is NOT Bliss!

“What does reason know? Reason only knows what it has succeeded in learning...”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground

“You knew...and that is why it hurts so bad.”
Shannon L. Alder

In last week’s blog, I introduced the importance of readers learning how to have what I refer to as the sexual health safer sex conversation in order to avoid the inadvertent transmission or getting a STI. In today’s world, I recommend that you adopt a personal policy of “Safer Sex or No Sex,” meaning that you will not have unprotected sex (without barriers, such as condoms, female condoms or dental dams for oral sex) with anyone who has a STI or as important, whose STI status is not known to you.

Let’s talk about what it means to know a person’s STI status.

“Knowing” means:

  • You are in a long-term monogamous relationship;
  • You and your partner agreed to monogamy, have been tested for STIs and have been using barriers for 6 months since testing; you’ve now been re-tested and are STI free; (HIV may not be detected in blood for up to six months post-infection, thus to ensure that you or a partner is HIV-free, testing must be repeated in six months, with exclusivity and 100% condom use during the waiting period);
  • Your prospective partner presents you with “clean” STI test results and a clean six-month re-test and has not had sex since being tested;
  • You practice polyfidelity, and you and all of your partners are confirmed through testing to be STI free.           

“Knowing” does not mean:

  • A potential partner’s assurance that he’s “safe” because he hasn’t “been with anyone” since his wife died two years ago—and he seems like a “nice guy;”
  • A partner’s assurance that she’s clean—when she admits she’s never had an STI test, and is sexually active; many people are silent carriers of STIs and don’t know that they are infected—this does not stop them from transmitting an STI to you;
  • A partner’s assurance that he was tested a month ago and was clean—but has had unprotected sex since and has not been re-tested;
  • Your own belief that you “always” pick “safe” people

Take an uncompromising stand for your sexual health and commit to a personal policy of safer sex or no sex. This means that you commit to yourself that you will not have sex (oral sex, intercourse or anal sex) with anyone whose STI status that you do not know. You may want to include the use of gloves for hand-to-genital play, as some STIs (HPV, Herpes) can transmit from skin to skin contact without any visual symptoms.

Please understand: I don’t intend to stigmatize anyone who has or has had an STI. My concern is with preventing transmission. Through a safer sex personal policy and insisting on safer sex practices 100% of the time, most transmission can be prevented. For additional safer sex information, review these two additional articles:

http://www.catie.ca/en/fact-sheets/prevention/condoms

http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/sexually-transmitted-infections/prevention.html

In next week’s blog, I’ll teach you how to have a safer sex conversation, from preparing for it, to figuring out what to say, when and how to say it. It is your sexual health on the line—don’t you think you’re worth it?