Six ways to look after your sexual health

Since those few awkward sex education lessons back in high school, few of us will have learnt much about how to keep on top of our sexual health.

But looking after your sexual health is vital – not just for your own safety, but for that of others, too.

As we mark Sexual Health Awareness week, Abbas Kanani, a pharmacist and health adviser, has shared his tips for keeping on top of your sexual health. 

Get tested regularly 

Even when you are in a long term relationship, or if you’re not sexually active, regular tests for sexually transmitted diseases and infections (STD/STI) are advised, particularly because some STDs aren’t detected straight away, such as HIV.

‘It’s a good idea to get tested every four to six months to ensure you are free from infection,’ Abbas tells Metro.co.uk.

‘You should look into sexual health clinics in your area and register so that you can easily book appointments online and speak to a sexual health nurse. 

‘At home test kits are also a good way to test if you can’t get to the clinic, these are quick and easy and allow you to test from the comfort of your own home.’

Prevent infection 

Prevention, for the most part, is better than cure.

Which is why it’s better to use protection than to treat an STD you could have avoided catching. 

‘It is imperative that any type of sex, whether it be vaginal, anal or oral is protected with the use of condoms,’ says Abbas. ‘This is the most effective way to ensure no STI or STDs are transferred.’

He adds that, if your partner refuses to wear a condom, you should refuse to sleep with them. 

‘Condoms can be picked up pharmacies and most supermarkets, or are often given out for free at any sexual health clinic,’ he says. 

‘I would also look into other types of contraception if you are with a long term partner and want to avoid pregnancy. 

‘However, wearing a condom is always advised for extra protection.’

It’s important to note that some sexually transmitted infections, such as HPV, can be transmitted with the use of a condom, so getting tested even if you do use protection is a good idea. 

Know your worth 

Sexual health is often put on the back burner but, Abbas says, it’s a vital part of out overall and general wellbeing. 

‘Sexual health is not only about the prevention of STI’s and STD’s, but it also spans the emotional and mental wellbeing of those who are sexually active,’ he says.

‘You should ensure that you are in a stable and healthy sexual relationship, and that the sex is being enjoyed by both parties. 

‘Knowing your worth when having sex is also important, understanding that you can say no to various sexual activities and that, if your partner is refusing to wear contraception, then its okay to refuse to have sex without one.’

Understand and honour consent 

There is no healthy sex without consent, and understanding this is vital for anyone who wishes to have a happy sex life. 

‘Understanding each other’s boundaries and knowing its okay to stop any sexual activies if you feel unsafe and uncomfortable is important,’ says Abbas. 

‘If you want to seek advice on sexual health and consent, speak to your GP or your local sexual health nurse.’

Do your research 

Keeping yourself informed on different types of STD/Is and their symptoms, different types of contraception and indeed developing models of consent is important – not only will it help keep you safe, but it will also empower you on your sexual health journey. 

‘You can do your own research via the internet, and have a look at the most common types of infections and symptoms, this is also a good idea so that if you have any symptoms in the future you can book an appointment with your GP straight away,’ says Abbas, who is also a pharmacist for online chemist for Chemist Click.

‘You can also speak to a sexual health nurse about the different types of infections. 

‘You should also do research into your contraception options, if this is something you are looking to get. Google is your best friend, or speak to a medical professional on the different options and side effects.’

Source the right treatment 

Finally, if you are diagnosed with an STD/I, it’s important to understand your treatment options and choose the right one for you. 

‘Some STDs such as chlamydia are easier to treat through oral pills,’ says Abbas. ‘However other infections such as Syphilis and HIV require more extensive treatment which are best to be discussed with a medical professional. 

‘If you have tested positive for anything, your sexual health clinic or provider should advise you on the next steps for treatment.’

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