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Home » tvChix Articles » Guide to Sexual Health and STDs

A Guide to Sexual Health and STDs

Anyone who is sexually active should consider their health as well as preventing sexually transmitted infections. This is especially true for minority populations such as transgender people, who may already be marginalized to one degree or another. The higher rates of depression among those suffering from gender dysphoria are also associated with higher rates of STI transmission. One of the possible reasons for this is that minority status and depression have both been found in some studies to be related to having multiple partners and using inadequate safe sex measures. The greatest defense against this is education and preparation.

Communication

One of the hardest skills to master when it comes to protecting oneself is assertive communication. Assertive does not mean aggressive and should not be misconstrued as rude behavior. Instead, it should consist of clearly stating what you want, what you do not want, and why. Someone who is insecure or soft-spoken can be a target for people who would push them to do things they do not want, putting that person at greater health risk. By standing up for yourself and being clear in your boundaries, you will be better protected.

If you are not comfortable discussing safe sex and STI risk factors with someone, you will be better served and far safer to refrain from having sex with that person. Your ability to communicate clearly and protect your own interests will greatly reduce your chances of becoming infected.

Condoms

A condom should always be the gold standard of any vaginal, anal or oral sex involving a penis. Lubricated condoms are available for vaginal and anal intercourse, while unlubricated and flavored ones can be used for fellatio. Because of the tender tissues in the vagina and anus and the potential for micro tears in the skin, the receiving partner in penetration is at a greater risk than the penetrator. However, both are still being exposed to one another's body fluids. For this reason, any penetrative sex outside of an established monogamous relationship in which both partners have been tested should rely on condoms.

Dental Dams

Anal-oral or Genital-oral contact can be made safer through the use of dental dams, which are thin sheets of vinyl or other materials that can be placed against the body before performing cunnilingus or rimming. These can be especially useful for trans men who may not be able to use traditional condoms.

Even though cunnilingus is not associated with the highest rates of STI transmission, it is still an exposure and should be treated as such. Rimming can be particularly dangerous due to the exposure to bacteria, but can be safely practiced with a dental dam.

Toys

Any sex toy you purchase should either be something you can sterilize or else used exclusively with condoms. Different materials will have different methods for cleaning, so you will need to look at the manufacturer's instructions. Some items can be boiled or washed with bleach water. Some people will even do a load in their dishwasher to sterilize toys.

Dildos and other items which are made of a porous material such as jelly, rubber or realistic materials like Cyberskin cannot be boiled or washed with bleach water, as they may be damaged by high heat and will absorb chemicals. The best way to keep them clean is with condoms and warm, soapy water.

Regular Checkups and Testing

As embarrassing as it might be, regularly having yourself tested for STIs is an important part of maintaining your health. At the start of a new sexual relationship or once a year--whichever comes first--you should have yourself tested for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV. Most other STIs are usually only necessary to check for if you're exhibiting symptoms of an infection or have reason to believe you may have been exposed.

In the case of trans men, it is important to maintain regular Pap smears. Even those who have had hysterectomies may still need a "vault" or "cuff" smear if the vagina is still present.

Though maintaining good sexual health can seem somewhat daunting with all of this information, turning safe sex into a habit that you could carry out in your sleep is the best way to keep yourself safe.



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21/Nov 12:08:13