Sexual health is something that some people find it difficult to talk about. This is a shame as a small amount of information can make a big difference.
"Sexual health" can cover a lot of different areas. Only a couple will be covered here, but please use the links below to find out more. The BDA has produced a CD-ROM with sexual health information. Contact the BDA for more details.
For thousands of years, people have used contraceptives to prevent pregnancy. Today there are lots of alternative methods to chose from. Different methods will suit different people. Advice is available from your GP or Family Planning Clinic.
Many women take 'the Pill'. This stops the woman's ovaries from releasing an egg. The Pill has to be taken at a regualr time on certain days to be effective. If taken according to the instructions it is meant to be 99% effective.
Condoms are also commonly used. There are now female as well as male condoms. These work by preventing the sperm from getting to the egg. It is thought that the male condom (that goes over the penis) is 98% effective is stopping a pregnancy. The female condom (that fits inside the vagina) is considered 95% effective. Even though a condom is a simple method of contraceptive, you still need to follow the instructions carefully. Research suggests that many people do not use condoms properly - resulting in unplanned pregnancies. For a guide to putting on a condom, the Radio 1 website has a useful page.
Other contraceptive methods include the IUD (intrauterine device), cap, diaphragm and contraceptive patch.
For detailed information go to the fpa website (formerly the family Planning Association) . Your GP will also give advice. There will also be local Family Planning clinics near to you.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
STIs can be passed between two people when they have sex. Condoms can help reduce the chance to STIs being passed from one person to another. The best defence is knowledge. The more people are aware of what STIs are, what the symptoms are and how to get treatment, the less STIs will be passed around. STIs include:
Chlamydia - is easily transmitted. Often people are unaware that they have chlamydia. Seventy per cent of women and 50% of men who have chlamydia show no symptoms. Symptoms can include unusual vaginal discharge and pain when passing urine. Treatment is simple to treat with antibiotics. If untreated it can lead to problems, especially infertility.
HIV - affects a person's immune system. The immune system helps the body defend itself from infections and diseases. If someone has the HIV virus then their body is not able to fight infections as well. This can lead to them developing serious cancers or infections. The person is then said to have AIDS. There are no obvious sign so HIV infection. Taking a test is the only way to know whether you are infected.
The HIV virus can be spread by sexual intercourse or sharing a needle. To stop infection spreading a condom must be used, and clean needles should be used. Free HIV tests are available. See your GP, or contact your local GUM (Genitourinary Medicine) clinic - details in the phone book or from Terrence Higgins Trust website (see below).
For more information on STIs look on the fpa website.
Terrence Higgins Trust - support and information on HIV
patient.co.uk - information on genital chlamydia