Prevention & Recovery

Safe sex 101

Author: Canadian Living

Prevention & Recovery

Safe sex 101

This story was originally titled "Making Contact: Safe Sex," in the February 2007 issue. Subscribe to Canadian Living today and never miss an issue!

While 66 per cent of single Canadians aged 30 and over are concerned about getting genital herpes – and almost as many are aware that it’s an extremely common sexually transmitted disease (STD) – only 39 per cent of sexually active singles use a condom all the time, according to an Ipsos-Reid survey. Startlingly, 25 per cent of the 1,200 survey respondents said they never use a condom, even though more than half of them feel that the risk of getting genital herpes has increased over the last decade.

"The survey shows that while single Canadians realize the seriousness of genital herpes, they have difficulty talking about it," says Catherine Wood, a psychotherapist and relationship expert in Toronto.

Genital herpes is the second most common STD, with one in five Canadians being infected. Transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, the herpes virus causes outbreaks of sores in the genital area that can't be cured but can be controlled with medication. However, using a condom during sexual activity reduces risk of transmission.

Wood and Dr. Cheryl Main, an infectious diseases physician in Hamilton, offer these tips on how to take control of your sexual health.

• Establish open communication about sexual health early in a relationship.

• Get to know the person you are dating; remember, dating does not equal sex.

• Be open with your doctor about your sex life; he or she is your ally.

• Consider safer ways to have sexual experiences with a new partner until you're sure you're making an informed decision.

• Use condoms at all times when you are dating, and until you are certain that you won't be infected.

If you're already infected, Main suggests:
• Abstain from sex from the onset of an outbreak until at least one week after the lesions are healed.

• Consider taking an antiviral medication to reduce the risk of transmission.

• Tell your partner that you have genital herpes.

• Use a condom for all sexual acts.

For more information about genital herpes, visit www.herpeshealth.ca.

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