SAFE SEX / STI INFORMATION


Support services and agencies are under "General Health"  and "Hotlines". The information in this section provided by the Health Education Service of MIT Medical.


WHAT IS AN STI?

A bacterial, protozoan, viral, or fungal disease transmitted primarily through unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex.  Many STIs have no symptoms and can be unknowingly transmitted to others. Some consequences of some untreated STIs include: precancerous changes in cervical cells, infertility in men and women, and death.  Bacterial STIs are curable with early detection, while viral STIs are only symptomatically treatable.
 

HOW CAN I PROTECT MYSELF?

If you are sexually active, help to protect yourself against STIs!  Practicing safer sex can help to reduce your risk of contracting STIs, including HIV.  Safer sex strategies avoid the exchange of body fluids, skin to skin, and mucous membrane contact which can spread STIs, including HIV.  Follow these guidelines to help protect yourself against STIs:
  • Don't allow any of your partner's body fluids to enter your body.  These fluids can enter through any opening: the vagina, anus, mouth, and any cut or open sore.
  • Use a barrier method every time you have sexual contact. Use a latex condom with a water based lubricant for vaginal-penile, anal-penile, or oral-penile sex. For vaginal-oral or anal-oral sex, use a latex dental dam to help reduce risk.
  • Only use water-based lubricants with a latex condom.  Oil-based lubricants like hand creams, massage oils, Vaseline, etc. can cause a latex condom to leak or break.
  • Don't share dildos or other sex toys.  Keep your toys clean and don't share them with others.  If you absolutely must share-use latex condoms on shared dildos and vibrators.
  • Don't have sex while you're drunk or high.  When intoxicated, many people abandon the safer sex practices they ordinarily use when sober, putting them at greater risk for unwanted sex and sexually transmitted diseases (STIs), including HIV.
  • Understand the potential limitations of condoms.  While condoms can significantly reduce risk of STI (especially HIV) transmission, it is important to understand their potential limitations.  Condoms and other barrier methods may only be partially effective against certain STIs that are transmitted by direct skin-to-skin contact (e.g., herpes simplex virus, human papilloma virus).  When blisters or lesions that are symptomatic of these STIs are not covered by a condom and are in direct skin-to-skin contact with another person, viral shedding-transmission of the virus-can occur.  Only total absence of any touching of infected tissue is 100% effective in preventing STI transmission.

SHOULD I GET TESTED?

LBGT individuals are susceptible to the same health problems as heterosexual individuals.  Many women mistakenly believe that just because their partner is a woman, they are immune from certain STIs and other gynecological problems.  Although lesbians are at a lowered risk for certain STIs including HIV, they are still at risk!  Moreover, if untreated, infections can develop into more serious problems such as cervical cancer, damaged reproductive organs, and infertility.  Men who have unsafe sex with men are especially susceptible to contracting STIs including HIV-unprotected penile-anal intercourse is a major risk factor for HIV. However, it has been found that LBGT people are less likely to seek STI testing, treatment, and other medical care than heterosexual people out of fear of homophobia among providers; this may lead to inadequate care.  It is important to note that there are LBGT-friendly health care providers and STI testing centers in the area, including MIT Medical.
 

IS TESTING ANONYMOUS?
 
There are a number of sites off campus that offer anonymous HIV testing.  For a listing of those sites, call the Health Education Service (617-253-1316) or visit MedSTOP (W20-540A).  Costs for tests and length of time to receive results vary by site.  The difference between anonymous and confidential testing is that in anonymous testing the test site never records the patient's name or any other identifying means; in confidential testing, the patient's name is recorded with test information.

 


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