#LetsTalkSEX – choose to protect yourself and always use a condom
The theme for this year’s Sexual Health Week (10 – 14th Feb) is ‘Let’s Talk SEX’ because looking after your sexual health can have a positive impact on both your mental and physical wellbeing.
The Public Health Agency (PHA), along with the Sexual Health Improvement Network (SHIN), is urging everyone to talk openly about relationships and sex with their partners, friends and children to normalise how we view these issues.
Barbara Porter, Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement Manager at the PHA, said: “Enjoying a sexual relationship can be very rewarding and satisfying when it is consensual. It is important that everyone looks after their sexual health and understands issues surrounding sexual relationships, consent and respect, risks of sexually transmitted infections, and getting tested, pregnancy and contraception.
“Lasting relationships thrive on good communication. Get talking – let each other know what you want, don’t want and how you feel. You can look after your sexual health in a number of ways, for example:
- Having the knowledge and confidence to make good choices about if, and when to have sex, and being able to talk about contraception and condoms.
- Being aware of how alcohol and drugs can affect your decision making. Too much alcohol or any drug use can mean you might take more risks. This includes having sex when you normally wouldn’t or, when you do, not using a condom.
- If you are sexually active, use condoms, limit your number of sexual partners and get tested quickly if you think you might be at risk.
- Being properly informed with accurate information and not being misled by internet or social media material etc.
“It is also important to take steps to reduce the risk of harm to yourself and others. Condoms are the only form of contraception that can protect against both unplanned pregnancy and STIs. If you are sexually active, using condoms correctly is an important part of taking care of your sexual health.
“People with STIs don’t always have symptoms, but by having unprotected sex, you could effectively be sleeping with everyone your partner’s ever slept with, putting yourself at risk of getting an STI. Therefore, we are urging people to always use a condom. If there’s a chance you have contracted an STI, there are GUM clinics across Northern Ireland, so if you are at risk, make sure you attend one of these clinics to get checked out for free. The advice is clear – choose to protect yourself and always use a condom.
“It is also important to talk your children about sex and relationships – to communicate with them what you would expect but also to listen to their thoughts and concerns. Children who feel comfortable talking to parents are more likely to open up about what they might be dealing with – this will help enable you to recognise any signs that they may need your support.”
There are several prevention and screening programmes available in Northern Ireland to help protect your sexual health. Information on these and more about looking after your sexual health, symptoms of STIs (as well as information on STIs which may be symptomless) and details of Northern Ireland GUM clinics can be found at www.sexualhealthni.info