The summer is almost over and it’s been a hot one. Heat and sex seem to go hand in hand especially when it comes to causal sex. It’s easy to hookup with someone after an informal dinner, while at the club or at a friend’s BBQ. But, if you’re not careful, hooking up can be dangerous! Those who are hooking up or just having causal sex are more than likely sharing or overlapping sexual partners. In the article by Linda Villarosa, The Dark Side of Hookups, “Friends With Benefits” and F— Buddies, “These partnerships can speed the spread of sexually transmitted diseases,” Dr. Paik says. “With sequential partnerships, the disease has to wait before it can spread. Between relationships, for example, a bacterial infection can be treated. With overlapping relationships, the disease doesn’t have to wait.” When you are hooking up with several different partners and not practicing safe sex, you have a greater chance of becoming infected. It’s not always easy to remember to use a condom while in the heat of the moment. Therefore, being prepared is crucial to protecting your sexual health. Carrying condoms, is not cocky, it’s smart! It’s better to have a condom and not use it if you don’t need it, then to be caught without one when you really need it. No longer can we make assumptions about a person’s status by just eyeballing them. The tell tale signs of someone being positive rarely exist now. You won’t know just by looking at someone or assuming that because he or she is cute then they couldn’t be infected.
One good way to protect yourself, is to always use a condom when having sex. A percentage of people who become infected usually got it by another person who didn’t know they were infected. Condom use can be one of the best ways to protect yourself. Knowing your own status is also important in not only protecting yourself, but protecting your sexual partner. As noted in the article, in regards to the high infection rates in D.C., “Nearly 50 percent of people surveyed in its hardest-hit areas reported having overlapping sexual partners in the last 12 months. Most were not aware of either their own HIV status or that of their partner, and the vast majority said that they did not use a condom the last time they had sex with their main partner, even though they were aware that the relationship might not be monogamous. This deadly mix explains why a Black woman, for example, who doesn’t “sleep around” might contract HIV, while someone else engaged in frequent episodes of unprotected sex might not become infected.” Taking a HIV test is now considered one of the best prevention methods against becoming infected. Assuming that one test positive then they can get treatment and learn how to care for themselves as well as prevent infecting someone else by not spreading the virus from one person to another. And, if they test negative, then they learn to stay negative through preventive measures and condom use.
Practicing safe sex is easier said than done. It’s no easier than staying off salt, not drinking too much or watching your weight when all your favorite foods are available. These are all things that we struggle with, but not taking the proper precautions can be dangerous and in some cases deadly. Its takes practice, a concerted effort and a commitment to be healthy, the same goes for your sexual health when you practice safe sex. Make it a habit like brushing your teeth, cleaning your house or watching your weight. Keep a condom on you for those special unexpected encounters. If you are having casual sex, make sure your sexual partner(s) gets tested. Get tested with them, if it will make them feel more comfortable and less stigmatized. If they are not willing to get tested or provide information on their status, they might not be the person you wanna have sex with. Its is also important for you to be tested and provide information on your own status. To find an HIV testing location in your area, visit www.hivtest.org.
Whether it’s a holiday weekend, a hot Summer night or a beautiful Fall evening, always be prepared. High and low risk sex is all the same when it comes to HIV and STDs. Every time you have unprotected sex, you are at risk of getting infected. It only takes one careless moment to change your life. Wrap it up and be safe.