Seema is the manager of Aastha Parivaar a federation of sex workers that educates people from various background, genders and ages on safe sex practices.
Over the years, I have educated people from various background, genders and ages on safe sex practices, and it has taught me that knowledge about healthy sex habits is uncommon. This stems from the fact that there is a lack of familiarity about one’s body, low self-acceptance, and limited information about sexual health.
Changing this attitude or lack of is not impossible, as we have seen in the past, but concentrated efforts are required to alter long -held behaviour patterns. Behavioural change plays a key role in ensuring healthy practices are not only sustained but also passed on. Here are some of the most common questions I ask as part of sessions on safe sex I believe will benefit both young-adults and adults to make responsible decisions.
How well do you know your body?
How often do we talk about our body? Do we have the curiosity to know more about how our partners’ body functions? The first step is to help yourself understand the body structures and which will help acquire the knowledge about sex and birth as well.
What is your status?
No, not relationship status! When was the last time you got tested for STIs or HIV? Have you ever got tested? If not, now is the right time. Many people think they would know if they had a sexually transmitted infection (STI). The truth is many STIs have no signs or symptoms in the majority of people infected. Or they have mild signs that can be easily overlooked. The only way to know if you have an STI is to get tested regularly. HIV testing is equally important. Testing and retesting is a responsibility for your own self and for your partners.
Do you and your partner really talk?
Have an honest conversation with your partner. Ask your partner(s) about their HIV/STI status and when they were last tested. When you talk with your partner about safe sex practices, and don’t just limit it to condoms, talk about getting tested for STIs, practicing hygienic hand washing practices, understand if you need to be on PrEP and consider birth control options. Be honest with yourself and your partner. If you're not ready, that's okay and your partner should respect it. If something scares you or makes you feel uncomfortable, you can say no at any time.
How well do you protect yourself?
Whether it's a new relationship, or getting close with someone familiar, you can still have healthier sex. One of the best ways to help protect yourself against STIs and HIV is a classic: the condom. Consistently using condoms and lube every time you have sex will defend you and your partners. Maintaining basic personal hygiene is also paramount. However, to ensure complete safety you may want to include other protection tools as well. If you're HIV-negative, you and a healthcare provider can decide if prevention medicines such as PrEP may be an option for you.
Will you remember the check-ups?
If you’re sexually active, it’s important to visit a doctor at regular intervals to have sexual health checks, even if you feel nervous about it. Sexual health checks may feel uncomfortable, awkward and embarrassing for you, but remember that for a doctor or health practitioner, these checks are a normal part of their job. Try to be honest and open. And remember to be regular.