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Healthy sexuality applies to all individuals. How we experience and express our sexuality may be different and can change over time. More adults are continuing to have sex as they get older. No matter your age, it is normal to have questions about sex. Having unprotected sex with new or multiple partners can put you at risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Practicing safer sex allows you to stay healthy and enjoy sex more when you don’t have to worry about STIs.

STIs are infections that pass through sex, including oral, vaginal, and anal sex. Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis have been increasing since the 1990s. Rates of STIs are increasing among older Canadians. There are also many other STIs, such as hepatitis B, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and human papillomavirus (HPV). Some infections may go away with treatment, while others may stay with you for life. If left untreated, many STIs can lead to long-term health problems and can even be life-threatening.

Here are some tips to help you lower your risk of getting or passing on a STI.

  1. Talk to your partner: Set the embarrassment aside. This is your body, your health and your life we are talking about. Feel empowered. You are protecting your health and your partner’s. The conversation may be uncomfortable, but, it is important to have. Ask your partner about their sexual history and request that you both get tested. Some ways to say this may be:
    • “I care about you and want us both to be healthy. We can’t say for sure what our past partners have done. Let’s both get tested for STIs before we have unprotected sex.”
    • “I hear most STIs have no symptoms and you can have one and not know it. I’d feel horrible if I gave you something. Let’s go get tested at the same time to be sure.”

    Once you and your partner have been tested, have sex with only one partner to reduce your risk of STIs.

  2. Talk to your health care provider or a Public Health Nurse from the Sexual Health Clinic: Get information about vaccinations that protect you from HPV and Hepatitis B vaccines, birth control (if applicable) and screening for STIs. Your health care provider will assess your individual health needs and recommend vaccines or screening as needed.
  3. Use condoms or barriers for all types of sex (oral, vaginal, anal): Condoms or dental dams should be used every time that you are having sex. Some STIs are passed with exposure to body fluids and blood, while others such as genital herpes and genital warts can be passed by simple skin-to-skin contact. Condoms and dental dams can prevent STIs by creating a barrier between bodily fluids and direct skin contact if used correctly. Male and female condoms are available and equally effective against STIs.

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The Sexual Health Clinic at the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit offers free condoms. Just come by between 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM and pick up some condoms. It is important for you to use condoms until you and your partner have had testing done.

If you have further questions about STIs or your sexual health, please call 519-258-2146, ext. 1200 to speak to a Public Health Nurse or to book an appointment.

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