Most teenagers have heard the message: practice safe sex. They ARE listening. They know that they should avoid getting pregnant. But when I ask teenagers what they are staying safe from, the conversation starts to fall apart. “Safe” or “safer” sex usually means that the guy wears a condom in order to reduce the risk of getting a sexually transmitted disease or an unwanted pregnancy. Here are some facts and fallacies about “safe sex”:
Fallacy: You won’t get pregnant if the guy uses a condom every time.
Fact: According to the Center for Disease Control, in typical use, condoms fail to prevent pregnancy 18% of the time.
Fallacy: Condoms protect you from sexually transmitted diseases.
Fact: Condoms are most effective in preventing the transmittal of HIV. In fact, condoms are effective at protecting against HIV 85% of the time, leaving a 15% chance that a person could be exposed to an HIV infection.
Condoms are 50% effective in preventing STDs that are spread by body fluids (such as gonorrhea and chlamydia, the most common STDs). The math isn’t hard: that means that half the time, condoms don’t protect the user against gonorrhea and chlamydia.
Condoms are even less effective in reducing the risk of STDs spread by skin to skin contact (herpes, syphilis). In fact, if the infection is located outside the area covered by the condom, condoms offer no protection at all.
Fallacy: Safe sex means using other forms of birth control that are more effective than condoms.
Fact: Other forms of birth control lower the risk of becoming pregnant but offer no protection against sexually transmitted diseases.
Fallacy: Oral sex will avoid the risk of an unwanted pregnancy AND a sexually transmitted disease.
Fact: STDs can be spread through any type of sexual contact.
The Center for Disease Control has stated that STDs are spreading at epidemic rates in the US. Currently, there are about 19 million new STD infections every year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24. That’s a new infection every 3 seconds. While some diseases can be cured (if they are diagnosed and treated), viral STDs cannot be cured. Some STDs (such as HIV and HPV) can lead to potentially fatal illnesses. Some STDs can cause long-term organ damage that cannot be reversed. The risk is serious and needs to be considered carefully. At what point is sex “safe”? If you are sexually active, you deserve to have all the information. You need to know how the dice roll, so that you can make decisions to protect your long-term health.
Selah agrees with the CDC that the only way to guarantee that you’ll be protected against contracting a potentially life-changing STD is to have sex in a monogamous, long-term relationship with a partner who is not infected. If you have questions about how to protect your health, how to know if you are uninfected, and how to stay healthy so that you are free to pursue your goals, come talk to us!