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Safe sex

It’s not always easy to discuss sex with a straight face, but if you don’t take it seriously you could end up with more than just a case of the giggles. Read on to find out more.

It might seem that your mates are talking about sex all the time, but just because they’re talking about it doesn’t mean they’re doing it – or that they actually know what they’re talking about. You should never let anyone pressure you into sex, but if you do feel ready, make sure you get your facts straight and your protection sorted first.

What’s the difference between contraception and protection?

Contraception is a way of preventing pregnancy. There are lots of different types, but the most common ones are condoms, the female pill and contraceptive injections. But it’s important to realise that contraception isn’t the same as protection. Sexual protection stops you getting an STI, and the only type of contraception that also provides protection are condoms, meaning you should always use one even if you’re using other contraception as well.

What are STIs?

STI stands for sexually transmitted infection, which is a disease you can catch from having unprotected sex with an infected person. They include things like gonorrhoea, chlamydia and herpes. You can read more about the most common types of STI here.

Nearly 500,000 STI cases were reported in 2009, and rates are on the rise – particularly amongst young people. Not all STIs have obvious symptoms at first, so the only way to be sure is to get tested for free on the NHS or at a Brook Advisory Clinic. It might not be fun but it’s all completely confidential, and it’s best to find out now rather than have problems later on.

condomWhere can I get condoms?

Condoms are free from most GP surgeries, sexual health clinics and student unions as well as being available to buy from shops, chemists and pub vending machines. There’s really no excuse for not having one, and remember that staying safe is both of your responsibility. If you want to find out about other contraception too, get in touch with your doctor or any of these organisations offering confidential sexual health advice.

How do I use condoms?

Condoms are around 98% effective, provided you use them properly and make sure they don’t slip off or split. But don’t worry - most condoms come with instructions, and you can watch the video above for more advice on how to use them.

I’ve had unprotected sex. What can I do?

Don’t panic! If you’re worried you or your partner might be pregnant, you can contact the NHS or a Brook Advisory Clinic for advice on emergency contraception like the morning after pill. They can also advise you and provide treatment if you think you have an STI. It’s all completely confidential so no-one else needs to find out, but it’s much easier to avoid the hassle by not having sex without a condom in the first place.

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