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Sexual health

Sex & sexual health | Staying safe

Looking after your health is so important, helping you to stay happy, confident and well. Your sexual health is a big part of this too.

Oct. 25, 2022

It is important that you know how to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections, regardless of your gender or who you’re having sex with.

There are some common misconceptions about LGBTQ+ sex that can be very dangerous. For example, that only gay men get HIV, or that lesbians can’t get sexually transmitted infections. These are absolutely not true.

It can feel difficult to find reliable information about LGBTQ+ sex, so we’ve pulled together some resources to help with some of the questions you may have:

Taking care of your sexual health isn’t just about preventing sexual infections. It’s also about feeling confident around your sexuality, knowing how to treat others with respect, being able to talk openly about your likes and dislikes, not having regrets and taking care of your personal safety.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

A STI is any kind of bacterial or viral infection which can be passed on through sexual contact. Sexual contact includes:

  • the use of sex toys
  • anal sex
  • vaginal sex
  • oral sex (kissing, sucking or licking a vagina, penis, anus or surrounding areas)

How can you prevent STIs?

Using condoms: condoms come in various shapes, sizes, colours and types. They cover a penis or sex toy or, in the case of femidoms, line the vagina. Using condoms is the only way to reduce your risk of both pregnancy and getting a STI.

Using dental dams: a dental dam is a thin square of latex that can be placed over the penis, vagina or anus before you have oral sex. They are available from sexual health services or you can buy them online or from a pharmacy.

Remember: using any form of contraception other than condoms does not reduce your risk of contracting a STI. That doesn’t mean you should stop using other forms of contraception, but it’s very important to understand the difference.

Regular testing: You can get up-to-date information about how STIs can be tested for and treated on the NHS website. Also talk to partners you are looking to be intimate with about their health status. Talk about getting tested together if there are worries.

Not all sexual infections have symptoms: If you have had unprotected sex always get yourself tested afterwards and don’t forget emergency contraception to protect from pregnancy, if you need it. Most sexually transmitted infections are easy to treat and staff in the sexual health clinic have seen it all before and won’t judge you.

Anyone, of any age, can go to a sexual health clinic. Your results will always be treated confidentially.

If you’re 13 to 16 years old, nobody at home will be contacted without your permission. However, you may be encouraged to talk to your parents, guardian or another trusted adult.

If you’re under 13, things work a bit differently. This is because the law says that people of this age cannot consent (say ‘yes’) to sexual activity. Staff at the clinic might feel that telling someone – such as a social worker – that you’ve been sexually active and might be at risk of STIs is the best thing to do to make sure you’re safe.

Common infections

Some of the most important STIs to know about are:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhoea
  • Syphilis
  • HIV

You can get up-to-date information about how these STIs and others can be transmitted, tested for and treated on the NHS website. Not all of the language used by the NHS is LGBTQ+ inclusive, but they are a really reliable source of information available about prevention, testing and treatment.

Where to go in Kent for sexual health advice

You can test for sexual infections in different ways:

  • If you’re over 16 and don’t have any symptoms you can order a self-testing kit to be posted to your house
  • You can visit your nearest clinic for a blood test. If you have a penis you will also be asked to provide a urine sample. If you have a vagina you will be asked to do a self-taken swab (this is like a cotton bud that is rubbed on the outside and inside of the vagina – a nurse or doctor can do this for you if you prefer).

You can find out more about sexual health services in Kent here. For services in Medway, click here.