In today’s society, we cannot be cavalier — or shy — about safer sex practices. Here is a gay man’s guide to the safest sex possible:
Get tested. Getting tested is scary, yes, especially if you haven’t gone in a while. However, nothing is more crucial in preventing the spread of STDs. Many STDs are asymptomatic, so just because you feel fine, don’t assume that nothing is wrong. You won’t be able to enjoy your sex life to the fullest if you are worried about catching something — or possibly spreading something — or if you are not doing everything you can to protect yourself. Grab a couple friends and make a day of it by going out to lunch or doing something enjoyable after you’re done with the hard part. You can also make it a pre-dating ritual to go with your new partner before you have sex.
Get vaccinated. Anal cancer is on the rise across the globe, and it has even doubled in some countries in the past two decades. Anal cancer is often linked to HPV, which is the most commonly diagnosed STD. Twenty million Americans have HPV, and six million new cases are diagnosed each year. Furthermore, every year in the United States, 1,500 men will be diagnosed with HPV-associated anal cancer, and 400 will be diagnosed with HPV-associated penile cancer. As scary as these statistics might be, the good news is that we can prevent the spread of HPV-related cancers and even substantially decrease the risk of new infections.
A recent study conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health found that not only could vaccines protect against cervical cancer, but they could also work to protect against anal cancer as well. The research followed the results of Cervarix, a new vaccine created by GlaxoSmithKline (the same pharmaceutical company that makes the Gardasil vaccine). Researchers found that Cervarix prevented 62 percent of HPV-related anal cancers and 77 percent of HPV-related cervical cancers. Your doctor can tell you more about how to get vaccinated, tested, or treated.
Use the right lubricant. Lubricants are a terrific tool for great sex, yet certain lubricants can affect the efficacy of condoms. Oil-based lubricants work wonderfully, but they are not for use with condoms as they can break down the latex material. Instead, opt for silicone-based lubricants or water-based lubricants. If you are using lubricants with sex toys, be sure not to use silicone toys with a silicone lubricant, which will negatively affect your toy. Instead, go for a great water-based lube.
And, remember never to share your sex toys. If you do, always make sure to clean the toy with warm water and mild soap. You might even consider purchasing some sex-toy cleaner. Even if you don’t share your toy, you should still wash it on a regular basis to prevent the buildup of bacteria.
Condoms, condoms, condoms. By now, we all know the importance of condoms, yet it can never be overstated. Condoms are a must when it comes to preventing the spread of STDs, but be aware that certain STDs such as HPV can still be spread even if you use condoms regularly. Nevertheless, they are the best way (next to abstinence) to prevent the spread of STDs, so stock up!