Practicing safer sex involves using a condom. You may think there’s nothing to it—just rip it open and slide it on. No need to fuss, especially if it’s pre-lubed. Right? Well, just to test your condom experience, here are a few tips that can make safer sex even safer:
- Use only latex or polyurethane condoms.
- Check the expiration date on the condom package. Old condoms can break easily.
- Condoms are easily torn, so be careful when opening the package.
- If you’re uncircumcised, roll the foreskin away from the head of the penis before putting on the condom.
- Wait until your penis is hard before you put it on.
- Squeeze the reservoir tip closed before rolling it down, to give the semen a place to collect.
- Unroll the condom down the shaft of the penis, while holding the tip.
- Use only a water-based lubricant.
- Do NOT use lubes or spermicides that contain nonoxynol-9 (or N-9), as in can increase the risk of HIV infection.
- If the condom breaks, pull out and replace it immediately. If there is an exchange of bodily fluids, after the condom breaks, talk to your doctor immediately about post–exposure prophylaxis (PEP), which can prevent HIV infection.
- After you ejaculate, hold the condom at the base of the shaft to keep it from slipping off when pulling out.
- Gently peel off the condom and throw it away.
For more detailed information about how to use a condom, you can go to to The Body.com
For more information about post–exposure prophylaxis (PEP), go to:AIDS.org
The Pennsylvania Department of Health has begun testing an online partner notification system. The online system is designed to send anonymous “e-card” messages to persons who may have been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease. “The way it works,” explains Raymond Yeo, a University of Pittsburgh consultant involved in creating the system, “is that if I were to test positive for Syphilis or HIV, for example, I would go online with a Department of Health representative and send email messages to all the people I’ve had sex with.” Yeo works for Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health as an online sexual health educator. “The internet has become a major venue for finding sexual partners,” Yeo went on to explain, “so the Pennsylvania Department of Health needed to create a method of contacting people who may have been exposed to sexually transmitted diseases when the only contact information they have is an email address or chat room username.”
The e-card message informs recipients that a person they’ve hooked up with (for sex) tested positive for an undisclosed sexually transmitted disease and encourages him or her to also get tested. Messages also contain a unique identification number that medical providers and clinics can use to determine what infection they should test for. This number is also reported back to the Department of Health for the purpose of tracking state-wide outbreaks.
“If you receive an e-card from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, telling you that you’ve been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease, you can take it seriously because the system is controlled by the Health Department staff…which pretty much eliminates the possibility of it being a hoax or a spam message,” Yeo added. “It’s important that this system succeeds in what it was designed to do. Folks who are hooking up on the Internet for sex are getting infected at higher rates than folks who don’t…and if we don’t find a way to contact them, and they don’t get tested, it will only lead to bigger health problems for our community.”
People who have been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease, in cases where additional contact information is available (such as a phone number or mailing address), are contacted via traditional methods. For more information about the Pennsylvania Health Department Online Notification System, you can contact Mr. Yeo at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health by calling (412) 383-2940 . You can also go to the Partner Notification Website at pastatehealth.org.
Men who have sex with men (MSM) get certain types of cancer more often than their heterosexual counterparts. Lung, skin, prostate, colon, anal and testicular cancers are a concern for all men, certainly, but MSM often have to deal with an additional set of issues that put them more at risk.
Not surprisingly, lung cancer is at the top of the list. Research shows that MSM are more likely to smoke (33.2%) than straight men (21.3%). The simple solution would be to stop smoking, right? Not so easy. And what about the other forms of cancer?
The American Cancer Society’s Website summarizes the problem in three bullet points:
- Low rates of health insurance: Many health insurance policies do not cover unmarried partners. This makes it harder for many MSM to get quality health care.
- Fear of discrimination: Many men don’t tell their doctors about their sex life because they don’t want discrimination to affect the quality of their health care. This can make it harder to establish a trusting relationship with a provider which, in turn, can lead to missed opportunities to address health concerns.
- Negative experiences with health care professionals: Many MSM report negative experiences with a health care provider after revealing the nature of their sexual encounters. As a result, fear of another negative experience can lead some men to delay or avoid medical care, including early detection tests.
One solution to health care discrimination might be to find a doctor you can be honest with—not just someone who’s okay with you having sex with other men, but someone who is competent enough to deal with your unique health issues. You may need to do a fair amount of investigative work. Start by checking out the provider directory on the Gay & Lesbian Medical Association Website. You can also screen doctors before you commit to making someone your primary care physician. Ask pointed questions. If you don’t get a good vibe, try someone else.
Another way to overcome discrimination in health care is to take charge of your own health. If your doctor doesn’t know to or want to suggest an anal cancer screening (for example) you’ll need to request it yourself.
Finally, knowing your unique health risks is half the battle. Information is Power. You can find out more about each of the cancer risks on the American Cancer Society Website. You can also check out About.com for a guide to cancer prevention for MSM. To find out more about cigarette smoking and programs to help you quit, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website’s section on gay and bisexual men’s health.