Taking place from 14-20 September 2020, Sexual Health Week aims to raise awareness with a view to improving everyone’s sexual health. The theme of this year’s campaign is making sexual health inclusive.
A key objective of Sexual Health Week is educating people of all ages so they can as adults enjoy a healthy and responsible sex life, whilst minimising the risks of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancies.
Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub is an advocate that sexual health must go beyond traditional views of simply avoiding disease and unwanted pregnancy and should include experiencing pleasure and intimacy when desired along with respecting the sexual rights we all share.
Sexual health still remains a taboo subject for many today. By encouraging more dialogue and openness around the topic, more people will have greater understanding and be better equipped to make informed choices in relation to sex.
Inclusiveness is an area of sexual health which is too often overlooked or dismissed. Some people, for example, hold the view that sex is only for a certain profile of person (e.g. people who are young and healthy or couples who fit characterised stereotypes).
In this respect, society sometimes forgets that it is perfectly healthy and normal for people with disabilities to have an active sex life and that those over the age of 50 are just as able to enjoy sex as much as younger people. Of course, some groups may face different sexual challenges or require to take particular precautions, but that doesn’t mean to say that they couldn’t or shouldn’t have a regular and fulfilling sex life.
There are many free resources and services readily available to support local people with their sexual health. These include NHS Lanarkshire’s provision of Sexual Health Clinics and Young People Clinics, as well as a Free Condoms No Fuss C Card Scheme, which offers condoms and lubricant to anyone living, working or studying in Lanarkshire.
Individuals can pick up a C Card and leaflet from various locations in the Greater Cumbernauld area, including Cumbernauld Central Health Centre and most local pharmacies. During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, NHS Lanarkshire is also temporarily offering condoms and contraceptive pills by post.
Furthermore, Lanarkshire Sexual Health is a useful website that contains a wide range of information about local services in relation to sexual health testing, family planning, STIs and healthy sexual relationships based upon safety, pleasure and respect.
So, this Sexual Health Week, don’t be afraid as partners, spouses, families, friends or professionals to engage in positive discussion about sexual health. By doing so, we can all help to remove stigma and ensure that each person receives the sexual health advice and support that they need.
For those seeking to improve their sexual health, the below tips and advice are provided by Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub.
EIGHT WAYS TO LOOK AFTER YOUR SEXUAL HEALTH
Know the Risks of Unprotected Sex
Unprotected anal sex and unprotected vaginal sex are the most common ways that sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are passed on. There are many different STIs, including Chlamydia, Genital Herpes, Genital Warts, Gonorrhoea, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, HIV and Syphilis. These can be contracted through having unprotected intercourse with an infected person or carrier. It is absolutely vital that you inform your sexual partner(s) soon as possible if you have (or think you may have) an STI.
Unwanted pregnancy is also a common occurrence of unprotected sex. Using a condom during sex is the best way to reduce the risk of STIs or pregnancy.
There are other sexual activities which do not carry the same risks as unprotected penetrative sex but can still be very pleasurable for you and your sexual partner(s). Click here for more about specific sex activities and the risks they carry.
They say that knowledge is power. This is definitely true with your sexual health, as it can give you the power to make better and more informed choices.
Reading the different sections of the Lanarkshire Sexual Health website is one way to increase your understanding of many areas of sexual health, including contraception, fertility, relationships, services and STIs. Whether you are seeking advice or information for yourself, your partner, your child, a friend or a client, there is a lot of knowledge to be gained from this portal.
A healthy sex life can promote a range of health benefits, both physically and emotionally. Learn how you can make the most of your sex life and keep healthy.
As well as making sure you have safe sex, it is also important to remember that sex can be very enjoyable and can enhance your relationship with your partner. A good start to having great sex is getting to know your body as well as your partner’s, learning to be more sensual and understanding how arousal occurs.
If in Doubt, Get Checked Out
If you have taken sexual risks or think you might have contracted an STI, don’t delay in consulting your GP and getting tested. The sooner you get tested, the sooner you can put your mind at rest. If results come back positive, then early detection means treatment can be more effective in making you healthy again.
Some infections, such as the HIV virus and Chlamydia, do not always show symptoms until they become more advanced, making them more difficult to treat. So if you are having sex then it is important to have regular check-ups. An appointment can be made at an NHS Lanarkshire Sexual Health Clinic by telephoning 0300 303 0251 or booking online.
Be Aware of the Health of You and Your Partner’s Genitals
Do you know what a healthy penis or vagina looks and feels like? Whatever its shape or size, learn what you should do to keep yours in good health.
Every vagina is different. Click here to learn about normal colour, smell, natural changes that occur and when you might need to see a doctor. Equally, there is no ‘correct’ size or shape for a penis. Click here to learn all you need to know about penis and testicle health including normal appearance, size and shape.
If you have any concerns about your genital health, take the time to consult your GP. Also, make sure you discuss any concerns with your sexual partner(s) before having intercourse.
Make Sure You Use Condoms and Contraceptives Properly
Understanding how to use condoms properly, how they work and where you can access them is essential for protecting yourself and your sexual partner(s).
Condoms are the best way of protecting you and your sexual partner(s) from STIs and unintended pregnancy. Click here for information about how to put a condom on. There are a number of contraceptive options available to women that couples should be aware of when making sexual choices.
Talk About Sex
Sex is definitely worth talking about; sharing feelings and concerns with your partner promotes better sexual health both mentally and physically.
Talking about sex does not need to be embarrassing. In fact, experts say it is essential. Bringing up your worries and talking about your expectations with a partner can ease tension and improve your relationship and sex life.
If you have concerns about sex or your sexual health, there are many professionals that you can talk to through NHS Lanarkshire who can offer expert advice and help you to make the right decisions on issues that are important to you.
Know the Facts about HIV and AIDS
If you are sexually active, it is essential to understand the facts about transmission and symptoms of STIs, and where to access information and support in relation to this.
Understandably, many people are especially concerned about the possibility of contracting HIV through sexual intercourse. HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, and it attacks the body’s immune system, making it more vulnerable to illnesses. AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency, and it can occur as a result of the damage that HIV has done to the body.
The best way to prevent yourself from becoming infected with HIV is to always use a condom for sex. If you are concerned that you may have put yourself at risk of contracting HIV, it’s important to get tested as soon as possible. Terrence Higgins Trust facilitates a Lanarkshire Fastest Clinic which offers rapid HIV tests with results available within 20 minutes.
Always Respect and Protect Your Partner’s Sexual Health
Respecting and protecting your partner’s sexual health is imperative at all times, even if you do not always agree with or like their views or beliefs. In the same respect, your partner should always respect and protect your sexual health.
If this is not the case, this needs addressed as soon as possible. Depending on the circumstances, you may need to access professional advice or help regarding this. If you believe you have been the victim of a sexual assault or crime, or know someone else who has, you should contact Police Scotland immediately.
Looking after your sexual health is as important as any other aspect of your health. For more about sexual health and supports available in the Cumbernauld area, visit www.lanarkshiresexualhealth.org.
Join in the Sexual Health Week 2020 conversation on social media and tell us about your promotional plans using the hashtag #SHW20.