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Safe Sex: How Can I Be as Safe as Possible?

satisfied-looking lube cartoon with safer sex gloves

Many people who have sex worry about STIs (sexually transmitted infections), pregnancy, or both. Thankfully, There are a lot of ways to have safer sex! There are kinds of protection for any type of body, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Some of the most popular ones are latex gloves, condoms, and birth control.  You get to choose which safe sex options are right for you and your partners!

Condoms

Most of the times people say condoms, they mean the thin latex covering you can put over a penis or a dildo. These are sometimes called external condoms. Most are made of latex, but you can find other kinds of condoms.

Condoms are great protection for oral, vaginal, or anal sex. They make sex safer by keeping fluids from going from one person to another. This lowers chances for pregnancy and STIs!

You can buy condoms at a pharmacy or get them for free at clinics like Head and Hands. It can help to try a few to find what kind of condom fits and feels best!

Condoms work best when you follow the right steps. These can make condoms feel better and lower the chances that they’ll break or slip off.

When they use condoms the right way, 98% of people who have vaginal sex for a year won’t get pregnant. If you’re using other birth control, condoms can lower the risk for pregnancy even more. They’re also the only birth control that prevents STIs.

Some people worry that using a condom will ruin the mood. But with a little practice, using a condom can be fast, easy, and even sexy.

Internal condoms

There are also internal condoms, which are sometimes called female condoms. These are nitrile plastic tubes that can go into a vagina or anus up to 8 hours before you have sex. Like external condoms, they lower the risks for both pregnancy and STIs. Some people also love how they feel!

Internal condoms are harder to find, but you can buy them at some sex shops.

Safe oral sex

Some STIs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and herpes, can pass between private parts and a mouth or throat. Other STIs, like HIV and hepatitis C, can pass through the mouth if there are small cuts or swollen gums. Luckily, there are many ways to make oral sex safer.

For oral sex on a penis, you can use a condom. Some people use flavoured condoms or lube because they don’t like the taste of latex.

For oral sex on an anus or a vulva (the parts outside the vagina), you can use a dental dam. This is a rectangular piece of latex that you hold between a mouth and a vulva or anus. Like a condom, it keeps STIs from passing through.

Dental dams are hard to find at pharmacies. You can get them at the Center for Gender Advocacy or buy them at some sex shops. You can also make dental dams yourself with condoms or gloves.

Birth control

There are many kinds of birth control that can lower someone’s risk for pregnancy. Options like the pill, the patch, the shot, and some IUDs use hormones to lower the risk. Others like condoms, diaphragms, and some IUDs keep sperm from reaching eggs. Anyone over 14 can get birth control for $20-60 a month or sometimes free without their parents knowing.

It can help to know that condoms are the only kind of birth control that also lowers the risk for STIs. Because of this, many people use condoms together with other kinds of birth control. This also lowers the risk for pregnancy even more!

Most birth control options are made for people with a vaginas. You can go to a clinic and get a prescription from a doctor or a nurse for many kinds of birth control. You can call 811 or search online to find a clinic near you. If you’re under 26, you can go to a youth clinic like Head and Hands near Vendome.

PrEP and vaccines for safe sex

PrEP is short for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. It’s a drug that people take every day to lower their risk for HIV. It doesn’t protect against other STIs. Some people can get PrEP for free in Quebec!

There are also vaccines for some STIs like HPV and hepititis A and B. Many people in Quebec can get them for free too!

STI testing

Even when you use condoms the right way and they don’t break or fall off, there’s some risk for STIs. You can lower the risk for you and your partners by getting tested at least once a year if you’re not sure about your partners’ status. There are also a few times when it helps to get STI testing sooner.

Some STIs don’t show up in tests for up to 3 months after they get in the body. Because of this, it’s safer to get tested about 3 weeks after you had sex and again after 3 months.

Some people worry what STI testing will be like. Doctors are trained not to judge and it doesn’t need to be scary! It can be like going to the dentist, just something you plan to make sure you stay healthy.

More info:

  • Condom basics – Scarleteen

    Scarleteen explains the basics of condom use.

  • Barriers: How to Keep Other People’s Body Fluids Out of Your Body

    Scarleteen’s article delineating some of the common barrier methods, the importance, and step-by-step diagrams of how to use them. Includes three ways to make barriers easier. 

  • Contraception – Sex & U

    All about contraception, aka birth control. Contains pages on emergency, hormonal, non-hormonal, and natural contraception.

  • Head & Hands Health Services

    Head & Hands is a health clinic for youth ages 12-25 near the Vendome metro station. They offer free, anonymous STD testing, even if you’re not covered by RAMQ. Head & Hands also has a lot of other services, including medical check ups, getting contraception, transitioning, and more.

    They offer a walk-in clinic on most Tuesdays and Thursdays starting at 4:45pm. Everyone who comes in for the clinic is given a name card and entered into a draw. At 5:00pm, they draw 10 names to decide who sees the doctor.

    They recommend bringing your Medicare card if you have it, but you can still see someone if you don’t have it.