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World AIDS Day -- a reminder of the need for people to unite in the fight against HIV/AIDS -- turns 23 this year. With all the information and statistics available on STDs nowadays, you’d think most people are practicing safe sex. But they don’t. While 58 percent of teen girls are making their boyfriends wear a condom, only 17 percent of women 35-44 are doing the same!
According to a 2011 survey in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, adults are having plenty of sex, but condoms are often missing in action. Adults over the age of 40 had the lowest rates of condom use and it seems to be a habit they picked up earlier in life. A survey conducted by Durex Condoms reports that 60 percent of Americans didn’t use condoms when they lost their virginity, compared to Mexico (44 percent) and Columbia (43 percent). While ditching the condom for a frisky rendezvous may seem exciting at the time, it can put you and your partner at risk for a plethora of STDs including HIV.
Each year an estimated 56,300 people will become infected with HIV and 17,000 people with die of full-blown AIDS. The theme of World AIDS Day this year is “Getting to Zero,” meaning zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. And how do we do that? By protecting ourselves.
Here’s the reality: Your partner has a sexual history. “We know from 30 years of HIV behavioral research that open communication and direct conversation is a protective factor in so much as it empowers an individual to make safer choices with regard to sexual practices,” says Perry Halkitis, Ph.D., M.S, professor at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. So check in with your new (or old) beau about his sexual history. Roshini Raj, M.D., author of What the Yuck?: The Freaky and Fabulous Truth About Your Body and contributing medical editor to Health magazine says you should know if a potential partner is responsible and honest in regards to safe sex practices. She suggests asking a few questions before beginning a new sexual relationship:
- What kind of protection has he used in the past?
- When was his last HIV test (and what were the results!)?
- Is he currently involved with someone else (and what kind of protection do they use)?
Don’t forget to take care of yourself and ask your doctor about getting screened for HIV and other STDs.
And ladies, don’t worry about not being pleasured when using a condom -- good sex and condoms go hand in hand. The Journal of Sexual Medicine survey found that adults who used condoms were just as likely to rate their sexual experience positively in terms of pleasure, arousal and orgasm.
The price of protection will run you a mere $17 for a 36-pack of condoms, a small price to pay for keeping you healthy. So Kudos to you and your active sex life, just remember to put your health first by practicing safe!