ASK FERNE: EPISODE 2 - WHEN WE WERE YOUNG

This month, Xi and I talk about when we were young, and how it was always an odd experience, going for your first sexual health test.

Listen to the podcast here.

This month, we are helped by Dr. Eugena Tay from The Health Advisory Clinic. The Health Advisory clinic offers a comprehensive one-stop service for your general health, sexual health, men and women health, located in the centre of the central business district of Singapore – One Raffles Place.

Questions this month:

  1. If I have a yeast infection, can I still have sex?

It is best to clear off any infection before engaging in sexual intercourse, in particular vaginal sex, receiving oral sex, or putting anything into the vagina (e.g. sex toys, fingers).

With an ongoing infection, the external genitalia may be extra sensitive or even itchy, sore and painful.  Friction during sexual intercourse during such circumstances may cause a lot of discomforts, or even cause more skin irritation and aggravate symptoms further.

New microorganisms may be introduced, (yes you can have more than 1 organism causing infection at any given time), making the infection more severe or harder to treat.

Besides, some medications used to treat vaginal infections may contain properties that can weaken condoms and make them more likely to break during intercourse, thereby putting you at risk of pregnancy.

There is also a possibility that yeast infection can be passed on to your partner if it has not been fully treated.

  1. If I perform oral sex on someone who’s wearing a condom, will I get STDs?

There is little to no risk of contracting HIV from oral sex,. However STDs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, and HPV can be transmitted via oral intercourse. 

Using condoms during oral sex can significantly reduce the risk of contracting these STDs. 

It is very important to ensure condoms are used correctly and should always be placed completely covering the penis. They should also be discarded after each use and even when changing between oral sex and penetrative sex.

One thing to note is HPV is spread through intercourse or close contact skin-to-skin touching during sexual activity. Thus, despite condoms, it can still be passed between partners as the virus may be present on skin areas that areare not covered by condoms. 

  1. How often should I get checked for STDs?

The recommended STD screening frequency would differ among individuals based on lifestyle and sexual practices.

It would be dependent on the following factors

–       number of partners

–       types of relationship e.g open relationship or polyamory, homosexual relationships, whether your partner has other partners

–       types of intercourse engaged in

–       any casual partners or contact with commercial sex workers

–       whether any barrier protection is used regularly

–       any “accidents” e.g. condom breakage/ slip-off

As good practice, here are some general guidelines:

–       test before commencing sexual activity with every new partner

–       test after any possible risky exposure such as unprotected sex or condom breaks with casual /unfamiliar partners or new partners

–       testing yearly minimally is also a good idea, especially for all sexually active women from 16 onwards and in the 20s (women in this age group are more likely to have contact with different partners). Older women with risk factors such as new or multiple partners should also undergo STD testing. 

Nonetheless, it is always best to discuss with your doctor and seek their advice on this!

  1. What types of STDs should I be looking out for?

The following diseases can be transmitted through sexual intercourse due to the exchange of body fluid, blood or close skin contact 

HIV 

Hepatitis 

Syphilis 

Herpes 

Chlamydia and Gonorrhea 

Trichomonas 

Mycoplasma, Ureaplasma 

Genital warts (due to HPV)

It is important to look out for the presence of symptoms and seek medical attention straight away. This includes: 

– vaginal or penile discharge

– itchiness/ rashes/ bumps / blisters or ulcers at the genital region 

– urinary symptoms such as discomfort, pain, burning 

– discomfort or pain during sexual intercourse 

– bleeding during or after sex 

– swollen bumps especially at the groins (lymph node swelling) 

– fever

Not everyone will experience symptoms (or sometimes symptoms only show up some time later), however STDs are still transmissible from asymptomatic individuals to their partners. It is therefore crucial to assess your risk of STDs with your doctor and have regular testing if needed. Lastly, always adopt safe sex practices!

    5. I’m lesbian, and have never had sex with a boy, will I still get STDs?

As mentioned earlier, STDs such as HPV and resultant genital warts can be transmitted through close skin to skin contact. 

Other STDs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes and syphilis can also be spread since there is body fluid involvement when couples engage in manual stimulation, oral sex, genital-to-genital touching and sharing of sex toys. The presence of blood when either party is having their menses also makes the risk of STD transmission during such periods higher. 

Lesbian couples can reduce the risk of acquiring infections through the following methods: 

  • Using of dental dams – a thin flexible piece of latex placed over the genital region for oral sex, it acts as a physical barrier, similar to what a condom does 
  • Using disposable latex gloves for any form of fingering or manual stimulation –  remember to use a new set of gloves before touching your own genitals or when switching to penetration of another body region (e.g between the anus and vagina)
  • using condoms for sex toys – similarly, always use a new condom for each partner and when penetrating a different body opening. Also, make sure to wash sex toys with soap and water thoroughly after
  • Avoid oral sex if either party has cuts or sores in the mouth or lips
 
 
Thank you Ferne Health!