Inform yourself.. Your Sexual Health
Ever heard any of the following statements? Or anything similar?
“If you do not ejaculate you cannot transmit Sexually transmitted infection.
“If you do not ejaculate you cannot get someone pregnant.”
“Condoms block energy flow.”
“Condoms do not stop HIV/STDs”
“HIV does not exist.”
We have heard all these and more. Certainly the first three are usually by men who want have their cake and eat it without wrapping, while the last one was said directly to me in a workshop. Both the UK and Ireland are experiencing an increase in the diagnosis of STI’s: England last year had over 450,000 cases (up 5% on 2011), with the highest rates in those aged under 25 and Ireland is following in line with this. It was sexual health awareness week between 12-14th November and it appeared to me at least to have gone largely unnoticed.
Before I move onto some information around STI infections lets deal with a couple of the comments above:
If you do not ejaculate you cannot get someone pregnant: Really? That requires a high degree of control and trust between the parties involved and what about pre-cum? There have been conflicting studies as to the presence of sperm in the pre-cum, but would you rather be safe than sorry? (incidentally I knew someone who got pregnant while on the pill AND using condoms!)
Condoms block energy flow: There is a division of opinion but not using a condom makes assumptions about the health, freedom from STD and the ability to control ejaculation that may not necessarily be valid. My personal experience that there is no appreciable difference in energy flow using a condom as opposed to not using a condom. Indeed using a condom may reduce worries about STD’s and/or pregnancy. But if we practice energy flow through the earth and through our mats and clothes and footwear etc with no loss of energy, why would micrometer thin membranes suddenly have a nullifying effect?
Condoms do not prevent HIV/STDs. You will find such comments on websites, like ProlifeAmerica and the catholic news agency, who are simply lying. No if’s and no buts simply lying. Look at this link for example:
In one paragraph it is stated (about studies):
“Their findings were stunning. Basically, it boils down to this: There is no evidence to indicate that condoms prevent the heterosexual transmission of most sexually transmitted diseases. None.”
In the next:
“When used "correctly and consistently," condoms were found to reduce heterosexual HIV infection rate by 85 percent. (Which still leaves a 15 percent infection rate – not a good stat for a deadly disease.)”
Not only do they contradict themselves but they misrepresent data totally in order to drive their own agenda (in this case chastity). Indeed in 2007, Archbishop Francisco Chimoio of Mozambique announced that European condom manufacturers were deliberately infecting condoms and anti-retroviral medication with HIV to spread AIDS in Africa "in order to finish quickly the African people"
While I believe that personal accountability plays a large part in sexual health, there also needs to be direct accountability for those in perceived positions of influence: whether it is the RCC on the one hand or “Sexual Shamans” and Tantra practitioners on the other especially where comments may lead to infection, serious illness and death.
HIV Does not exist: I heard this directly and quite literally left me speechless. Those who know me and my background will know I trained as a microbiologist and the HIV/AIDS crises began at the start of my undergraduate career, I have been interested in the disease ever since (I applied for a PhD studying it, got shortlisted even, but didn’t get it). So now would be a good point to commence talking about the risk of STI infection.
My initial impulse was to provide a list of all the major infections, but instead I will direct you towards the CDC website www.cdc.gov/std. But it’s sufficient to say that ejaculation does not have to occur before many infections can be transmitted. Some sexually transmitted infections are extremely common (it is estimated that there are 820,000 people in the US get new infections of gonorrhoea per year 776,000 people in the United States get new herpes infections and that 1:10 of the Irish population are infected with Chlamydia), many of the infections are asymptomatic or silent infections (you do not know you have them). While some of them are curable like Trichomoniasis (a protozoan and considered to be the most common curable infection). Others like Herpes and HIV are not (though antiviral and antiretroviral drugs can manage the diseases, in the case of HIV resistance remains a concern and the treatment regimens are closely monitored for side-effects and need to be adhered to daily for life: Stephen Fry’s series HIV and me, available on YouTube, is recommended viewing). There can be complications with STI’s like Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (typically associated with Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea) and Cervical cancer associated with certain types of Human Papilloma Virus. Remember too that the presence of one STI may make you more susceptible to others like HIV or Hepatitis B. Even infections such as syphilis, are facing something of a renaissance and appearing in the notifiable disease reports.
So far I have not mentioned HIV to any great extent as I felt it needed to be mentioned separately. Denialism has been present since HIV first was presented as a causal agent in the development of (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) AIDS. It is important to understand that HIV progressively destroys immune system cells, which then leads to an AIDS related condition or symptom, an opportunistic infection, or an AIDS related cancer. To date about 33.4 million people are living with the virus and there have been 25 million deaths since 1981 (http://aids.gov/federal-resources/around-the-world/global-aids-overview/).
Denialists have put forward many theories : HIV does not exist; HIV has not been adequately isolated, HIV does not fulfill Koch's postulates, HIV testing is inaccurate, and that antibodies to HIV neutralize the virus and render it harmless. Alternative causes of AIDS they have suggested include recreational drugs, malnutrition, and the very antiretroviral drugs used to treat the syndrome. However, the arguments do not stand up to rational examination and with the development of the introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) in 1996–1997, the survival and general health of people with HIV improved significantly. The positive response to treatment with anti-HIV medication cemented the scientific acceptance of the HIV/AIDS paradigm, and led several prominent HIV/AIDS denialists to accept the causative role of HIV. Others haven’t even in the face of evidence from their own followers: For example, the editors of the magazine Continuum consistently denied the existence of HIV/AIDS. The magazine shut down when its editors all died of AIDS-related causes. In each case, the HIV/AIDS denialist community attributed the deaths to unknown causes, secret drug use, or stress rather than HIV/AIDS (sourced from Wiki).
Karen is from South Africa and the current estimate is a sero-prevalence rate (the numbers with antibodies and hence living with the virus) is 17.5% of the total population, compare that with 0.3% of the population in UK/Ireland and 0.6% for the US. It is to South Africa’s shame that South African President Thabo Mbeki's embraced AIDS-denialist claims as a result of the Durban Declaration of 2000. The resulting governmental refusal to provide effective anti-HIV treatment in South Africa has been blamed for hundreds of thousands of premature AIDS-related deaths in South Africa (600 per day, interestingly the then health minister recommended garlic, beetroot and lemon juice as a treatment). In 2005 the late Nelson Mandella announced that his son had died of complications of AIDS in an effort to counter denialsim and in 2008, with a change of government, denialism officially came to an end in South Africa.
Again on the subject of ejaculation V non-ejaculation there was a very interesting study by Fin J. et.al (Per-contact probability of HIV transmission in homosexual men in Sydney in the era of HAART. AIDS, published online ahead of print, 2010.) which showed that the chance of the receptive partner acquiring HIV, with no condom usage and without ejaculation was 0.65% and with no condom usage and with ejaculation was 1.43% (Note: per contact risk is the chance per sexual act, there are many factors which affect and increase it and of course you run the risk that one of those times you will be 100%). It is also worth noting that, while this study involved homosexual men, the most common route of transmission is through heterosexual sex.
I will mention it here too, as I think it’s important. If you believe you have been exposed to HIV then there is a treatment called PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis) which may work if started within 72 hours and best within 12 hours. It is a month long treatment with antiretroviral drugs which may stop the infection taking hold. However, it is not given out routinely and is subject to assessment based on criterion laid down by the health professionals and is based on the exposure risk so should not be considered a morning after pill for HIV.
So with all this am I attempting to scare you?
No, in the UK the Thatcher government of the time used the looming AIDS crises to create a state of fear and hence control. In my opinion, that subsequently backfired and the state of fear has led to massive stigma being attached to HIV infection (see Stephen Fry: HIV and Me). But information is a powerful form of empowerment and when you are informed and aware you are able to counter the claims of those that would control you by fear and those who would claim a special knowledge that simply defies common sense, but which can be used by a skilful manipulator to remove an element of choice in what you do.
This is my stance then, the overwhelming body of evidence is such that Condoms provide a safer means of having tantric sex in terms of STI’s and pregnancy (and especially if non-monogamy and multiple partners are there to increase the risk), while not appreciably blocking energy flow. In the end the choice must be yours and armed with relevant and accurate information you can make an informed choice: That includes the issues raised above and what you know about your prospective partner(s).
So what do you do for safer sex? In “Ecstasy is Necessary” Barbara Carrellas states very clearly that:
“the time to make safer- sex decisions is before you take your clothes off”.
That may seem like common sense, but you will be surprised how many of us, myself included, have made “heat of the moment” decisions that have been risky in retrospect. Barbara talks about a safer sex kit that supports your decisions and should be readily available for the situation you are in and I am going to outline the basics from “Ecstasy is Necessary” here:
Condoms: Latex condoms should be used for all intercourse, on any sex toys you use. They should never be reused. Use a new condom for each new partner that uses the toy and use a new condom when having sex with a different partner. For oral sex, use a flavoured condom (if you like them) and cut one open for cunnilingus (oral sex on a vulva) and rimming (anal).
Lube: Use condom friendly water-based lube. You can use it on the outside of the condom and a small drop of water based or silicone lubricants on the inside which may increase the sensations for men.
Gloves: Barbara suggests a simple test, if you rub your hands with a cut lemon, vinegar or alcohol based hand sanitiser and you feel stinging, then you have cuts in the skin barrier which may allow micro-organisms to be transmitted between you both. Latex, vinyl or nitrile gloves are all readily available. Vinyl and Nitrile gloves allow the use of oil based lubricants unlike latex.
Plastic Wrap: A great barrier for rimming and cunnilingus (do not use the microwave oven type, it has tiny holes in it). You can cut it to the required size, is easier to handle than a cut open condom and is a lot thinner than a dental dam. Lubricant can be spread on your partner’s side to enhance sensitivity (Note: be sure that it doesn’t touch the anus then the vulva). Some prefer Dental Dams for oral sex, but be careful not to drop them, you may not know what side has been against the body.
The female Condom: This can be inserted 8 hours before sex and can be lubricated with oil-based lubricants.
That is a simple effective safer sex kit for use in general situations. However it can be adapted to any situation that you wish to explore.
Whatever your safe sex kit contains remember that you have a right to have your boundaries respected around what activities you wish to partake in, to feel emotionally as well as physically safe and that communication is key. You have the right to say no and the right to stop no matter what the other person says, claims or does.
Remember Barbara’s statement:
“the time to make safer- sex decisions is before you take your clothes off”.
Mark Sutton January 2014