Time to consider committing to safe sex

1 December is World Aids Day and a good time to think about stopping the spread of sexually transmitted infections, specifically HIV. No matter your HIV status, always wrap up to protect yourself and your partner.

According to UNAIDS, South Africa has the largest HIV epidemic in the world. This country's population accounts for 19% of people living with HIV globally, 15% of new infections and 11% of AIDS-related deaths across the world. Despite this, condom manufacturer Durex reports just over half (54%) of those between the ages of 18 and 24 have had sex without protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) at least once.

So why do people still take the risk? "More than a quarter [of young people surveyed say they] would be embarrassed to be caught carrying a condom by a date. This highlights that safe sex is no longer part of the dating culture for the younger generation," Durex's 2017 Global Sex Survey reports.

Why not safe sex? Time to consider

In South Africa, 41% of those aged between 18 and 24 admit that they don't use condoms because they are in a trusted relationship, despite one tenth of respondents in relationships having another sexual partner. This leaves many vulnerable to contracting or spreading STIs, or ending up with an unplanned pregnancy.

Condoms are the only form of birth control that also protect against STIs. They form a barrier that prevents people from sharing body fluids and the viruses they may contain. But condoms don’t protect against STIs that are transmitted from skin-to-skin contact, like genital warts or pubic lice.

Unprotected sex isn't sexy

Most of us first learned about HIV and AIDS in school or at a work session. HIV education started the mid-1990s and we thought we knew three basics: people with HIV die early, HIV can be transmitted through sex and contact with body fluids, and there is no cure.

What we thought we knew was wrong. Medicine has advanced since then, and with the right treatment people with HIV can live long and healthy lives. The first step to protecting yourself is knowing your status. Screening tests are an important first step on your road to health. The sooner you detect problems, the sooner you can start working on getting better.

Commit to safe sex and regular screenings

If, after a screening test, you find that you have an infection – make use of the resources and support systems at your disposal to help you manage your risks and wellbeing. As a SABMAS member, you are covered at 100% of the Scheme Rate for a variety of health checks including the HIV test.

Aid for AIDS Programme

Aid for AIDS, our HIV management programme, offers members and dependants:

Medicine to treat HIV* and vitamins to boost the immune system

Regular monitoring of the condition Monitoring of the patient’s response to therapy

Monitoring tests to detect side effects Ongoing patient support via dedicated counsellors

Assistance in finding a registered counsellor for emotional support.

*This includes medicine to prevent mother-to-child transmission and infection after sexual assault or needle-stick injury.

If a test confirms that you are HIV positive, you must register with Aid for AIDS as soon as possible. Aid for AIDS will keep your status confidential. Contact them on 0860 100 646 and request an application form, or ask your Healthcare Provider to call them on your behalf.

If you are exposed to HIV through sexual assault or from a needle or injection, please ask your doctor to call Aid for AIDS urgently. We can authorise special antiretroviral medicine and we can help you to prevent possible HIV infection.

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