As the summer approaches a lot of you will maybe going on holidays or maybe embarking on a gap year. Whatever your reason you should ensure you've considered the following:
- Many people have sexual encounters while abroad, and have unsafe sex, bringing back a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) with them to the UK. To ensure this doesn't happen, either abstaining from casual sex with unknown partners, or use condoms, lube and dams.
- Ensure you purchase condoms and lube before leaving the UK, even if you think you have no intention of meeting someone. It's better to have them and not use them, than to need them and not have them. Also buying in the UK should ensure that you have purchased a trusted brand that have been tested and has the kite mark on them with an in-date best before stamp, as other countries have different testing standards and you could end up with a poorer quality condom.
- Condoms should ideally be stored in a cool place, away from direct sunlight or heat as this could weaken the rubber.
- Do not use things like sun cream as lube, it will weaken the rubber on any condom, ensure you have a water based lube that has been marketed as safe to use with condoms.
- Hepatitis B is the only STI that you can be vaccinated against, so if you have concerns about the STI before you travel, ensure you see you local GP or GUM clinic 6 months before you travel.
- A lot of STI's have no symptoms, so don't assume that because you have no rash or discharge that you haven't caught anything. If you have had unsafe sex it is your responsibility to get it checked out.
- If you do develop a rash, or there is a discharge, abstain from any further sexual contact and see your GP or GUM clinic, even if the symptoms fade. Just because your symptoms disappear, this does not mean you body has cured itself, many STI's will flare up and then go dormant.
- Some countries have much higher rates of STI's than our country, such as HIV in Africa, thus increasing your chances of catching an STI if not using protection.
- Unfortunately homosexuality is illegal in some parts of the world. Ensure you have researched the area you are visiting to find out what their laws state.
- Some countries also have very strict religions where public displays of affection are forbidden, regardless of sexuality, so again ensure you research local laws beforehand.
- Be careful when meeting new people and making new acquaintances. Be very hesitant about going back to their place. If inviting someone back to your accommodation do not leave your money or passport in sight.
- Ensure you purchase your own drinks. If one is bought for you, something could be slipped into your drink. Try not to over drink as this often leads to engaging in activities you would not normally do when sober.
- Unless necessary to save your life, you should avoid having a blood transfusion in developing countries. If it is essential, request blood that has been screened for HIV, hepatitis B and C and Syphilis.
Hopefully you won't encounter any of the above issues. Knowing about them before hand should put you in position to avoid any difficult situations, and have a fantastic holiday if you are going away this summer.