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There are not many things more important than our health.

Living through a pandemic has taught us that much. Our experiences over the last two years have given all of us a new appreciation for being healthy and looking after our wellbeing.

However, one area is still frequently neglected and rarely talked about – sexual health. The reason for this is, largely, due to stigma.

Talking about sexual health is still a taboo, and there is still work to be done to normalise the conversation about testing, symptoms, and encouraging partners to discuss these things with each other.

Bianca Dunne is co-founder of sexual wellness brand, iPlaySafe App. She has shared her key tips to help you look after your sexual health – and encourage openness around this awkward topic.

Prevent infection  

‘Your sexual health has an enormous impact on your mental and physical health, alternative drug to naproxen ’ says Bianca. 

‘All three need to be aligned to make you feel good and keep you productive. Keeping you healthy relies on prevention, testing, and treatment.’  

Prevention means making sure you are vaccinated against viral illnesses such as hepatitis B and strains of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) that are linked to cervical cancer in women.  

‘You should discuss both with your GP if you are in doubt as to whether you have had or are eligible for these,’ says Bianca. 

‘It also means stratifying your risk and mitigating risk where you can: condoms and dental dams are an effective way of doing this, as barrier protection is the only contraceptive that also reduces the risk of STI transmission (apart from abstinence, which we do not recommend!).’

Get tested regularly  

Bianca says testing and contact tracing are of paramount importance in the fight against STIs – language that we have become all too familiar with over the course of the pandemic.

‘You should be regularly tested if you are having sex with different partners, ideally at a suitable interval after each interaction,’ she says.

‘Asking a partner when they were last tested is something many people don’t like doing, because society has made us feel ashamed when it comes to sexual health.

‘While more needs to be done to help combat and normalise this, by providing people with the tools, like with our “play badge”, this makes it a lot more fun and easier.’ 

But Bianca adds that you should be aware that some infections – such as HIV – won’t show up on tests until up to three months following exposure, and so regular testing is key.

‘Depending on the sexual history of your partners, different infections should be tested for,’ she adds. ‘Sexual health testing kits are available and will test routinely for the big six: HIV, Hep B, Hep C, chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, but it’s important to be mindful of other infections – such as genital herpes and genital warts – which are diagnosed clinically, so you should consult your GP or your local GUM clinic, for treatment and management of these conditions.’

Source the right treatment  

The good news is that treatment for sexual health is getting better and better. 

‘Infections such as chlamydia can lead to devastating consequences such as infertility for women but are readily treated with antibiotics, due to advances in anti-retrovirals,’ says Bianca. 

‘Certainly, HIV infected individuals with an undetectable viral load are now considered to carry zero risk of transmitting the virus. 

‘With continued awareness and important education around sexual health, we’re hoping the conversation around STIs and testing is normalised.

‘These conversations don’t have to be awkward, but instead can be a positive and healthy start a new sexual relationship. Regular testing and being up front about your sexual health, and the need to know your partners will help reduce unwanted transmissions to keep you healthy in bed, and ultimately encourage us all to live healthier lives.’

Do your research 

‘Thankfully, a lot has been done in the space of sexual wellness in recent years,’ says Bianca, adding that this conversation has been accelerated by the pandemic.

‘There are many brands that share similar missions to help normalise the topic,’ she says. ‘Brands, like HANX, Smile Makers, Mojo are providing products and solutions to help all sexes, and experts like Dr Kate Moyle and sexual education author Ruby Rare, also helping provide answers to questions people may have due to not having a proper education previously.

‘Arming yourselves with the tools to help you look after, and enjoy your sexual wellbeing, will be so important.’ 

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