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Newspaper Column

Be Mine, Valentine – and Remember the Condom

By Denise Smith

Sexual Health Nurse

Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit

With Valentine’s Day falling right in the middle, February is indeed the month for love. It’s the time when couples will exchange cards, swap kisses and chocolate, dine out together and – on the downside – potentially share Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).

Relationships are hard enough without STIs getting in the way. That makes promoting sexual health and preventing STIs an important conversation couples of all ages should have with each other. STIs, after all, are not just for people in their teens and 20s. With many baby boomers returning to the dating scene after a separation, divorce or death of a partner, rates of STIs are on the rise for older adults.

STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes and syphilis, which are spread by unprotected sex, pose a threat to the health and well-being of people. People who have been infected with chlamydia (the most commonly reported STI in Canada and in this area) often experience no noticeable symptoms. This means people may not even realize they have been exposed to chlamydia if they have had unprotected sex with a new partner.

Locally, the recent Canadian Community Health Survey found that four in 10 respondents aged 15 to 49 years who lived in Haliburton County, Northumberland County or the City of Kawartha Lakes did not use a condom the last time they had sexual intercourse.

If you are sexually active or thinking about having sex, it’s important to make healthy choices. By using a condom and being tested for STIs regularly, you can reduce the risk of contracting and spreading infections to a partner. Using condoms and other forms of birth control can also avoid unplanned pregnancies.

Talking with your sexual partner is important; asking questions and consulting with your health care provider can also be beneficial. The Health Unit can also help.

The Health Unit offers free sexual health clinics and counselling in Northumberland, Haliburton and Kawartha Lakes (call toll-free: 1-866-888-4577, ext. 1205)). Sexual Health clinics are staffed by Health Unit nurses and local physicians, providing clients with confidential access to cervical screening, low-cost birth control, pregnancy testing, emergency contraception, testing and treatment of STIs, and sexual health counselling.

This February, don’t just say, ‘be mine, Valentine.’ Assure your partner you’ve got things covered by using protection to reduce your risk of STIs.