Practicing safe sex is not only important to prevent unwanted pregnancies — it also protects against potentially life-threatening diseases such as HIV/AIDS and chlamydia.
Who’s at risk?
Of those that get treatment for an STI (sexually transmittable infection), 10 percent will become re-infected within the year.
“Prevention is better than a cure,” says Peter Roach, Vice President of the Durex Network, which raises global awareness of the safe-sex message. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 18,000 people with AIDS still die each year in the U.S., despite better treatment options.
Young people are the ones not getting the message, but there has been an increase in STIs among older people too. “Marriages are breaking down in the 40-and-over age group, and these people had limited sex education when they were younger and are less aware of the risks involved with unprotected sex,” explained Roach.
Why people are still having unsafe sex
Younger people, and especially younger girls, believe that the pill alone is enough protection — yet the contraceptive pill only prevents from pregnancy, not infections.
Education is key. Market research carried out by Durex suggests that sex education given in school is not sufficient.
“Parents and guardians provide the best source of sex education and their knowledge and advice contributes to greater sexual confidence,” says Roach. “We need to make it easier for young people to speak to their friends or their parents about sex without feeling embarrassed.”
Culture, whether country of origin or religious belief, is important. In the Netherlands, where parents famously deal with sex openly, teen pregnancies are lower than the norm. Roach said: “Culture has a key role in how open people are about sex. Durex researchers found that people are reluctant to speak to their new sexual partners about their history.”
Recently, German popstar Nadja Benaissa was convicted of infecting her ex-partner with HIV/AIDS after failing to inform him of her illness throughout their relationship.
Although she will not be going to jail, Benaissa could well have prevented her partner from meeting that fate.
“AIDS remains a current issue and there are still a third to half of those infected who are unaware of their status,” says Roach. “Testing is key.”