Monday, December 18, 2023
Syphilis & the Stages of Infection
Syphilis is an STI that presents in many different stages. It can be asymptomatic to start but can develop into life threatening issues if left untreated. How then do you know if you have syphilis??? You get tested regularly. Your sexual wellness is important to all aspects of your health and requires attention and prevention to maintain its wellness.
What is Syphilis?
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. It is spread by unprotected vaginal, anal, and even oral sex. It is highly contagious and can cause permanent damage without treatment. Syphilis is spread from skin-to-skin contact by someone with a sore or chancre. It is often spread unknowingly as not all infected individuals are aware of its presence. This is why testing for STIs is so important.
Stages of Syphilis
There are four main stages of syphilis each with its own set of symptoms: Primary, Secondary, Latent, and Tertiary.
The different stages can all present with secondary complications from the systemic impact on one’s overall health. These complications can present in many different ways dependent upon the stage of the infection.
Testing and Treatment
Testing for syphilis is simple with either a blood test or swab of a chancre. Syphilis is easy to test and treatable with antibiotics. It is very important that you tell your sexual partners if you test positive so that they may get tested as well. According to the CDC reported cases of syphilis (all stages) have increased 74 percent since 2017, totaling more than 176,000 cases in 2021.
As with all STIs, the only way to prevent transmission is to abstain from any sexual activity. But there are things that can be done to help reduce the risk of transmission when engaging in sexual activity.
There are many ways to effectively help prevent the transmission of syphilis and maintain one’s sexual wellbeing. Using condoms and oral barriers, either latex and non-latex for those with allergies, are an important part of safer sex practices. Regular testing as needed is also a responsible and healthy practice to implement into one’s life. Sexual health is important to maintain throughout all the stages of one’s life.
Monday, November 6, 2023
November 22 is National Dental Dam Day! Dams, otherwise known as Oral Barriers, are gaining awareness for their important role in helping prevent STIs during oral sex.
What exactly is an oral barrier? An oral barrier or dam is a sheet of latex or polyisoprene (non-latex) that is used as a barrier when performing oral-vaginal or oral-anal sex. They are used to help reduce the transmission of infections that can occur during any oral sex activities.
Dental Dams vs Dams?
Dental Dams were originally used to isolate a tooth from the rest of the mouth during dental procedures. They were, and still are for that purpose, a simple 5- or 6-inch square sheet. Folks began to use them as a barrier during oral sex as they were a better option than cling wrap or cut up condoms (neither of which meet the regulatory requirements)! But these were not exactly conducive to the sensual aspect of oral sex due to their thickness nor met regulatory standards as an oral barrier due to their smaller size. Enter today’s oral barrier!
Why Give a Dam?
The late 1980s saw an increased openness in speaking about sexual wellness, safer sex practices, and sexuality in general. And more people started asking about dams. The sheer number of STIs and the continually growing rates around the world today necessitate a variety of safer sex products. Oral Barriers are definitely an important part of safer sex practices.
It is also extremely important that you use a dam that meets the ISO 29942 Standards for Dams. Yes, there is a comprehensive regulatory ISO Standard regarding dams that includes proper sizing, viral barrier testing, biocompatibility testing, tear and tensile testing and a number of other requirements. Nobody wants to, or should have to, worry that any product being used for safer sex practices is not going to do what it should. And in order for that to be the case it is imperative to make sure the products you use, specifically condoms and dams, are fully licensed by your country’s governing body.
Dams that are for oral sex have a set of requirements that must be met for proper licensing as they are considered a medical device. According to the regulatory standard all dams need to be 6 x 10 inches in size to ensure maximum coverage. They need to have some flexibility in their tensile strength without tearing. They need to be the correct thickness to ensure they act as a viral barrier to help prevent the transmission of an STI. They need to be made with products that are approved and meet biocompatibility standards. They also need to be registered with either the FDA or Canada in North America. These requirements have specific parameters that MUST be met to be FDA approved or Health Canada Licensed.
Safer Sex Practices
Oral sex still has the risk of spreading infections. The use of an oral barrier helps to reduce the risk when used consistently and properly. There are many different factors that determine the risk of transmitting an STI. According to the CDC, “Many STDs, as well as other infections, can be spread through oral sex. Anyone exposed to an infected partner can get an STD in the mouth, throat, genitals, or rectum. The risk of getting an STD from oral sex, or spreading an STD to others through oral sex, depends on several things, including:
Dams and condoms are considered medical devices in North America. This is to ensure that if they claim to help prevent STIs they have the testing and regulatory background to support that. ALWAYS make sure the products you are using are licensed or approved so that you can spread a dam, not an infection!
Wednesday, October 4, 2023
What is a Latex Allergy or Sensitivity?
Latex Allergy Awareness Week
October 1-7 is Latex Allergy Awareness Week. This week is focused on bringing an increased awareness surrounding latex allergies and sensitivities. Latex allergies can range from mild to life threatening, and continued exposure has been shown to increase the severity. This is called sensitization. The Mayo Clinic explains this process as your immune system identifying latex as a harmful substance and triggering certain antibodies to fight it off. The next time you're exposed to latex, these antibodies tell your immune system to release histamine and other chemicals into your bloodstream. This process produces a range of allergy symptoms. The more times you are exposed to latex, the more strongly your immune system is likely to respond.
What is Latex
Latex is a naturally occurring substance that is found beneath the bark of the rubber tree. This milky white substance is harvested by tapping the trees. The bark is scored and peeled back to create a channel that allows the sap to run into buckets attached to the trees. The sap is collected and then processed into latex that is used in many common day-to-day items. Latex possesses a great many attributes that allow it to be used for a wide variety of items from gloves to balloons to condoms and dams. But it also can be life threatening to people who have a latex allergy.
What are you allergic to in latex?
A latex allergy is actually an allergic reaction to the proteins present in the milky sap of the rubber tree. Simply put, your body views the latex as something harmful. This response causes a release of histamines to fight the “intruder”. Histamines and other chemical responses are what trigger the allergic reactions and symptoms. It is the latex protein that creates this allergic reaction, one that can worsen over repeated exposure. This protein is very similar to proteins in some nuts, fruits and vegetables. It is not uncommon for people who have a latex allergy to also have allergies or sensitivities to the following foods:
What is Polyisoprene?
Interestingly enough, polyisoprene is created either by removing the allergy producing protein from natural rubber or as a totally synthetic product created in a laboratory setting. But polyisoprene retains the many attributes that natural latex has with its softness, tear and tensile strength, and comfort. Polyisoprene condoms and dams are a safer option for anyone who has latex sensitivities or allergies. They provide a necessary alternative for the growing number of individuals who suffer from latex allergies.
Pros & Cons of Polyisoprene
There are far more pros than cons when it comes to polyisoprene condoms and dams! The pros are obvious! You can enjoy safer sex without the concerns of a latex allergic reaction to the condoms or dams being used. Polyisoprene condoms and dams are a safe replacement for any latex condom or dam. The cons are very few and far between! The one that first comes to mind is that they are a bit more costly than their latex alternatives.
Protect Your Health!
Protection is available for everyone, even those with a latex allergy or sensitivity. The options are growing for access to polyisoprene condoms and dams. Harmony Polyisoprene Dams are available in both retail and bulk options. Your health, all aspects of it, is worth protecting.
Friday, September 22, 2023
Choice is something everyone should have the right to when it comes to making decisions about one’s sexual health and wellness, including contraception. Choice can be defined as the following:
September 26 is World Contraception Day and the theme for this year is “The Power of Options”. It is absolutely crucial to be empowered when it comes to one’s sexual health. And empowerment comes through choice, education and knowledge.
Education is Key
Education is a key component of empowerment. It is only through awareness and knowledge that one can make an informed decision regarding the best options for one’s health. When you have access to correct, informative and useful information, then you can make decisions based on how best to fill your needs. This also means you must always make sure that the sources you are accessing are credible. Information is available from health practitioners, clinics, and sexual wellness facilities.
Types of Contraceptives
Contraceptives are available in many different formats, offering options based on factors such as lifestyle, health considerations, availability, future plans, and, ultimately, preference. These include different hormonal options, IUDs, assorted barrier methods, and surgical options to name a few. The good news is that there are options to choose from that best fit one’s lifestyle. Even within each group of contraceptives there are choices available, allowing one to further tailor their contraceptive needs. One very important thing to remember is that not all contraceptives aid in the prevention of STIs. Always make sure to use a condom or dam (oral barrier) when engaging in penetrative or oral sex.
The Power of Options
The theme of 2023’s World Contraception Day is The Power of Options. This theme is based on more than just the varied contraceptive options. It also focuses on the power those options allow to be formative in choosing one’s life path. These could include family planning, child spacing, increased reproductive health, gender equality and continuing to aid in open communication around sexual wellness. When there are options and choices that allow individuals to choose what works best for them, then the odds of healthy practices being implemented rise. In order for something to work, it needs to work for the individual. Offering choices in contraception simply allow everyone to choose what will work best for them.
Tuesday, August 22, 2023
Sex and Aging!
Sex through all stages of life
Yes – your grandparents are probably still having sex! As are your parents. And the truth is, age does not have to stop anyone from enjoying having sex. Our sexual health is an important part of our lives regardless of age. But the natural aging process does impact our physiological make up, which then can impact some aspects of sexual activity.
How does aging impact sexual health?
The many physical changes that aging can bring may impact one’s sexual activity. This can include everything from age related illness, lower libidos, hormonal changes, muscle loss/weakness, to the many side effects of medications. But there are ways to navigate these changes to continue to have an active and healthy sex life into one’s later years.
The reality is that as we age our bodies change. This is true of our reproductive organs and hormones as well. These changes may bring about new obstacles that may include the following:
Many of these concerns can be dealt with through speaking with your health practitioner for assistance. There are medications, creams and naturopathic options to help alleviate many age-related sexual health concerns.
Communication is Key
As with so many things in our lives, communication is the key! As we deal with the many changes aging brings into our lives, we need to maintain open discussions with our partners. This will allow both parties the opportunity to express their changing needs, if any, that are the result of age-related changes.
It may be as simple as more intimacy before any sexual activity, using lubricant, discussing any shame related to body changes or sexual activity so everyone can move forward within a trust-filled relationship, or simply acknowledging that things are different. But different does not have to mean bad. Different can be exciting and fun as you find new ways to express your sexual lives together.
Safer Sex Practices are for All Ages!
The Mayo Clinic states that an ongoing interest in sex, as well as satisfaction with the frequency and quality of sexual activity, is positively associated with health in later life. Older adults can continue to enjoy an active sex life. This can be with a long-term partner or, due to divorce or the death of a spouse, with new partners. With this in mind, sexual activity at any age requires one to continue to implement safer sex practices to aid in the prevention of STIs. This includes the use of condoms, oral barriers (dams) and lubricants. STIs can be transmitted at any age!
Many older adults view prevention from a pregnancy point of view only. This results in a false belief that one does not need to use prevention. This becomes apparent when we see that overall STIs are on the rise in North America, with infections among adults age 65 and older more than doubled between 2007 and 2017. Regardless of one’s age, safer sex practices need to be incorporated so that one can stay sexually healthy while having a viable and healthy sex life.
Thursday, June 8, 2023
Condoms: Colorful & Controversial
Condoms have had a very colorful and sometimes controversial history, especially in North America. Condoms, in varying forms, and other means of birth control have been around for centuries. Early contraceptives were made from materials on hand ranging from animal dung, horns, animal intestines, to seaweed. But they did not come neatly packaged in paper or foils. That only really began in the late 1830s with the invention of vulcanized rubber and the massive impact it had on the condom industry.
Mass Production of Condoms
The general perception of the 1800’s Victorian Era is not usually one of open sexuality or ease of access to contraceptives. But it actually was!
“Condom production ballooned after 1839, when Charles Goodyear’s method of rubber vulcanization kick-started modern latex technologies in the United States. By 1870, condoms were available through almost any outlet you can imagine–drug suppliers, doctors, pharmacies, dry-goods retailers and mail-order houses. It may seem surprising today, but sexual products were openly sold and distributed during much of the 19th century.”
So, condoms were everywhere and easy to access. Until the hammer came down in the form of Comstock’s Act.
Anthony Comstock began a huge reform movement that actually was passed by the US Congress as a Law. Comstock’s Act was passed in 1873 after Comstock equated contraception to a free license to partake in sexual shenanigans and infidelity. This made the sale, advertising, or mailing of any contraceptive illegal. It could actually result in prison time!
Although it impacted the explicit sale of condoms, it most certainly did not stop them. Folks, being resilient and resourceful as always, just found a loophole to market them different. And part of this new approach was for the prevention of infections.
Prevention vs Contraception
The advent of science and the understanding of germs, transmission included, was applied to condoms as a way to market them. Suddenly they could offer a product “for safety” and not even mention contraception. This concept of infection prevention was only beginning to be understood. The advent of World War I brought it home…. literally. STIs, especially gonorrhea and syphilis, were rampant in the troops. The fight against STIs was on, but still as a reaction to the issue not as prevention. The concept of disease prevention would still need some more time.
Condoms began to be viewed as a necessary medical device to help combat and prevent STIs. This saw the rise of messaging on condom packaging with references to safety during sex. Condom messaging was not about pleasure and fun, but about being safer to help reduce the possibility of contracting a Venereal Disease.
But it still wasn’t until 1937 that the FDA instituted a national standard for testing of condoms to make sure they met safety guidelines. And then condoms and the advertising of their merits were fully used as North America entered World War II. Access to condoms was military de rigueur. The messaging was to protect your country and yourself. Condoms advertised their function to the user with the names and messages on the packaging.
Today condoms are still an important medical device for safer sex practices. But they are now also seen as something that can be for pleasure as well. They are available for use as contraceptives, help in preventing or reducing the transmission of infections, and for pleasure or fun. Due to the myriad of options available, condoms can be both fun and functional. Condoms have had an interesting and controversial history, one that continues to evolve over time.
Tuesday, March 21, 2023
STIs and Testing
How to Begin the Testing Path
We have all heard how testing is an important component of our Sexual Health, but often times we do not know where to get tested. Testing is available in many places within North America. You can begin by asking your doctor, going to a clinic or public health facility for guidance. Testing is free at many facilities including family doctors’ offices, walk-in clinics, sexual health clinics, and other public health units and community centres.
What Types of Testing Do I Need?
The type of test needed is directly dependent upon what you are being tested for. There are a few different types of STI Test procedures; most of them are simple and easy to have done.
It is important to get tested if having multiple sexual partners, the condom or dam breaks or slips, you are not sure of the status of your partner, at an annual checkup, if showing symptoms or know of recent exposure, and/or as part of your routine ongoing health care.
The bottom line is that folks of all genders and sexual orientations should be tested once a year, after unprotected sex, or in between new partners — whichever comes first!
Exposure to different STIs also come with different timelines for testing. There are different incubation periods for the different STIs. This incubation period means the time between infection and the appearance of symptoms. This ranges between a couple of days to a few months. This is something to discuss with your healthcare provider to get specific answers about in order to test within the appropriate time to avoid false negative results.
How Long Before I Get Results?
Most of the test results are completed between 2-5 days. But never assume you are negative if you do not hear back from your test provider. Always call and confirm the results before engaging in sexual activities. Tests are also available for use within the privacy of your home. These ones are generally something that requires payment. The in-home testing is an alternative for folks who are uncomfortable going to a healthcare provider for testing.
Results and Next Steps
Once you have received your results, the next steps depend upon what they were. If you are positive, then there are steps that need to be taken. These are dependent upon the diagnosis, and often times involve medication, sharing your diagnosis with past sexual partners and/or a host of treatment options to help manage symptoms and future outbreaks. The reality is that 1 in 2 people will experience an STI within their lifetime. With that representing 50% of the population, we need to continue to remove the stigma from STIs, create awareness about them and the prevention options available, make testing easily accessible and known, and work together to lessen the epidemic proportions of STIs worldwide.
Together we can make a difference!
Friday, February 17, 2023
Safer Sex Can Be Fun!
Sometimes we may feel that safety is all about restricting what we view as our enjoyment of some things. But when it comes to sexual activities, that is absolutely not the case! There are many different products that can assist in everyone having safer sex that can also be fun. The products for safer sex have expanded over the years to incorporate many unique aspects that help to meet many different individual needs.
What Is Safer Sex?
Safer sex is quite simply anything we do to help lower the risk of transmission of infection during sexual activities for all participants. The terminology is SAFER because nothing is 100% due to some extenuating circumstances, a big one being user error. So, if you are going to engage in any sexual activities make sure you use products that help keep it safer and could also make it more fun. This can include latex or polyisoprene condoms, latex or polyisoprene dams, or nitrile female condoms. All of these acts as a barrier to help prevent the exchange of bodily fluids that may cause an infection. And to reduce usage issues, always read the instructions.
Practicing Safer Sex
If engaging in sexual activities, there are things to do to help practice safer sex:
Learning to implement the usage of condoms and dams into foreplay can also help increase pleasure as well as safety.
There truly is a condom style to meet everyone’s needs! Condoms come in many options, a few of which are the following:
Most of today’s condoms are meant to be used for safer sex purposes but there are some that are strictly for enjoyment and are not a form of protection. Make sure you know what you are using before you engage in any sexual activity. Also make sure your condoms and dams are FDA approved. Always purchase or obtain your condoms and dams from credible suppliers including licensed Health Distributors, Public Health, your doctor, and pharmacies.
Safer Sex can be still be fun. Actually, perhaps more fun when you know you are taking precautions to help reduce your risks of an unintended pregnancy and the transmission of STIs.
Thursday, December 22, 2022
STIs: Myths & Misconceptions
Conversations concerning sex and sexual wellness are unfortunately still not as open as they need to be. Many people are uncomfortable discussing sexuality, sexual wellness, and, ultimately then, sexual health. This includes STIs, which continue to be surrounded with a myriad of myths and misconceptions. The internet, although oft times a helpful tool, can also be a breeding ground of misinformation. It is important to always check that your sources are reliable when using the internet. And if not sure, then go speak with a healthcare provider for information.
STIs & the Myths that Need Debunking
As we have mentioned before, The World Health Organization estimates over 1 million STIs are acquired DAILY! We can help reduce those numbers with factual and helpful methods of prevention – the biggest being awareness and education. The Medical News Today article “Medical Myths: Sexual Health” helps debunk some of the myths that have circulated for years.
MYTH: If I am taking the Pill, I cannot get an STI.
FACT: Oral contraceptives prevent pregnancies. They cannot prevent an STI. You need to still use a condom or dam when taking the Pill.
FACT: Again, anytime there is genital contact a condom or dam is required.
FACT: Never use more than one condom at a time as the friction of them rubbing together can actually cause them to tear.
FACT: STIs are transmitted through unprotected vaginal, anal, oral sex, genital contact, sharing of sex toys and other sexual activity. They are not transmittable via a toilet seat.
FACT: Some STIs are curable and others are treatable. Get tested if you show symptoms, have had unprotected sex, have a new partner, or as a regular part of your overall health.
FACT: Oral sex or sharing of sex toys, along with sharing needles, can also easily transmit an STI.
FACT: Many STIs are asymptomatic, meaning you won’t show symptoms or they won’t appear for awhile. This means you may be spreading it unknowingly. Get tested to ensure you are STI free.
Regular Testing is one of the important ways to ensure you are not sharing an STI unknowingly. Testing is available online for discreet at home testing, through Public Health organizations and clinics, and your family doctor.
Getting tested annually is a great place to start but further testing is appropriate and wise with the following:
How testing is done and how long it takes for results depends upon the type of STI. Your health care provider can give you more details if needed.
Know your Sexual Health status and practice having safer sex. Knowledge can help keep you safer! There are so many options to help keep sex safer while still having fun.
Wednesday, September 14, 2022
My Condoms Expire???
Your sexual health is relying on it!
January 10, 2024
January 12, 2022