Keeping safe sexually should be important to everyone, regardless of the gender to which they ascribe (if any) or sexual preferences they may have. Sex is not just about penetration so safe sex does not just mean using condoms!
The society is committed to making sure that you have access to the appropriate information and resources that will help you make the right decisions about your sexual health. We have a number of sexual health provisions available. These are available at our events, from your college LGBTQ reps and on demand from our welfare reps who will value your need for confidentiality.
Safe sex (physically)
The means by which one keeps safe during sex depends on the type of sexual activity occurring and safety refers both to preventing the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and preventing unplanned pregnancies. Most of the sexual health clinics listed will provide advice and help with both.
*Most STIs are transmitted in body fluids so barrier protection is a must during sex. Barrier methods include:
- male condoms to cover the penis during anal or vaginal sex;
- male condoms to cover sex toys during anal or vaginal sex;
- female condoms to go into the vagina for vaginal sex;
- dental dams to cover either the vagina or the anus during oral sex or rimming;
- latex gloves for fisting.
*Other ways to prevent body fluid transmission include not sharing sex toys.
*Some STIs, such as herpes, are transferred by skin-to-skin contact. Genital herpes can be contracted from oral herpes (cold sores around the mouth) so if you have a cold sore either abstain from oral sex, or make sure you use barrier methods during.
*Certain types of sexual activity increase your risk of contracting an STI. If you are not adequately lubricatedduring sex then you are more likely to tear which will both hurt and put you at greater risk of getting a blood borne STI (like HIV or hepatitis B or C). Remember only to use water-based lubricants as these are safe to use with condoms (oil-based products break down condoms!).
*You can get for free all sorts of different flavoured and textured condoms; flavoured dental dams; lubricants and latex gloves from GUM clinics, family planning clinics and university welfare services.
*In the UK, Hepatitis B vaccines are free for all men who have sex with men, or those who are in sexual contact with men who have sex with men, as well as for all sex workers. You can get the vaccine at any sexual health (GUM) clinic in the country, or at the outreach services above.
*HPV infection is not only associated with cervical cancer but also with oral and anal cancers. At the moment only secondary-school-age cis-women in the UK are included on the national vaccination programme. If you are concerned then you can get the vaccine privately, unfortunately the NHS do not cover HPV vaccines outside of their programme. If you are included on the NHS cervical screening campaign (for those over 25 years old) then you should have your cervical smear test. Cervical cancer is present in the LGBT*Q community and if caught early has a very good prognosis.
Accidents can happen to anybody. The most important thing is not to panic: most common STIs can be successfully treated and are will not cause lasting damage if caught early.
Three steps to take:
Book an appointment to get a full sexual health screen at a GUM clinic.
If you have a regular sexual partner, use condoms during sex until you have the results of your sexual health screen.
Post Exposure Prophylaxis. PEP is the only thing that can stop a person becoming infected after HIV has entered their body. PEP is an emergency measure to be used as a last resort, for example, if a condom breaks or if you have a ‘slip up’ from your usual safer sex routine. The PEP must be started as soon as possible: up to three days after unprotected sex, or a condom breaking or slipping off. It is free of charge but can only be prescribed by doctors. Sexual health (GUM) and HIV clinics can provide it, and should be your first port-of-call, but if it’s a weekend then Accident & Emergency departments of hospitals can provide it. The doctors will ask you some questions to assess your risk and accordingly may or may not prescribe post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). PEP is a month’s worth of HIV medication that hugely reduces your risk of contracting HIV. You will still need to return to the clinic for further tests and sometimes you can feel quite sick while taking the medication but if you have been exposed to HIV it is the only way to try to prevent contracting it. You can find out more about PEP here. www.tht.org.uk/~/media/95D2489602EC4CA5BECFA156F54C2926.ashx
Keeping safe psychologically
*Keeping safe during sexual activity means protecting oneself both physically and psychologically. Coercion and abuse occurs in many situations and is also prevalent in the LGBT*Q community.
*Sexual abuse and rape can happen to anyone, regardless of their sexuality and gender. Due to a lack of funding, the Oxford Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre (01865 726 295 or 0800 783 6294)can only deal primarily with self-identified women, but it will also take calls from self-identified men and pass them onto relevant national services (such as Survivors UK on 0845 122 1201). If you have been a victim of sexual abuse or rape, then you can also approach the police, sexual health clinic workers and university welfare services.
www.oxfordrapecrisis.net (for OSARCC)
www.survivorsuk.org (for Survivors UK))
Sexual Health Services for all
There is a GUM clinic in Oxford at the Churchill Hospital in Headington that provides STI testing, emergency contraception and free condoms, lubricants, latex gloves and dental dams. The clinic has both walk-in sessions and appointments (01865 231231).
Do check with the clinic for up-to-date opening times. The details can also be found here.
Call 01865 231231 between 8.30am and 6pm (4pm on Friday) to make an appointment.
If you need to change or cancel your appointment, please let us know as soon as possible in order that someone else may be booked in to it.
Routine clinic – Monday to Friday by appointment only
For sexual health screening and treatment for all STIs and other genital problems.
Drop in clinic – Monday to Friday, 12.15 – 3.15 pm, no appointment required
A walk in (no appointment needed) clinic for people who want to have a check up for infections (regardless of whether they have any symptoms). Cervical smears, emergency contraception and pregnancy testing also available.
All GUM services are free at the point of delivery (so even if they give you antibiotics you don’t need to pay) and you can give any name (although if you are likely to be returning it is probably helpful to be consistent so they can match up your previous notes).
Women who have sex with women are often told that they do not need to attend sexual health services, this isn’t the case as STIs are still prevalent in the community of women who have sex with women and so one should still remember to practice safe sex and have regular STI check ups and smear tests. STI tests are available from any GUM clinic and smear tests from GP services and family planning clinics.
Some GP surgeries offer to test for the more common STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea. Give them a ring, or book an appointment for more information.
Free home test kits are available for chlamydia. The test requires a urine sample or a lower vaginal swab that you do yourself, and so you do not need to be examined. The test kits are available by post (www.testbypost.co.uk) and from GP surgeries, GUM clinics, and LGBTQ events.
An HIV postal test is also available for gay or bisexual men in the UK. This test requires a finger prick of blood. www.tht.org.uk/sexual-health/HIV-STIs/HIV-AIDS/HIV-postal-test.