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SEXUALITY

Someone you care about wants to have sex and you don't know:
What to do or say
How it will change your feelings about yourself or your relationships
How to prevent pregnancy
How to protect yourself from diseases or HIV/AIDS
How to say NO without losing your partner
Some couples have trouble agreeing on a stopping point. What should you do? There are many levels of touching and affection before sexual intercourse occurs. You can stop at any level. Try to avoid situations where you have to decide when to stop.

Before you get in a difficult situation, talk about your feelings with your partner and be sure to be specific about what seems right to you. If you can't agree, you may have to say NO even though it is hard to say NO to someone you really like. Only you know how much you can handle, and you are the one who must deal with the consequences.

It is important to be sensitive to your partner when it comes to the question of sexual activity. When someone is not ready for sexual involvement, it is wrong to pressure him or her. The answer to the statement, "If you love me, you will" is "If you love me, you won't pressure me."

There are many ways to express feelings of intimacy without having sex. If you choose to have sex, latex (or non-latex or polyurethane if you have a latex allergy) condoms give you good protection because they are barriers-something that comes between you and your partner’s bodily fluids. Other birth control methods only protect you from unwanted pregnancy. Using a condom isn't 100% safe against pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections-only abstinence is-but it offers the best protection from STIs and protection from pregnancy if you do have sex. The best protection is a primary birth control method, like birth control pills, and a second back-up method such as male or female condoms.

If you choose to use contraception, it is wise to discuss available options with a health professional. Good contraceptive care includes both an initial health check-up and continuing care. Once you are sexually active, it is important to go for regular examinations.

It is also important to use a contraceptive properly and not to borrow one that has been prescribed for a friend. When calling for an appointment, you should inquire as to whether there is an adolescent service available. Many facilities offer free services or special fee schedules geared towards adolescent needs. Confidential services are available in most facilities. For more information, call or visit:

Martha’s Vineyard Family Planning
508-693-1208

SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED INFECTIONS (STIs)

STIs are infections that can be spread by having sex with another person who is infected. Most STIs are curable. Some are not. If you have sex with someone who has an STI, you can get it too. Many people who have an STI don't know it. They may look healthy, but they could still have an STI. Some people won't tell you, even if they know they have one.

Abstinence, or not having oral, vaginal or anal sex, is the best way to protect yourself. It is possible to get an STI even without having intercourse (penis in the vagina, mouth or anus) through skin-to-skin contact.

STIs like Chlamydia, gonorrhea or syphilis are curable. While not curable, diseases like HIV, HPV, herpes and hepatitis B are treatable. If left untreated, STIs can lead to long-term consequences, like infertility, long-term pain or cancer.

Any genital symptoms such as an unusual sore, discharge with odor, burning during urination, or bleeding between menstrual cycles could mean an STI infection. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should stop having sex and consult a health care provider immediately. Treating STIs early can prevent PID (pelvic inflammatory disease). Anyone who has been told they have an STI and are treated for it should notify all of their recent sex partners so that they can see a health care provider and be evaluated for STIs. Sexual activity should not resume until all sex partners have been examined and, if necessary, treated.

To get more information, check out www.iwannaknow.org or any of these resources:

American Social Health Association (ASHA)
www.ashastd.org
800-783-9877

Centers for Disease Control
www.cdc.gov

800-CDC-INFO

National Prevention Information Network (PIN)
www.cdcnpin.org
800-485-5231

Centers for Disease Control STD and AIDS Hotlines
800-227-8922

Division of STD Prevention, Centers for Disease Control
www.cdc.gov/std
800-344-7432(Spanish)
TTY 800-243-7889

HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C

Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, is a virus that attacks the immune system resulting in Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, or AIDS. There are two primary ways a person can become infected.

HIV/AIDS is most frequently passed through sexual intercourse with an infected person. Unfortunately, it is not the only disease passed in this manner. If a person has one of the other sexually transmitted infections, they are at greater danger of contracting HIV. The HIV virus is present in some body fluids and can enter the body through contact with mucous membranes or cuts on the body.

Many people infected with the virus show no symptoms and often have not been tested. The most predominant reason for not being tested, in almost one-fourth of the population, is that they are afraid of a positive test. That's why it is so dangerous for people to have unsafe sex. The one and only way to be absolutely certain of avoiding infection via sexual contact is through abstinence from sex, or sexual intercourse only with someone who has been tested and has not engaged in risky sexual behaviors in the past six months, and is in a mutually committed relationship.

HIV/AIDS is also spread by sharing needles. Sharing needles with an infected person, even once, is very risky. Many people have become infected with HIV and other germs this way. HIV from an infected person can remain in a needle or syringe and can then be directly injected into the body of the next person who uses it. Sharing any needles, including needles used for drugs, steroids, vitamins, ear piercing, or tattooing, is very dangerous.

One other mode of transmission is through blood or blood products. This mode of transmission is so rare these days that it is often not even counted as a possibility. Blood donors today are very carefully screened before they can even donate, and once they donate, all blood products are tested before they are used. One very important thing to remember is: You are not now, nor have you ever been, in danger of contracting AIDS/HIV from giving blood. The needles are used once, and only once, and then they are destroyed.

You may not know someone with HIV/AIDS now, but chances are that someday you will. Over one million Americans are estimated to be infected, or about one in every 250 people. Each year, 40,000 to 80,000 Americans become infected. AIDS does not discriminate. It can affect anyone - male or female, married or single, young or old, rich or poor, in any community in the nation, including those in smaller cities and towns. This makes HIV/AIDS a problem for all of us, heterosexual or homosexual.

Avoiding HIV infection:

Don't do drugs of any kind. Sharing needles can infect people. Drugs can cloud judgment and place individuals at higher risk of engaging in risky behavior.
Delay sexual intercourse. Abstinence is the only SURE protection.
When you decide sexual intercourse is appropriate, only do so with a partner who has been tested and has not engaged in risky sexual behaviors in the past six months. You should also be in a mutually faithful, long-term relationship.
Please Note: Spermicides or spermicidal condoms are NOT recommended for the prevention of STI’s/HIV. They often cause skin irritation or allergic reaction, which can weaken skin tissue or membrane and make it more vulnerable to infection.

HEPATITIS C

Hepatitis C (HVC) is a liver disease. Hepatitis makes your liver swell and prevents it from working correctly. You need a healthy liver. The liver does many things to keep you alive, such as fight infections, stop bleeding, removes drugs and other poisons from your blood, and stores energy for when you need it.

HVC is caused by a virus and it is spread by contact with an infected person's blood. You may contract HVC by:

sharing drug needles
getting pricked with a needle that has infected blood on it (hospital workers can get Hepatitis C this way)
having sex with an infected person, especially if you or your partner has other sexually transmitted diseases
being born to a mother with hepatitis C
getting a tattoo or body piercing with unsterilized or dirty tools
For more information about HVC, contact:
AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod & Martha’s Vineyard
866-990-2437 (toll free)

Youth Task Force of Martha's Vineyard