Glad to see you on board and glad to see a casual approach to casual hook-ups! Really appreciate your realness about it. Perhaps we can also include some serious talk about STI prevention? I work for AIDS Athens, and we do free HIV testing here. The Health Department also does the whole shebang for STIs and family planning, as well. If you also feel like chatting about PrEP and other ways to reduce HIV transmission while still having an awesome sex life, AIDS Athens is here to help.
Cathryn Mollenberg, MSW
Thanks, Cathryn! I want to give you props for picking up on my tongue-in-cheek tone—judging by other feedback I've received, it might be going over certain people's heads, or maybe I'm mentioning stuff that hits a bit too close to home for some. I'm making jokes, not making fun, and I won't coddle you, reader, because you don't need it. We're all adults in need of a good dose of truth.
A big part of my truth is that I respect casual sex and the people who have it. I also advocate hard for safer sex. There's just no reason in 2015 not to protect yourself, and I encourage anyone who wants to get tested for HIV or learn about sexually transmitted infection and sexually transmitted disease prevention (STIs don't have symptoms, unlike STDs, but the terms are often used interchangeably) to check out our awesome local nonprofit at aidsathens.org.
Cathryn's right about one thing: We need a serious talk about barrier contraception and wrapping it up. The fact is, condoms are most people's best bet at staying healthy while having awesome sex lives. The CDC has super helpful fact sheets that explain how latex condoms provide an essentially impermeable barrier to particles the size of STD pathogens. IUDs and Nuva Rings only address contraception, and that's only one part of a healthy sex life for some of us. The queer community doesn't really have a use for those (bi- and pansexuals notwithstanding), so we gotta talk barriers if we're gonna include everyone in the conversation.
Cathryn mentioned PrEP, also known as pre-exposure prophylaxis. It's a pill taken daily that prevents any HIV exposure from taking hold in a host's (that's your) body. Risk of infection while taking PrEP is 92 percent lower than for those who don't. Awesome! Your doc can get it for you, and if you miss your dose before a particularly slutty eve, just bring some condoms with you.
A few other things:
There are still plenty of STDs that are contracted by skin-to-skin contact, such as syphilis and HPV, and condoms might not cover all of the areas where these infections could be present.
Hip dudes, please stop mentioning your vasectomy whenever we ask about condoms. Vasectomies are great, but they don't prevent chlamydia. (Hey girl, remember when you lived in that big city where, like, every guy had a vasectomy, and how mad they were because ladies still wouldn't let them hit it raw, because that's gross and so are they?) The Clarke County Health Department does offer low- to no-cost vasectomies based on income, but that program is out of funding currently, so you'll still have to wrap it up.
If you have a skin condition, rash or sore that looks like an STD, don't be embarrassed; just tell your partner before the clothes come off.
If you actually do have an STI or STD, that sucks, but it's OK. Don't be ashamed, and please take care of yourself. Every year there are 19.7 million new infections in our country, and while most are harmless, some have the potential to cause serious health problems if not diagnosed and addressed early. HPV, when unchecked, can cause a few different types of cancer. See a doctor and tell your partner/partners.
Plenty of STD and STI prevention info recommends abstinence, but this is Athens, and I wouldn't even dare to suggest that to you wonderful sluts. I believe that fewer casual partners, better communication and always using barriers is what's gonna get us through the summer healthy and happy.