GETTING a bit of summer loving can be fun but it is no excuse to be lax on safe sex.
Taking shortcuts on your sexual health over the holidays can have consequences that last a lifetime, says Family Planning chief executive Jackie Edmond.
A combination of holidays, sun and alcohol can result in people of all ages behaving in a manner they would not normally.
“For people of all ages, sex and alcohol can be a worrying combination. Too much alcohol can affect people’s judgement, including their ability to consent to sexual activity, and their ability to assess what they do and don’t feel comfortable with.
“It means people tend to take more risks. They’re not quite so careful about how and when they have sex, they’re less likely to use contraception and condoms, and are more likely to regret sex,” says Ms Edmond.
The risks included sexually transmissible infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancy and can change people’s lives forever.
With Gisborne being a prime summer destination for visitors to the beach and summer music festivals, this is the busiest time of the year for Family Planning’s Gisborne branch, says clinic doctor Helen Russell.
She said she would have seen up to 30 people a day at the busiest points with consultations ranging from requests for emergency contraceptive pills, free condoms, sexual health check-ups and contraceptive advice.
Dr Russell said quite a few music festival visitors had forgotten to pack oneir contraceptive pills or had run out and had come in requesting a new prescription.
The Childers Road Family Planning Clinic has been in Gisborne for five years and provides free sexual health check-ups for under-22-year-olds, among other services.
Free condoms are available from the clinic as well as pregnancy tests — with positive resulting tests also free, she said.
For those over 22 most primary health organisations in Gisborne also provide the sexual health services free for under-25s.
The Tairawhiti District Health community clinic in Bright Street, which opened for 2013 this week, provides sexual health checks free to people of all ages.
Dr Russell said a full sexual health examination included vaginal swabs for women and urine samples for men, plus a skin check for genital warts (HPV) or herpes blisters, the latter two only able to be confirmed if physically present.
“If there is something to see we can say it is there but we can’t say it’s not there.”
HPV is also believed to be a cause for cervical cancer and is also relatively common.
“By the time a person is in their 30s, 80 percent of people would have been exposed to HPV but most do not get symptoms,” said Dr Russell.
Blood tests for syphilis, hepatitis and HIV are also available.
“If you have no symptoms and have had a new partner recently it is best to wait about three weeks before getting examined.”
For blood tests it was better to wait for six to 12 weeks after an unprotected sex incident as the lab technicians are looking for antibodies which take time to develop, said Dr Russell.
STI tests differ between men and women and Dr Russell said it was worth noting that men’s tests for the two most common infections — chlamydia and gonorrhoea — were not as effective as the test for women.
Dr Russell warned the male test for chlamydia and gonorrhoea — currently tested from a urine sample — had a high false negative rate.
By far the best protection against STIs was condom use and, yes, it was possible to catch an infection through oral sex, she said.
With alcohol fuelling a lot of decisions during the summer and sometimes leading to regrets in the morning, she reminded people that someone who was intoxicated could not consent to sex.
“The law is that if you are intoxicated you cannot consent and that goes for both genders,” she said.
“The fact you’re not able to say no does not mean that you have said yes.”
• For any advice or support on days when a Family Planning clinic is not available, contact your nearest after hours medical centre or contact Healthline on freephone 0800 611 116 to talk to a registered nurse.