Valentine’s Day, otherwise known as the ‘day of love’, is coming up and we know exactly what comes along with it… sex. The week of Valentine’s Day is also observed as Safer Sex Week in Jamaica, by no mistake. The National Family Planning Board, under the Ministry of Health, and all its partners, use this time to promote safer sex practices to avoid the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV and unplanned pregnancies.
Your Valentine’s Day list would probably include a special gift for him or her, chocolates, wine/champagne, a new outfit for date night… but what about your condoms?
The National Family Planning Board (NFPB) is encouraging persons to make a commitment to use condoms this Valentine’s Day and every day going forward, until you have been tested for HIV and other STIs, settled on one partner and may be ready to get pregnant.
We understand that this conversation with your partner can be difficult, especially if you have already started having unprotected sex. Here are some tips to help in your condom negotiation:
Select an appropriate time
Let’s be honest, the ‘heat of the moment’ may not be a good time to discuss condom use for the first time. We, at the NFPB, suggest bringing up the topic at a time when you are both relaxed, without too many distractions and when there are no children around. For example, during dinner or doing chores around the house.
Let them know you are serious
Let your partner know that you are serious about your health and his/her health as well. For example you may say, “I want to have sex with you, but I won’t unless we use a condom.”
If he/she says “no”
We know some partners may argue about using condoms, especially those who may not be wearing the right size condoms or who have not explored their options and as a result, do not enjoy sex with a condom. Don’t be surprised if you hear them say:
- “You nuh trust me?”
- “Yuh think me ah give yuh bun?”
- “I’m already on the pill so don’t worry, I won’t get pregnant”
- “It’s not as nice with the condom. Skin-to-skin feels better”
- “Yuh nuh love me?”
- “Nuh worry, I will pull out”
So you have to be prepared with your response. These could include:
- “I trust you, I just don’t trust your ex-girlfriends/ex-boyfriends.”
- “I just want us to start being more responsible.”
- “The pill only protects against pregnancy, not STIs. You cannot see or smell most STI infections. That means you can’t just look at a partner and know whether or not he or she is already infected. When was the last time you got tested?”
- “We can make it nice. There are so many condom styles – flavoured, ribbed, ultra thin – let’s explore and choose one we both like.”
- “I do love you, that’s why I want to make sure we are both safe and protected.”
- “Pulling out doesn’t always work. I enjoy sex more when I know I don’t have to worry.”
With a bit of creativity, you and your partner can have fun times using condoms. There are a wide variety of condom brands, sizes, textures, colours, scents, flavours and thicknesses available in Jamaica. Experiment to discover which type(s) you both prefer. You can also have fun putting the condom on… you can make this a regular part of foreplay. Just remember, try not to do anything that might tear, puncture, or otherwise damage the condom!
Stick to it
Condoms should not be a “sometimes thing”, but instead, an “every time thing”, unless you both have been tested within the last three months, have only one faithful, uninfected partner and/or want to get pregnant.
Condoms can be fun, pleasurable and they remove the fear of unplanned pregnancy and STIs during intercourse. Condoms are affordable and efficient and the NFPB is encouraging all persons to use condoms this Valentine’s Day and every day going forward. The NFPB also advises persons to take advantage of dual-method use, this is the use of the condom along with another contraceptive method at the same time. This could be the pill, injection, Jadelle implant or the intra-uterine device (IUD). Dual-method use provides that extra assurance in avoiding unplanned pregnancy.
Visit the National Family Planning Board at 5 Sylvan Avenue in Cross Roads or your nearest clinic to get your HIV test, contraceptives and condoms in time for Valentine’s Day and treat every day after that like it was Valentine’s Day.