Top tips for your sexual health this summer

As we come out of lockdown, are you ready for sex that’s pleasurable, safe and healthy this summer?

Here are some top tips.

COVID-19 and sex

If you’re having sex with someone new, talk to them about COVID-19 and manage the risks together.

If you or your partner have any COVID-19 symptoms or have recently tested positive for COVID-19, don’t have sex. Get tested and isolate for 10 days from when symptoms first appear.

If a person has been fully vaccinated, they have a lower chance of getting very ill with COVID-19 or passing it on to other people. You should still take every precaution to prevent getting or passing on COVID-19 and follow local public health guidelines for your area.

Get checked

Did you know… you can have an STI (sexually transmitted infection) without showing any symptoms?

Lockdown has meant that you may not have gotten checked in a long time – but many people with STIs don’t get symptoms, so it’s worth getting tested even if you feel fine.

If left untreated, STIs can affect your health. If you think you have an STI, the earlier you’re tested, the sooner treatment can be given if it’s needed.

Getting checked is easy and free. Find a sexual health clinic.

Condoms

Did you know… condoms come in different sizes and thicknesses to suit different needs?

It’s easy to protect yourself and your partner/s from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancies by using condoms correctly and consistently.

You may be hesitant about using condoms because of how they feel, or worried how well they work. However, the condom you choose makes a big difference so take our condom quiz to find the best one for you.

Using lube with condoms makes sex safer and more pleasurable. It reduces the risk of cuts in the skin, and can also prevent condoms tearing. Only use water-based lube with condoms.

Get free condoms and lube from:

  • sexual health clinics
  • some doctor’s surgeries and community pharmacies
  • some sexual health charities

Buying condoms and lube online is cheaper and there is a greater range to choose from.

Contraception

Did you know… there are 13 different types of contraception to choose from?

Sex might have been ‘on pause’ during the latest lockdown. This may change once restrictions ease, so it’s the perfect time to consider using contraception to get prepared.

There are many types of contraception you can use to protect you or your partner from pregnancy, from oral contraceptive pills and long-acting reversible methods to condoms.

Find out which option is right for you and where you can access it.

Emergency contraception

Did you know… you can take emergency contraception up to five days after the event to prevent pregnancy?

If you have already had vaginal sex without any contraception (or the method used failed), you can access emergency contraception up to five days afterwards to prevent pregnancy.

It can be very effective but is not as effective as regular contraception used consistently and correctly. Emergency contraception is not recommended as a replacement.

Find out more about emergency contraception.

PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis)

Did you know… PrEP is available for free on the NHS?

PrEP is a medication that someone without HIV can take. It will stop them getting HIV during sex without a condom.

PrEP s highly effective at preventing HIV but it doesn’t protect against other STIs or unplanned pregnancy.

Find out if PrEP is right for you by taking our quiz.

PrEP is available on the NHS for free for some people who are at high risk of HIV infection. Contact your local sexual health clinic to find out more.

PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis)

Did you know… you can still prevent getting HIV after the virus has entered the body within 72 hours? 

If you think you have been exposed to HIV, then PEP could help. PEP is a treatment that can stop an HIV infection after the virus has entered a person’s body.

To work, PEP must be taken within 72 hours (three days), and ideally should be taken within 24 hours.

Find out more about PEP.

Consent

Once social distancing rules ease up, the sex you choose to have should be fun and pleasurable and consensual.

It’s good to discuss your likes, dislikes and what you are happy doing with a partner/s beforehand. Sexual consent means freely agreeing to sexual activity.

Remember, you can withdraw consent at any time during sex if you want to stop. If you’re unsure if someone is consenting then it’s simple: just ask!

Find out more about consent.

Drugs and alcohol

Drugs and alcohol often increase the chances of you having unprotected sex. Additionally, they also affect people’s ability to effectively communicate and establish consent.

Be prepared by having condoms and lube. If you know you are likely to have sex under the influence of alcohol and drugs, you may also want to consider taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) as a form of HIV protection.