Nurturing Spirit With Safe Sex



A message for World Sexual Health Day from Dr. Unjali Malhotra, Medical Director, Women’s Health, Office of the Chief Medical Officer, FNHA

September 4 is World Sexual Health Day so it’s a good time to talk about “safe sex.” What does that term really mean? To me it means nurturing spirit. It means taking care of my body and mind, and taking care of my family and community. It also means I get to be in charge of something important to my overall health and wellbeing.  

The following are some of the elements of safe sex: 

•  Consent – this is a topic that goes much deeper than our conversation today but is vital to a safe sexual experience 

•  Choice – in particular the decisions we make about family planning and the use of contraception 

•  Barrier protection – the use of condoms, which are vital to safety 

The common thread here is you: your heart, your mind, your present and your future. There is nothing more valuable than you! You deserve to be safe and you have the right to make decisions that will ensure you are, such as insisting on the use of condoms if that is what you want.

Why all the talk about safety?

Well STIBBIs are one reason! Say what? STIBBI stands for Sexually Transmitted Infections and Blood-Borne Infections. Here is an overview of common STIBBIs:

Chlamydia: transmitted through unprotected oral, anal and vaginal sex.  Symptoms can include pain with sex, pain with urinating, lower pelvic or abdominal pain, abnormal vaginal or penile discharge, irregular vaginal bleeding. However, symptoms are not always present. If undetected and untreated, it can result in long-term issues like infertility. It can be prevented by using condoms. More info can be found here:

Gonorrhea: transmitted by unprotected oral, anal and vaginal intercourse. Symptoms can in include pain with sex, pain with urinating, lower pelvic or abdominal pain, abnormal vaginal or penile discharge, irregular vaginal bleeding. However, symptoms are not always present. Gonorrhea can lead to conditions such as infertility if not detected and treated. More info:

Hepatitis C: This is a virus transmitted through blood products and less commonly through unprotected sex. It mostly causes liver damage. Using condoms can reduce the risk. More info:

HIV: Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a viral infection transmitted through blood, blood products and  unprotected sex, this virus attacks the immune system making it difficult to stay healthy and fight off illness. Early signs of HIV are frequent infections such as sore throat, fevers, headaches or rashes. HIV can progress to AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), which is life-threatening. For more info:

HPV: Human Papilloma Virus causes genital warts, cervical cancer, anal cancer, and some head and neck cancers. It is easily transmitted through intercourse and condom use does not guarantee full protection. A vaccine is available to prevent most types of HPV (GARADASIL, which is given for free in public schools to both girls and boys). HPV is detected using pap smears for women. More info:

Syphilis: a unique STI in that it may start with a sore on the genitals or mouth then progress to a skin rash and then spread throughout the body (affecting the heart or brain) at which point it can potentially be life-threatening. It is spread through unprotected sex and also from pregnant women to their unborn children. More info:

Testing for STIs

Some people find it embarrassing to get tested for STIs. They worry about others finding out or being judged by the health professionals conducting the testing. Remember, you are worth it and have the right to be safe and healthy!

The following tips can make it easier to get tested:

• Take a friend with you to the clinic or doctor’s office

• Consider visiting a clinic that specializes in STI services. Find them here:

• Take matters into your hands with online access to screening: