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Safe sex beyond STIs: chlamydia can be easy to treat – a flu can stick around for weeks | Georgie Wolf | Life and style


Last weekend I phoned a lover with bad news. “I think I have a virus,” I said.

Days earlier, we’d been snuggling on my couch. I was having a hard week, and he cheered me up with takeaway and episodes of Altered Carbon. Turns out, my “blue day” was a sign I was getting crook.

Now my temperature was rising, my head was aching. It was time to ’fess up. If you’re a responsible Australian single, I think you should too.

You may be thinking, “Who cares about a cold?” But recent events have made us painfully aware of the dangers of infection. When we’re sick, it’s likely to spread to those closest to us: our sexual partners. Viral illnesses may not strictly qualify as sexually transmitted infections (STIs) but they’re still a safer sex problem – one we need to start talking about.

Like many single folks, I have friends and lovers with whom I fall in and out of touch depending on my work, travel, and other relationships. My dates are comfortable talking about STIs and we all get tested regularly.

But since the coronavirus panic, I’ve realised that we don’t worry about other common illnesses as much as we should. It might seem OK to invite someone out for a drink, knowing you have a sniffle, but is it a really good idea? Even a head cold can cause drama. Most common STIs (chlamydia, for example) are easy to treat with antibiotics – the flu, on the other hand, can stick around for weeks.

We can’t always predict who will be hurt most by an everyday virus. Take my couch cuddle buddy, for instance. He suffers from chronic fatigue, which means a virus can leave him stuck in bed for months.

Even healthy people need protecting. They may have a friend with cancer or a relative recovering from surgery. My mother has a chronic lung condition – a chest infection that’s trivial for me could prove fatal for her. Do I want to admit to Mum that I’m responsible for making her sick? Absolutely not. Do I want to cancel my sex life, just in case? Also, no. To keep her safe, I need my partners to be honest about their health.

Sometimes a rain check is the right thing to do, no matter how much we look forward to our next date. And when we get ill, we need to warn those with whom we’ve had close contact, so they can look after themselves.

I had dinner planned with a gorgeous man this weekend. A day beforehand, he sent me a message. “I’m sorry babe, I’m sick. Can we reschedule? I really don’t want you to catch this.”

Such a short message, but it meant the world to me. Whether it’s an STI or a cold, we need to admit to it. It might mean postponing the fun or having an awkward conversation, but sometimes the way we feel cared for most is when our partners do what’s best for us.

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