Category "Sexual health"


‘We’ve had people at our door in tears’: COVID-19 adds barriers to sexual health resources – National

by BBG Hub

For two weeks, Ryan Hook and his partner have been trying to book an appointment with a sexual health clinic in Victoria, B.C.

The clinic operates on a day-by-day basis and doesn’t take waitlists. By 7:30 a.m., Hook says all the slots are already booked.

He tried sending the clinic an email, only to receive an automated response informing him the clinic’s inbox was full.

READ MORE: Experts say women shouldn’t put off sexual health care during coronavirus pandemic

“Our only other option at this point was going to the emergency (room),” he said. “So we’d be waiting for a long time and there’s other things to factor in like COVID-19.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased barriers to sexual health resources, experts say, with many clinics either reducing their hours and services or closing their doors altogether.

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But another large factor in accessibility to sexual health care is a change in available resources.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Advocates warn limited health services may lead to unplanned pregnancies

Nicole Pasquino, the clinical practice director at Options for Sexual Health in Vancouver, says many nurses who work in sexual health clinics are also working in hospitals and administering vaccines for COVID-19.

In addition to this, she adds labs used to process sexually transmitted infections (STI) tests are working overtime to also manage COVID-19 tests. As a result, tests are coming in much later and people can’t access services in a time-sensitive way.

“They’re so exhausted … and what we’re seeing is our health-care system stretched to the max,” she said.

“When you talk about these hundreds of thousands of vaccinations that are happening — well, what is being missed? In order for these vaccinations to be had, something has to be put on the back burner.”

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Closures create trickle-down-effect on health care

Taryn Wahl, an education coordinator at Planned Parenthood based in Regina, Sask., says the closures of family physicians’ offices have been pushing new patients to their clinic.

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The limited capacity and in-person services have created weeks of backlogged appointments, leaving those trying to access birth control vulnerable.

READ MORE: COVID-19: World’s biggest condom producer warns of global shortage

She says intrauterine devices (IUDs) are the most effective method of emergency contraception, but when people pick up the IUD from a pharmacist, they are struggling to get an appointment within the seven-day window it needs to be used.

Wahl adds that the inability to access birth control can lead to more unplanned pregnancies — causing a trickle-down effect.

Access to abortion has been maintained across Canada, since it was deemed an essential service early on in the pandemic.

READ MORE: The Pill was legalized 50 years ago, but experts say we can still improve contraceptive access

However, there is currently no data on the number of abortions conducted in the past year since there is often a two year delay on information. 

“All I know is that it seems like the rates and the people who are requesting pregnancy termination and the systems within that are much higher than it used to be,” said Wahl.

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Britt Neron, the health promotion officer at Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, says people in the sexual health sector are bracing for the impacts of the current lack of resources.

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“And all these barriers are significantly more pronounced for people in violent home situations, those without provincial or territorial health coverage and those without access to public transit or vehicles,” Neron said.

Barriers for marginalized communities

In Vancouver, Pasquino says populations who were already vulnerable are suffering the most during the COVID-19 pandemic because they have the least access to care.

Financial stress caused by the pandemic can also force people to neglect their sexual health needs, she adds.

“We’ve had people at our door in tears. Like ‘Should I buy my birth control this month, or should I buy my food next week?” she said.

Though it varies from province to province, many sexual health clinics aren’t currently offering routine screening or most STI testing, reducing their services to high-risk clients and relying on Telehealth services.

“But maybe you don’t have a phone, right? Maybe you’re used to accessing through your school-based clinic which no longer operates? Maybe you don’t have a secure place where you can call someone?” Pasquino said.

READ: Can I have sex in self-isolation? Navigating pleasure during the coronavirus outbreak

She adds while abortion services are still active and available, accessibility decreases when you take into account things like lockdowns or people with precarious immigration status.

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Additionally, people experiencing trauma or violence within their relationships can face more barriers to accessing care.

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A United Nations Population Fund projection released in May last year that said 31 million additional cases of gender-based violence worldwide “can be expected if the lockdown continues for at least six months.”

Global News previously reported that support centres and shelters have been grappling with the problem of safety for people experiencing domestic abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic.

READ MORE: When home isn’t safe: How coronavirus puts neighbours on front lines of abuse

People are being told to stay at home, but their homes may not be safe.

Pasquino recently had one patient who received a birth control shot and expressed how thankful she was that the centre was open.

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“And the reason that this individual accesses birth control this way is because their partner won’t allow them to be on birth control … So for that person, it’s a huge safety issue,” she said.

Pasquino adds that though the system is stretched, people still need to think actively about their sexual health since things like STIs and unplanned pregnancies don’t go away during a pandemic.

“Sexual health impacts all people at all stages in their life. And so we need to try to ensure that that doesn’t get interrupted to keep some kind of normalcy in people’s health.”

— With files from Jane Gerster 

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Sex hygiene: Best ways to stay fresh when getting frisky – National

by BBG Hub

When we think about sex, we often think about physical intimacy — but hygiene is just as important.

Sex hygiene refers to health-focused behaviours that people should do before, after and during sex. Ideally, we would all engage in the best sexual health practices possible.

“One of the top best practices is knowing what’s normal for your specific body,” said Samantha Bitty, a Toronto-based sex educator.

“Sex hygiene isn’t just about genitals and mouths; it’s about all the parts of our bodies.”

So how can you practice good sex hygiene? Here, five things you should keep in mind.

READ MORE: ‘Dead bedroom’: Stress and other factors ruining your sex life

Care for your emotional well-being

Sex hygiene isn’t just about physical health; it includes emotional health, too. Bitty says that looking after our emotional well-being can contribute to more positive sex outcomes, and help us develop a healthy relationship with sex.

“When people are fearful around sex, whether that’s the transmission of STIs or it’s pregnancy … anything we can do to navigate or mitigate those anxieties is going to contribute to our emotional sex hygiene in a really positive way,” she explained.

This means being tested often, communicating with sexual partners and making informed decisions about your relationships. It may also mean asking your healthcare provider any questions you have in order to develop a good understanding of sexual health.

WATCH BELOW: Finding happiness in your relationship

Clean sex toys

Whether you’re using a sex toy by yourself or with a partner, it’s important to clean them after every use, Bitty says. Fluid can build on toys, so it’s a good idea to wash them regularly.

Planned Parenthood points out that infections can spread if sex objects are shared and someone using the toy has an infection.

READ MORE: 6 things you need to know about yeast infections

“It’s important you cleanse them not just because of things like STIs … but even for [general] bacteria or dirt that might accumulate,” Bitty said.

“Maybe you pass out after you’ve used your vibrator, but you can always wash it the next morning.”

Depending on what the toy is made out of, you can either use soap or a special sex-toy cleaner. Certain products can even be washed in the dishwasher, but it’s best to read the toy’s packaging for proper care tips.

Wash hands

Washing hands is an important thing to keep in mind when it comes to any form of sexual activity. While you may get carried away in the moment, ensure your partner cleans their hands, too.

Bitty says that bacteria may be on hands, which can then get into the urethra, vagina, mouth or anus. You also want to clean under nails and trim them if they’re sharp.

WATCH BELOW: Why fewer people are opting for condoms

Use protection

Safe sex can help prevent the transmission of STIs and pregnancy, and can be used for oral, anal and vaginal sex.

It’s also important to note that you should never go from anal sex to vaginal sex without changing a condom first and washing your genitals. Bacteria can travel from the anus to the vagina and cause an infection. (The same goes for fingers and sex toys.)

Get regular check-ups

Getting tested regularly for STIs is not only important for your health, but also for the health of others. Bitty says the stigma around STIs can often prevent people from being tested, but catching and treating STIs helps stop them from spreading and becoming more serious.

READ MORE: What happens when children don’t take sex-ed classes

Bitty says you should communicate with sexual partners and ask when their last check-up was.

“I often say that communication is the best method to help prevent the transmission of STIs because you can be tested, but if you’re not telling anyone what’s going on, you can’t make informed decisions,” she said.

[email protected]

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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What happens when children don’t take sex ed classes

by BBG Hub

What a child learns about sexual health can largely shape their own behaviour and views on sex, research shows.

But what happens when a kid skips out on formal sex education?

READ MORE: Parents can teach their own kids sex-ed — but that doesn’t mean they will

For years, parents in most of Ontario have been able to pull their kids out of certain sex-ed classes for religious reasons. On Wednesday, Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government announced they will implement a province-wide standardized opt-out process. Children whose parents opt them out will miss lessons on sexual health and human development.

Sex education varies across Canada, with provinces and territories having their own curriculum, some more comprehensive than others.

When a child misses out on sexual health education, they are put at an increased risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancies, among other things, says Alex McKay, the executive director at the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada (SIECCAN).

WATCH BELOW: Ontario government releases new sex-ed curriculum, similar to scrapped version

“We know that sex education can have a positive impact… so it is worrisome that some children will not receive that education because their parents have opted out of those classes,” McKay told Global News.

Teen pregnancy rates

When a child does not learn about reproductive health and contraception, they may be at greater risk for teen pregnancy, McKay said. A recent study suggests that U.S. government spending on abstinence-only education programs doesn’t appear to reduce teen pregnancies, and in some areas, is having the opposite effect.

On the other hand, research has found countries with comprehensive sex-ed programs have lower teen pregnancy rates.

READ MORE: STIs rates in Canada are rising — decline in condom use may be to blame

“The very low teen pregnancy rate in Switzerland exists in the context of long-established sex education programs, widespread expectation that sexually active teens will use contraception, free family planning services and low-cost emergency contraception,” authors of one 2016 study wrote.

In the study, researchers noted teen pregnancy rates vary with levels of education and cultural background of adolescent girls.

McKay says research on teen pregnancy and its relationship to sex education has largely been done in the U.S., but has offered Canadian educators a strong framework.

READ MORE: 1 million people a day catch sexually transmitted infections, WHO warns

“On a general level, as sexual health education programs have been implemented in Canadian schools, that has occurred parallel to a pretty dramatic decrease in teen pregnancy in Canada,” McKay said.

Impact on sexual behaviour

One 2014 report on young adolescents and sexual health says early intervention is key in building healthy future relationships. When children are not properly educated on matters related to their sexual well-being, they are vulnerable to harmful sexual behaviours, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) noted.

A recent UNESCO study that looked at sex-ed courses from various countries across the world found that sexual education delayed initiation of sexual intercourse, decreased frequency of sexual intercourse, decreased number of sexual partners, reduced risk-taking, increased use of condoms and increased use of contraception.

WATCH BELOW: 5 signs a child may have been sexually abused

The report also found that sex-ed courses did not lead to earlier sexual activity in young people.

Other research suggests that teaching kids the proper names for their genitals at a young age is important “given that children are especially vulnerable to sexual abuse during the preschool years.”

McKay says that if a child does not know how to identify their genitals, they are going to be “less well equipped to report inappropriate touching or abuse.”

Understanding gender and sexual diversity

Not learning about gender and sexual identity in the classroom can have a lasting impact on children.

READ MORE: To close ‘orgasm gap,’ the National Film Board launches game to teach people about the clitoris

Specific groups are disproportionately affected by violence and harassment, including LGBTQ2 communities, women, and Indigenous women. According to SIECCAN’s Canadian Guidelines for Sexual Health Education, sex education can be “effective in addressing discriminatory attitudes” towards such groups, improve gender-equitable attitudes and help prevent physical, sexual and emotional violence in relationships.

McKay says when kids received accurate and age-appropriate information about sexual and gender identity, they are more likely to practise acceptance and promote inclusivity. This is especially important for children who may identify as members of the LGBTQ2 community.

WATCH BELOW: Why fewer people are opting for condoms

“Classmates receiving that accurate information — not biased and inaccurate information they may have picked up in the schoolyard or through the media — [is] important in order to create an inclusive and respectful school environment,” McKay explained.

“Creating that kind of healthy school environment is difficult if the school curriculum is silent on those issues, and kids are left to the schoolyard and the internet to try to get that kind of information.”

— With a file from Reuters 

[email protected]

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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