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SEX PRECAUTION
Mar 31, 2003

Dear Ryan,

I take this opportunity to thank you for the efforts you employ in answering horde of questions from people all over the world. Hope you are fine in the midst of these rain of questions.

I am raising this question for the second time since I did not get an answer before. Hope you will have time to answer.

I am a 28 year old male, who is a virgin. Now i am in the process of meeting a lady who is aged 44 from abroad.

Now this lady is married with a child of 14 years and separated. She has confirmed to me that she does not have HIV. [she is ready to provide certificate of clarity taken one week before we meet]

My question is simple can i have unprotected sex with her (without a condom) or is it advisable to have sex with a condom even if she is HIV free.

OR

I should take a safe measure.

As you know i would be having sex for first time so your advice would be important and crucial.

Regards

Response from Mr. Kull

Ultimately this is a question that only you two can answer for yourselves. Many people will have different opinions about a question like yours, so it will be best for you both to make an informed decision that feels comfortable to each of you. This requires talking about sex with your partner; not the most comfortable thing for most people (strange, isn't it?), but really important.

The simplest way to think about your question goes like this: if there is no risk of HIV or other STI transmission between two people, condom use is not necessary. Some people confuse condom use with morality, i.e. "doing the right thing", when in essence, condoms are meant for disease prevention and contraception. If there is no risk of disease transmission, the condom is just cosmetic.

Now, back to the real world. Here are some more complex points to consider:

1) How do you know that your partner is HIV negative? You can't know that you are both negative unless you are both tested at least three months after your last exposure to a different partner, and there have been no other exposures in that three month window. Some partners get tested together to reduce the doubts about the partner's status. If you are demanding evidence of HIV results, I would question your level of trust and your readiness to not use condoms. You will only be able to trust someone's word.

2) How do you know that your partner will remain free of sexually transmitted infections? In a perfect world, you could. In this world, people have sex outside of so-called monogamous relationships without telling their partners. If you are throwing away condoms, there absolutely must be a conversation about monogamy. It might start like this: "I love you and I want monogamy, but since we are not using condoms and I want us to stay HIV negative, we need to have a plan in case either of us has sex with someone else." Don't ever assume that your partner holds the same values that you do. And try not to threaten to break up with your partner if he/she has sex with someone else. If you are using threats, then you should be using condoms.

3) You and your partner might have an open relationship, where monogamy is not as important as your emotional commitment to one another. You and your partner's ability to practice safer sex outside of the relationship will determine your safer sex practices within the relationship.

4) How do you know if someone is telling the truth? In the absence of a lie detector, you can't (please don't buy one!). My suggestion: make sure your sexual practices reflect not only your practical wisdom, but also your level of trust and comfort. If you are dating this woman for a few months and want to stop using condoms, but still feel a bit wary about doing that, keep using condoms until you feel otherwise. Learning to trust your gut, and act in accordance with that, is one crucial element to sex.

RMK



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