"[Sexual c]onsent means actively agreeing to be sexual with someone. Consent lets someone know that sex is wanted. Sexual activity without consent is rape or sexual assault." - Planned Parenthood
"Sexual consent is an active, mutual process of negotiating if and how we are (or aren’t) going to be sexual with each other. Sexual consent is about everyone having and making real choices. Consent is a shared responsibility. Everyone needs to ask for consent when they want to do something. No one should have anything done to or with them without their consent." - Consent Basics - Scarleteen
"For something to be consensual, there can’t be any force, coercion or manipulation. Talking or tricking someone into something is coercion." - Consent Basics - Scarleteen
"A lack of no is not yes. Doing consent right means we ask each other questions. If we don’t ask, and no one says anything, that doesn’t mean there was consent. If we ask and the other person doesn’t respond or doesn’t clearly tell us yes, that also isn’t consent. We should only move forward with anything we do to or with someone else if they are clearly telling us yes. If we’re ever not sure, we should ask. If someone says yes, but doesn’t look like they really want to say yes, we should check in.
Nothing makes consent a given or automatic. Being someone’s spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend doesn’t give anyone consent. Someone loving you or saying they love you doesn’t mean they have your sexual consent, or that you have theirs. No one kind of sex means consent to another. No one is ever “owed” sex. Because someone has had any kind of sex in the past does not mean they will or must consent to sex again with that same person or anyone else." - Consent Basics - Scarleteen
"Physiological responses like an erection, lubrication, arousal, or orgasm are involuntary, meaning your body might react one way even when you are not consenting to the activity." - Rape Abuse and Incest National Network
"Genital response means it's a sex-related stimulus. It doesn't mean it was wanted or liked... if you bite this mouldy fruit and your mouth waters, nobody would say to you, "well you just don't want to admit how much you like it"... My genitals do not tell you what I want or like. I do." - The truth about unwanted arousal, TED Talk by Emily Nagoski
"Whether you're with a new partner, or are already in a sexual relationship, getting a full STI -- sexually transmitted infection, sometimes also called STDs -- screening can give you peace of mind, and ensure your physical well-being as well as your partners'.
Sexually Transmitted Infections means that the disease is most often transmitted sexually, not that it can ONLY be transmitted sexually. When it comes to STIs, both partners' histories are an issue, not just that of one: it doesn't matter if you've never been sexual with someone else if someone you're being sexual with now has. Too, people mean different things when they say "had sex," and some only mean intercourse when they say that, but STIs can be transmitted by more kinds of sex than just intercourse." - Scarleteen
"Proper genital hygiene is a topic that is not often discussed. While there are a plethora of social media users giving advice about the proper way to care for your genitals, it’s best to follow the advice of a professional." - Planned Parenthood Blog
"Having an S.T.I. should have the same stigma as having influenza, meaning none. Making people ashamed or judging them for their choices simply means they are less likely to be screened, treated and get the care that can prevent infections and save lives." Why Sexually Transmitted Infections Can’t Shake Their Stigma (New York Times via Independent)
"When we separate people into the “guilty” and the “innocent” — say, by shaming someone with chlamydia while not batting an eye at someone with a urinary tract infection, even though both are cured with antibiotics — we stigmatize people with health conditions and add to their suffering." - STD Awareness: Stigma and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (Planned Parenthood article)
"Stigma can rear its head in even the most innocently uttered phrases, like “She looked clean” and “Don’t worry, I’m clean” to describe people who are perceived to be or who claim to be free of STDs. Calling someone “clean” doesn’t seem like a damning accusation, but the flip side to “clean” is “dirty.” The unspoken implication of “I tested clean” is that someone with herpes, genital warts, HIV, or any other STD is dirty.
This language is just an extension of the “purity” language that pervades so many conversations around sex. Many abstinence-until-marriage sex education programs, for example, employ purity language to promote the concept that sex is only appropriate within a heterosexual marriage. Upholding this concept of purity requires the implicit accusation that anyone who has had sexual contact outside of marriage is tainted in some way. " - STD Awareness: Stigma and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (Planned Parenthood article)
"There is a cyclical relationship between stigma and HIV; people who experience stigma and discrimination are marginalised and made more vulnerable to HIV, while those living with HIV are more vulnerable to experiencing stigma and discrimination." - AVERT
"HIV is a virus that destroys the immune system, reducing the body's ability to fight disease and infection, even very common infections like flus and colds. HIV usually progresses to AIDS. This makes HIV the most dangerous sexually transmitted infection today. It is the fifth leading cause of death for the young under 40 in the United States. At this time, no one has been cured of HIV or AIDS." - Scarleteen
"HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus; AIDS for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. HIV is a virus people can and do spread around, and AIDS is a condition which people with HIV often eventually develop: without treatment, HIV often progresses to AIDS, and you can't wind up with AIDS without having contracted HIV first. AIDS is not contagious: HIV is. Neither are currently curable: once you've got HIV or AIDS, you've got them for life." - Scarleteen
"HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. HIV and AIDS are not the same thing. And people with HIV do not always have AIDS.
HIV is the virus that’s passed from person to person. Over time, HIV destroys an important kind of the cell in your immune system (called CD4 cells or T cells) that helps protect you from infections. When you don’t have enough of these CD4 cells, your body can’t fight off infections the way it normally can.
AIDS is the disease caused by the damage that HIV does to your immune system. You have AIDS when you get dangerous infections or have a super low number of CD4 cells. AIDS is the most serious stage of HIV, and it leads to death over time." - Planned Parenthood
"[HIV is spread] (t)hrough body fluids (namely blood, semen, penile and vaginal secretions and breast milk -- HIV can be present in saliva, but kissing and other general exposures to saliva are not known to present risks of transmission), through anal and vaginal intercourse or oral sex, shared needles used for injecting IV drugs or accidental pricks with infected needles, blood transfusions, childbirth or breastfeeding." - Scarleteen
"HIV is not transmitted by casual contact, like shaking hands, hugging, or sharing a water fountain or toilet seat. You can’t get HIV simply by living in the same house, going to the same school, or working in the same place as an HIV-positive person. You cannot get HIV from eating food prepared by an HIV-positive person, or from your doctor’s office or dentist. Although you might spread other germs this way, you cannot get HIV by coughing and sneezing or by sharing things like towels, food, or eating and drinking utensils.
You also cannot get HIV from things like mosquito bites, touching dried blood or semen, spitting, or biting (unless you bit through someone’s skin and your own mouth was full of sores or bleeding gums, which is not a realistic scenario for most people)." - Scarleteen
"Still think mostly gay men get HIV/AIDS? In the early 80's, when HIV/AIDS were first discovered, a majority of those diagnosed with AIDS were gay men. Diagnosed-- that means who were found to have it, that doesn't count all the folks who had it without being diagnosed. But at this point, we know EVERYONE can get HIV and AIDS: in 2014, AIDS was a leading cause of death for black women between the ages of 25 and 34, for instance. Worldwide, more than 90% of HIV infections are due to unprotected heterosexual intercourse (consensual and through rapes), and around half of those living with HIV today worldwide are women. In the United States in 2016, almost a quarter of new HIV diagnoses were in heterosexual people." - Scarleteen
"There is a cyclical relationship between stigma and HIV; people who experience stigma and discrimination are marginalised and made more vulnerable to HIV, while those living with HIV are more vulnerable to experiencing stigma and discrimination. Myths and misinformation increase the stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV and AIDS." - AVERT
"How is it diagnosed? By a blood test which screens for antibodies. Because it can take up to three months or more for the antibodies to appear, a negative test should always be repeated, and an annual or semi-annual HIV screening is advised.
Is it treatable? Yes, through an intensive combination of antiretroviral drugs and consistent health care. The goal of treatment is to try and protect the immune system from further damage, and to delay the progression to AIDS for as long as possible.
Is it curable? There is currently no cure for HIV, only treatment for managing the existing infection." - Scarleteen
How can we protect against it? By ALWAYS using condoms for vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse or oral sex. HIV can also be prevented by decreasing your number of sexual partners, by avoiding high-risk sexual practices like anal sex or oral-anal sex or unprotected vaginal or oral sex, by avoiding sex with those who use intravenous drugs and by not participating in IV drug use yourself, by not allowing urine to come into contact with the mouth, anus, eyes, or any open cuts or sores, and by getting annual or semi-annual HIV screenings, and insisting your partners do likewise.
There is also "morning-after" treatment for those who have been exposed to the HIV virus, called Post-Exposure Prophylaxis, PEP (or nPEP). Studies show PEP reduces the risk of HIV infection at least 90% and up to 99%. PEP isn't available everywhere, or to just everyone: it's primarily used for health-care workers, but is also sometimes now used for pregnant women or rape victims known or strongly suspected to have been exposed to the virus. Ideally, it should be used within just a couple hours after exposure, and is no longer suggested once 72 hours have passed.
As well, PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a daily pill that can reduce the risk of HIV by as much as 99%, and is advised for those at high risk of contracting HIV, like those with HIV-positive partners. It should not be considered a replacement for safer sex practices, but ideally, as an addition to them. For more detailed information about PrEP, talk with your healthcare provider or have a look at our guide to PEP and PrEP." - Scarleteen