'I have a sexual health check every six months'

content supplied by NHS Choices

Big Brother 2001's Josh Rafter is patron of Crusaid, a charity that helps poor and marginalised people affected by HIV and AIDS. He explains why sexual health check-ups are essential.

"The issue of sexual health is of great importance and it's a subject that every gay man should be aware of and fully informed about, and one which they should take very seriously."

Are you in a relationship at the moment?

Did you insist on using a condom at the beginning of the relationship?
"Yes. Safer sex is imperative in any new relationship. It's impossible to know the sexual history of any partner and you should never presume your partner is negative."

Does there come a point in a long-term relationship when using protection no longer becomes an issue? 
"It should always be an issue. However, after being in a relationship for a long time, you should discuss the options and if you both feel committed fully to a monogamous relationship and have a full sexual health screening and testing, you can then make decisions about protection. My partner and I both go for a sexual health MOT every six months."

What advice would you give someone about raising the subject of HIV or condom use?
"Be upfront and honest from the start. Communication with your partner is vital. What kind of safer sex measures would they rather take? What do you prefer?

"If you have different ideas then try to reach a compromise that makes you both feel comfortable."

How easy do you think it is to find a sexual health clinic?
"It's extremely easy in London as they're dotted all over the place. But if you're having difficulty finding one, give the Terrence Higgins Trust a call, as there is always fantastic help and advice at the other end of the line."

Would you advise people to have hepatitis jabs?
"Any gay man who is having sex should immediately consider having hepatitis jabs. Hepatitis A, B and C are caused by different viruses that make the liver inflamed and their effects vary in severity. Gay men can pick them up and pass them on in different ways. For example, some sexual and drug-taking activities, such as injecting and sharing rolled-up notes when snorting cocaine, can put you at greater risk.

"Hepatitis A and hepatitis B can be easily prevented through vaccinations, which are available free from sexual health centres. Currently there is no vaccination against hepatitis C, but you can take precautions to prevent it from being passed on."

Can you remember the first time you visited a sexual health clinic? 
"No, not really. It was a long time ago. I do remember being very nervous and anxious about what I might be asked but also in case someone I knew saw me.

"Once I had lost my 'clinic virginity' and had seen how helpful the nurses and doctors were, I felt empowered by knowing I could take charge of my own sexual health. I also got some useful leaflets on sexual health and all the possible sexual infections people can pick up. When it comes to sexual health, knowledge plays a very important part."

Whether you're straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, you need to have a regular sexual health check if you have sex with multiple partners, or if you or your partner have sex with someone else.

You can get details of your nearest sexual health or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic by using the Services near you search or from a GP surgery, health centre, pharmacy or hospital.


© Copyright 2001-2010 Newsquest Media Group