Sex can be the most fun that two consenting over-16s can have for free, but it can carry a price tag if you don't know how to stay safe from diseases and unwanted pregnancy.

There isn't any point in pretending that some teenagers under 16 are not sexually active, but you should make your own decision about what you are ready to do and when.

If you are under 16 you are under the legal age of consent and if someone who is over 16 is having sex with you, they are breaking the law. Sorry about the legal stuff but that's how it is.

We are not here to encourage you to have under-age sex, or to judge you if you are. But the most important thing, however old or young you are, is to know how to stay safe and that it's ok to say no. You should never feel pressured by a boyfriend, girlfriend or your mates whether it's the first time or not. Are YOU ready to have sex? 10 questions to ask yourself before you decide. If you think you are being left behind and wondering  Is everybody doing it?, the FPA say they're not, and tell you things you need to know before you do.

Like how not to catch something nasty. Or get pregnant by accident.

If you ask for help or advice, nobody is going to tell your parents unless you do.

And if you say "no", that means no, and if you are forced or tricked into having sex, that is rape and a criminal offence. See the GTRT page on rape and sexual assault.

Why should you listen to us?

When your grandparents were young, they were told all sorts of nonsense to try to frighten them off sexual activity outside of marriage. Sure, there was less understanding then about how to prevent disease and pregnancy and we know better now, so modern day advice really is just that, for your benefit to help you stay safe - not to frighten you, make you feel guilty or try to stop you having sex if you decide to. And however yucky the thought is, even your parents did it, - you're living proof of that - the people handing our the advice do know how you feel, they were young and curious once, just like you, and quite a few probably wish they'd had the knowledge that you can get these days.  

Ok, you've probably done all this stuff at school, but it's just possible you weren't paying attention or were too busy being embarrassed or having a laugh. So now, without anybody to see whether you cringe and no need to show off, look cool or pretend you already know it all, take the opportunity to see how much you really do know - and find out the stuff you didn't know.

Young people talk about sex education and how they find out the essential information they need in this video :

There are a number of places you can get information and advice on all sexual matters, from how your body works, deciding whether to have sex at all, contraception and where to get it and how to use it, how to avoid diseases and infections, HIV, emergency contraception, pregnancy, abortion, counselling for any of this stuff, and help if you go ahead with a pregnancy. These include national websites and helplines, and local centres where you can drop in for testing (STDs and/or pregnancy tests) and get help and advice. Plus all the usual people to listen if you just want to talk your worries through.

NHS Choices has no-nonsense information and even videos about everything you ever wanted to know (and some stuff you didn't know you wanted to know) about your body, puberty, sex, contraception, and lots more, including videos so you really know what they are on about.

Brook offer information and advice for under-25s by phone or e-mail and on an excellent website, but don't have any centres in this area. They've notched up 45 years’ experience of working with young people providing free and confidential sexual health information, contraception, pregnancy testing, advice and counselling, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections and outreach and education work, reaching more than 290,000 young people every year. Read all about it on their site.

Likeitis is the website for young people from the Marie Stopes organisation that asks you "sick of reading stuff on sex which doesn't tell you what you really want to know? We'll tell you everything you need to know exactly as it is with no frills, no judgements and definitely no holds barred!" Everything you want to know and more about your body, growing up and all things to do with sex, contraception, pregnancy, the lot.

DHIVERSE is the local charity for Cambridgeshire offering information, help and support on sexual health matters including HIV. Contact it on  FREE 01223 508805 or by email.

Centre 33 don't just offer a listening ear and advice but also contraception, pregnancy testing and chlamydia testing in Cambridge.  

If you are gay, lesbian or bi-sexual you may need more specialised advice on sexual health and safe sex, see NHS Choices on gay health - the issues. GTRT also has a page about sexual identity and lots of information about being lesbian, gay, bi or transgender (LGBT).

Contraception

Find out what your choices of contraception are and know where to get them and how to use them. And don't be persuaded it doesn't matter just this once or it can't happen to you...being careless is just selfish and lazy because you are putting your partner at risk too. NHS Choices squashes the excuses and the interactive video "condom/no condom" confronts the choices you have to make.

 

Learn about the 15 methods from NHS choices. These are designed to prevent you getting pregnant when you don't want to, and condoms can also stop you catching infections or disease. If you didn't use anything at the time you had sex, or had an accident with a condom for instance, you can still get emergency contraception soon afterwards.

Get contraception in the Cambridge, Huntingdon, March, Ramsey, St Ives, St Neots and Wisbech on a planned or emergency basis from any of these places  along with a list of pharmacies or chemists who offer the emergency ("morning after") pill. Your local GP surgery may also offer contraceptive services.

Peterborough CASH services tell you all about the different types of contraception and where to get them in Peterborough.

Youthoria also has a list for each area with details of sexual health and contraception clinics.    

In this video from NHS Choices, teenagers say what they think about contraception and pregnancy, and experts describe how becoming pregnant or catching an STI can affect your life and your body. 

Various sexual activities and the risk of STIs

Read about what to do to protect yourself and your partner depending on what you're doing.

What is an STI, how can you tell if you have one and what should you do

Brook (for under-25s) tell you all about STIs,  what types of STIs there are, and signs and symptoms to look out for.

Chlamydia is the most common bacterial sexually transmitted infection (STI). Some facts: 

  • It affects men and women.
  • One in 10 sexually active under 25-year-olds will have chlamydia without having any signs or symptoms
  • 70% of women and 50% of men who have chlamydia have no symptoms
  • You can have chlamydia for weeks, months or even years without knowing it
  • It is easily treated with antibiotics
  • If left untreated chlamydia can lead to infertility in both men and women

Find out how easy it is to get tested in your local area.

Get tested quickly. Brook recommend how and where. See also a list of local clinics and centres who can test and treat you:

HIV

You might not know much about this.

When Terence Higgins died of AIDS in 1982, nor did his gay partner, friends, family or even doctors. A trust in his name (The Terence Higgins Trust) works hard to maximise sexual health in the UK, and minimise the spread of HIV and STIs, by encouraging people to value their sexual health and by leading innovation to increase access to local sexual health services. They offer a helpline and online questions answered, along with health information and advice on their website, and support for people with HIV.

Avert is the leading charity in educating people about Aids and this is what they say: " It's easy to think that AIDS and HIV are things for other people to worry about - gay people, drug users, people who sleep around. This is wrong - all teens, whoever they are, wherever they live need to take the threat of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, seriously. To be able to protect yourself, you need to know the facts, and know how to avoid becoming infected.

Avert explain: "HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. HIV stands for the 'Human Immunodeficiency Virus' and AIDS stands for the 'Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome'. AIDS is a serious condition that breaks down the body's defences against illness. This means that people with AIDS can get many different kinds of diseases which a healthy person's body would normally fight off quite easily."

There is no cure for HIV or AIDS

HIV is a virus, and no cure has been found for any type of virus. Recently, doctors have been able to control the virus once a person is infected, which means that a person with HIV can stay healthy for longer, but they have not managed to get rid of the virus in the body completely."

How do you get it?

You might have heard a lot of rumours, but here's the truth from Avert: "HIV is passed on in the sexual fluids or blood of an infected person, so if infected blood or sexual fluid gets into your body, you can become infected. This usually happens by either having sexual intercourse with an infected person or by sharing needles used to inject drugs with an infected person. People can also be born with HIV if their mother is infected and a very small number of people become infected by having medical treatment using infected blood transfusions."

"HIV can't be caught by kissing, hugging or shaking hands with an infected person, and it can't be transmitted by sneezes, door handles or dirty glasses."

How can you avoid catching it?

Safe sex means sexual activities which you can do even if one person is infected with HIV, and they definitely won't pass it on to the other person. Lots of sexual activities are completely safe. You can kiss, cuddle, massage and rub each other's bodies. But if you have any cuts or sores on your skin, make sure they are covered with plasters (band-aids). Nothing you do on your own can cause you to get HIV - you can't get infected by masturbating. You can cut the risks right down when having full sex by using a condom properly.

But there are other ways than sex to catch it.

If you use drugs: this is Avert's advice on avoiding the risks " If you inject drugs, you should always use a clean needle, syringe and spoon, water, etc each time you inject, and never share any of these with anyone else. If you snort drugs, and you use a note or a straw to snort through, you shouldn't share it with anyone else, as blood can be passed from the inside of one person's nose to another."

"If you have a tattoo or a piercing, you should make sure that the needles and equipment used are sterile. Ask the staff at the place you have it done about what precautions they use."

Get local help and advice from DHIVERSE in Cambridge. And if you have been diagnosed HIV positive, they invite you to drop in on Saturday mornings for coffee, a chat and the opportunity to meet other HIV positive people and share experiences.  The drop ins are informal, friendly and relaxed and you can stay for as little or as long as you like. For more information please contact  FREE 01223 508805 

Pregnancy and abortion

If you are pregnant, there are three options - CareConfidential explain what these involve, and the good and bad things about each:  

This video looks at what choices you have if you become pregnant.   

If you are a girl who is, or thinks she may be, pregnant, or a lad whose girlfriend is pregnant, you can both get advice and counselling. You might not necessarily agree about what to do for a start. It is a huge challenge for teenagers to be parents but there is help and support even if your families don't want to get involved and no reason why being young should stop you being good parents.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS)  have a 24 hour helpline 08457 30 40 30 where you can talk about anything to do with pregnancy or abortion without anyone judging you or being shocked. They have online advice for young people too including what to do if you think you are pregnant, what your options are, and what your parents DON'T need to know if you opt for an abortion - unless you want them to.

Childline tackle some of the things which may worry you if you find you are unexpectedly pregnant - like being afraid to tell the father, or if you are the father not knowing how to feel, and of course you can call their helpline to talk about anything.

Any of the sexual health and contraception clinics we've already listed including SHAC will talk to you and try to help you.

You can get support in deciding whether to have an abortion or not. You can find out what help you can get if you have the baby, and all about being pregnant, how to look after yourself and your unborn baby. And if you decide to have an abortion you may need counselling to help you deal with your feelings afterwards.

Options have centres at Ely Pregnancy Crisis Centre, Cornerstone Pregnancy Crisis Centre in Huntingdon ,Newmarket Pregnancy Support Centre, Options Pregnancy Advisory Centre , Peterborough. They have a clear non-judgemental approach to anyone seeking their help, read about exactly what they will help you with. The only thing they don't do is arrange abortions but they do talk all your choices through before and after an abortion.

You can also read what happened to other teenagers who unexpectedly get pregnant and other people's stories about pregnancy and abortion.

A nasty footnote

If the unthinkable happens and you are raped or sexually assaulted, you may be in shock or denial, and the last thing on your mind is the risk of infection or pregnancy. But all the things we've told you about here are just as important or even more so because a rapist is much less likely to care about the consequences to you of unprotected sex. So whatever you do about reporting the crime or involving the police, GET CHECKED OUT immediately for infection, disease or pregnancy.  

Like most things on GTRT this subject is too important and specialised for us to tell you everything you need to know, but we can point you to the experts, and hopefully we've done that on this page.

The page was last updated on 02 July 2014 by andrea.bateman.

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