Time to reconsider committing to safe sex


This World Aids Day is a good time to think about the steps we can take to stop the spread of sexually transmitted infections, specifically HIV. No matter your HIV status, it’s important that you always wrap up to protect yourself and your partner.

According to UNAIDS, South Africa has the largest HIV epidemic in the world – accounting for 19% of people living with HIV globally. In 2018:

  • 7 700 000 South Africans were living with HIV.
  • 240 000 people were newly infected with HIV.
  • HIV prevalence among adults between the ages of 15 and 49 was 20.4%.

Despite this, condom manufacturer Durex reports that 54% of South Africans between 18 and 24 have had sex without protection against sexually transmitted infections at least once. UNAIDS found that only 45.8% of women and men age 15 to 24 could correctly identify ways to prevent the sexual transmission of HIV.

Why do people still take the risk? Durex's 2017 Global Sex Survey found that more than a quarter of young people surveyed said they would be embarrassed if a date caught them carrying a condom. This highlights that safe sex is no longer part of the dating culture for the younger generation.

Why not safe sex? Time to reconsider

In South Africa, 41% of young people between 18 and 24 admit that they don't use condoms because they are in a trusted relationship, despite one tenth of respondents in relationships having another sexual partner. This leaves many vulnerable to contracting or spreading sexually transmitted infections, or ending up with an unplanned pregnancy.

Condoms are the only form of birth control that also protects against sexually transmitted infections. It forms a barrier that prevents people from sharing body fluids and the viruses they may contain. But condoms don’t protect against sexually transmitted infections that are transmitted from skin-to-skin contact, like genital warts or pubic lice.

Unprotected sex isn't sexy

Most of us first learned about HIV and AIDS in school or at a work session. HIV education started the mid-1990s and we thought we knew three basic facts:

  • People with HIV die early.
  • HIV can be transmitted through sex and contact with body fluids.
  • There is no cure for HIV.

Medicine has advanced since then, and with the right treatment, people with HIV can live long and healthy lives. The first step to protecting yourself is knowing your status. Screening tests are an important first step on your road to health. The sooner you detect your risk of having a chronic condition like HIV, the sooner you can start working on getting better.

Commit to safe sex and regular screenings

If, after a screening test, you find that you have an infection – make use of the resources and support systems at your disposal to help manage your risks and wellbeing. Discovery Health Medical Scheme members who have HIV can join the HIV Care programme for comprehensive and confidential help to keep as healthy as possible.

W24. Safe sex and condom use viewed as 'unsexy' by GenZ – survey finds, W24, 1 December 2017; accessed 4 December 2017.

Jonisayi Maromo.#WorldAIDSDay: 'Safe sex not part of millennial dating culture', IOL, 1 December 2017; accessed 5 December 2017.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Condom fact sheet in brief; accessed 5 December 2017.

UNAIDS. Country: South Africa; accessed 5 December 2017.

Get confidential, cost-effective and clinically sound HIV care

Members of Discovery Health Medical Scheme who are diagnosed with HIV have access to our HIV Care programme for skilled assistance and clinically sound treatment. The programme includes cover for a list of medicine that prevents HIV from spreading from mother to child, as well as some baby formulas to help the baby grow big and strong.

And remember, all Discovery Health Medical Scheme members on a Priority, Saver, Smart, Core or KeyCare plan can avoid a 20% co-payment simply by using a Premier Plus GP to manage their condition.

Get the care you need by doing a Vitality Health Check

Members of Discovery Health Medical Scheme can go for a yearly basic health check without the cost affecting their day-to-day benefits or Medical Savings Account.

As part of the standard health check, you can find out your blood pressure, blood sugar, body mass index (BMI) and have a confidential HIV test. Remember that Vitality members can also earn Vitality points for completing a Vitality Health Check.

Learn more about the Vitality Health Check here.


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