One of the best ways to avoid contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD) is to be sure to practice safer sex. This means using a condom every time a person engages in sexual activity, yet some people find this concept difficult to follow. According to research published in the journal Addiction, people who often have sex without using protection may be drinking to much. Researchers have now officially declared that alcohol directly influences whether a person will practice safer sex.
Alcohol use has been associated with an increased risk of STDs for years, but in the past researchers were unsure if this was correlation or causation. What this means is that scientists did not know if drinking was leading to the practice of unsafe sex or if individuals who were consuming high amounts of alcohol and not using condoms merely possessed certain personality traits that made them more likely to engage in risky behaviors. After this study, the researchers believe that heavy drinking affects decision-making, regardless of an individual’s usual behavioral pattern.
“Drinking has a causal effect on the likelihood to engage in unsafe sex, and thus should be included as a major factor in preventive efforts for HIV”, commented J. Rehm, M.D., the principal investigator of the study. “This result also helps explain why people at risk often show this behaviour despite better knowledge: alcohol is influencing their decision processes.” Furthermore, the researchers added that individuals who already have HIV should not drink because it could potentially compromise their immune system and increase their risk of infecting others if they engage in unsafe sex. It’s important to remember that two people with HIV still need to use protection in order to keep from potentially contracting a different strain of the virus.