Love on the Go: Maintaining Sexual Health When Abroad
The world may be your oyster, but you still gotta have your condoms.
Who wouldn’t want to get into some fun with some hot foreigner? But you’ve still got to keep an eye on maintaining your sexual health when you’re abroad, whether you’re a classy business traveller or a chic digital nomad. You might groan at having ‘the talk’. But if you’re not careful, things can get pretty awful. The last thing you want is to cut short your trip. Or even worse, you find yourself afoul of the law. So it’s best to keep an eye on sexual health, whether you’re staying abroad for a short time or a longer period.
Table of Contents
- Let’s Talk About Sex—What is Sexual Health?
- Why is Sexual Health important?
- 5 Steps to Maintain Sexual Health Abroad
- 1. Research Your Destination’s Attitudes Towards Sex
- 2. Know What’s Up Before You Fly
- 3. Get Tested and Vaccinated
- 4. Pack Protection
- 5. Know Your Boundaries
- Speedoc asks: Can Telehealth Help with Sexual Health?
- Better Safe Than Sorry
- MetroResidences Singapore Serviced Apartments—Your Home Base for Travels Beyond
Let’s Talk About Sex—What is Sexual Health?
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines sexual health as a state of physical, emotional, mental, and social well-being in relation to sexuality. So this doesn’t just include disease or dysfunction—it’s about having a safe, pleasurable experience free from discrimination and violence.
While we usually associate sexual health with condoms and STDs, it can actually encompass everything between sexual orientation and gender identity, sexual expression, relationships, and pleasure. The WHO also regards consequences and conditions as part of sexual health, which includes sexual violence, harmful practices, and even unintended pregnancies and abortion.
The factors influencing one’s sexual health can come from a broad spectrum as well, including biological, psychological, social, economic, political, cultural, and spiritual factors. With that, we should all adopt a holistic and comprehensive approach to sexual health that accounts for all these factors.
Why is Sexual Health important?
It’s important even if you’re not travelling. Sexual health can affect your well-being. The most obvious effect of not maintaining sexual health is how it links to physical health. And it’s not just about contracting sexually transmitted infections or getting unwanted pregnancies. Besides the physiological effects, sexual health can also improve one’s self-esteem and mental well-being. If you’re in a relationship, sexual health is crucial in promoting communication, trust, and intimacy between you and your significant other.
5 Steps to Maintain Sexual Health Abroad
Returned travellers are more likely to contract STIs; around 50% of people who engage in new sexual relationships abroad inconsistently use condoms. We get it. You’re on vacation; you want to have fun! But your own health deserves protection, sexual or not. And it doesn’t need to be fussy.
1. Research Your Destination’s Attitudes Towards Sex
There’s this Instagram reel that shows a lesbian couple only finding out that the host country that they went to doesn’t welcome queer people. The last thing you want is to get into trouble. While we support the freedom to love, we know that doesn’t necessarily mean freedom from unintended consequences. After all, there’s a broad spectrum of cultural norms; some cultures may be more conservative, and others more progressive. The surest way is to examine the different laws and policies related to sex from country to country. Another way is to research your destination’s cultural and religious beliefs, just as you would research about Singapore’s rental and real estate market.
To find out which host country accepts queer identities, you can look to the International, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association. They compiled a map that shows the different levels of sexual orientation laws in the world (they even have it in 20 languages). Every year, they publish their State-Sponsored Homophobia report, surveying sexual orientation laws across the world. If you’re in Europe, you can look at the Rainbow Europe Map by ILGA Europe.
Singapore’s attitudes towards sex are more conservative than you think. But it’s a complex and evolving picture. In November 2022, the Parliament of Singapore passed a bill to repeal Section 377A, which defined sex between two consenting male adults to have sex in private as a crime. However, sex education in schools focuses primarily on abstinence and the risks associated with young sexual activity.
2. Know What’s Up Before You Fly
Head to your local sexual health clinic for a check-up. It’s just like any other doctor’s appointment, you do some tests, and you get your vitals taken. You get to ask doctors and health professionals questions about your sexual health too, including health concerns such as different health risks, birth control, and medications. The clinic might even offer prescriptions such as PrEP or PEP, as well as abortion pills.
3. Get Tested and Vaccinated
And we don’t mean the virus with the big C. As much as we’re trying to move on from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s still important to take preventive measures when it comes to STIs. Getting vaccinated can help treat STIs before you start getting ill, and regular tests can help catch infections early. That way, you can get the appropriate treatment before the disease becomes more difficult to cure.
Sexual Health Clinics in Singapore
Singapore has yet to offer Universal Health Coverage. So unless you’re a Singaporean citizen or Permanent Resident, you pay full price for medical care and medical services in Singapore. That’s why it’s a good idea to get medical insurance or health insurance in Singapore if you’ve made Singapore your home away from home, lest you have to deal with skyrocketing medical expenses.
Thankfully, though, access to sexual healthcare in Singapore is still convenient, what with Singapore’s efficient public transportation and robust approach to healthcare. There are plenty of sexual health clinics in Singapore. For queer-friendly sexual health clinics in Singapore, you can look to gayhealth.sg, which provides free sexual health tests from time to time as well.
Meanwhile, Dr Tan & Partners also run the DTAP Express Clinic, which provides rapid self-testing for various STIs in a comfortable, discreet and safe environment. You can also take a look at Oogachaga, Singapore’s most established LGBTQ+ community organisation that provides mental health services and organises youth programmes as well.
4. Pack Protection
Always have protection ready wherever you go. Make sure you have enough medications and contraceptives to last the duration of your trip. Planning what you need before you travel abroad will not only get you prepared for encounters of the fun kind, but also lets you get ahead of your host country’s standards of sexual health.
5. Know Your Boundaries
Make sure you know what you’re getting into, and always know your limits. And when you’re letting loose, you need to be aware of your alcohol and drug use. Excessive substance intake can impair judgement and increase the risk of engaging in risky sexual behaviour. Additionally, alcohol and drugs can increase the risk of sexual assault or other forms of violence as well.
If you decide to engage in sexual activity while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you should take extra precautions to protect your health. You may need to use condoms or other forms of protection, or you may need to avoid sexual activity altogether if you feel uncertain or unsafe.
Speedoc asks: Can Telehealth Help with Sexual Health?
Telehealth is becoming ever more prominent, even as we move past COVID-19. It can be a hassle-free and effective way to access sexual and reproductive health services, especially when you need to see your preferred healthcare provider when you’re in a foreign country. The most obvious way it can help is through remote consultations.
- STI testing and treatment: Some telehealth providers can even mail at-home STI testing kits to you and then collect the samples for testing. Some also offer treatment options for certain STIs.
- Counselling and support: Telehealth can provide counselling and support services for those dealing with sexual health concerns or issues related to sexual functioning. It is especially useful for those feeling uncomfortable discussing these issues with more privacy.
- Contraception consultations: Telehealth can also provide online consultations about various forms of contraception, including prescriptions for birth control pills and other forms of contraception. Some are even able to prescribe certain types of contraception.
Telehealth opens up new ways to maintain sexual health. In Singapore, hospitals have already begun offering telehealth services. So why not try telehealth with Speedoc today? You can meet with medical professionals and sexual health experts without having to meet in person—all you need is a wi-fi connection.
Enjoy partner rates with Speedoc today with these exclusive codes!
- MetroRes2023 – Book a health screening (from $90) or a food allergy test (from $183).
• MetroVIP2023 – Consult a doctor over a video consultation call for $11.88 only (via the Speedoc app)
Better Safe Than Sorry
It’s a cliche but it’s still true. We hate to nag, and all the tips we mentioned can get tedious as you plan your ultimate overseas experience. But, by taking precautions, you’ll be more able to enjoy your destination country and everything (and everyone) it can offer while still ensuring your long-term health.
About the Writer: Benedict Lim
As the resident punmaker, Benedict is really bad at making people laugh. They’re much better at diving into the nuances of the things they write about.
MetroResidences Singapore Serviced Apartments—Your Home Base for Travels Beyond
Looking for your home away from home? Our Singapore apartment rentals and serviced apartments are perfect for a longer period of stay. We have properties in luxury developments across Singapore’s most coveted addresses: Bugis, Bukit Timah, Shenton Way, and Novena.
And, you can rest easy at any of our properties. We adhere to our strict Property Standards that account for the comfort and cleanliness of all our serviced apartments. Our fully-furnished apartments come with amenities like wi-fi, air conditioners, and a fully-equipped kitchen.