Tango, tragos and now Tinder: there’s no denying that passion and sex are big parts of Buenos Aires’ fiery reputation. But the morning after can leave you with a little more than a post-coital glow. Don’t panic if you’re thinking “WTF do I do now…?” though. Plenty of help is available to keep you healthy, sane and baby-free.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
STIs are about as glamorous as that time you puked up outside Ugis at 6am, but they’re very common and very treatable. Right now I’m going to bite the bullet and say that they can’t be passed on through sharing toilet seats, lipstick or even cocktails with someone that has one (although a Fernet binge with said person may well help facilitate transmission). The fact remains that STIs are passed on through unprotected oral, vaginal and anal sex and can affect anybody.
The best way to avoid STIs is to wear a condom, which you can pick up for free all over the city (just click here to find your nearest spot) and they’re for sale in most pharmacies, supermarkets and chinos. NEVER feel pressured into having sex without a condom or be made to feel “dirty” for insisting your partner bags up. A lot of people report a resistance to wearing condoms here, but take pride in your sexual responsibility (and keep your bits in top shape in the process).
But there’s nothing wrong with me!
It’s extremely common to have an STI and have no symptoms whatsoever, which is why getting a sexual health screen is super important. If you have symptoms, don’t delay. Otherwise chlamydia and gonorrhoea take up to 2 weeks to show up on tests and HIV and syphilis take 1 month.
Tests for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, HIV and hepatitis are available via the public system, as is medical advice if you’re having issues down there. See here for a list of all the hospitals where you can do this, head to the reception and explain you’d like to see a specialist in sexual health (’salud sexual.’) While sexual freedoms have moved on in Argentina, the care you receive may be dependent upon the doctor you see and their personal attitudes towards sexual health. It’s not uncommon for patients to be reassured that they don’t need screening, particularly if you are female. If you’re told a test is unnecessary despite having been at risk, stick to your guns and explain you’d like to be tested for peace of mind. Some docs will speak english, but taking along a spanish speaking buddy can help.
Hospital de Clinicas “Jose de San Martin” (Programa de Enfermedades de Transmisión Sexual (ETS)), Av Cordoba 2351, entrepiso, tel: 5950-8633) is open Mon – Fri from 8am – 8:30pm and caters to non-spanish speakers.
Rapid HIV tests are also available all over the city and will reliably show you what your HIV status was 4-6 weeks ago. See here for your nearest testing center.
Two health centres offering advice on all things sex, including support for LGBT groups and young people are the ‘Consejerias de Salud Sexual y Reproductiva’ based at Lugano (José P. T. Batlle and Ordoñez – Manzana 12, Casa 9 bis – Villa 20: 9am – 7pm: Tel: 5091-7459) and Recoleta (Paraguay between Junín and Uriburu: Campus BA (Plaza Houssay): Mon- Sat: 9am – 9pm). You can also contact them online here. Despite the rather teen-centric website, they are happy to see people of all ages. Plus the how to put a condom on video (below) is maybe one of my favorite things on YouTube right now and makes for excellent spanish practice.
Emergency Contraception (*help!*)
If the condom broke, came off or didn’t make it on in the first place, there’s a risk of pregnancy. Again don’t freak out. Help is available. The morning-after pill (‘anticoncepcion hormonal de emergencia’ or ’pastilla del dia despues’) can be taken up to 72 hours after an accident. The earlier you take it, the lower your chance of pregnancy.
It’s available free of charge via the public system and it can also be bought at a pharmacy without a prescription. Prices were quoted to me at 50 ARS. See here to find your nearest 24-hour Farmacity.
The Intrauterine Device (IUD/”Copper coil”) can also be fitted up to 5 days after unprotected sex as a form of emergency contraception. Discuss this with your doctor for more information.
If you are feeling unsafe or have been the victim of a sexual assault, get help. You can go to the Tourist Police Station (Av. Corrientes 436, Tel: 0800-999-5000/4346-5748) or email them at [email protected]. They have interpreters and can help you contact your consulate or embassy if needed. Spanish speakers can find help here. For more information on this subject see here.
HIV: What’s That About?
There is a lot of emotionally charged but uninformed talk surrounding HIV. Let’s get the facts straight. HIV is an infection that affects the immune system and is passed on through unprotected sex. It can’t be cured but it can be treated effectively, with HIV positive people having a similar life expectancy to negative people, provided it’s found early on.
In Buenos Aires, HIV is more common in certain groups, including gay men, sex workers and transgender women but straight and cis-gendered folks need to be aware and careful too. The best way to protect yourself is by always wearing a condom with new partners and having regular HIV tests. However, if the condom didn’t quite do it’s job, a medication called Post-exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) can be taken up to 72 hours after a risk and can help prevent you from getting HIV. It’s a month long course of medication and is available via most emergency departments (La Guardia) free of charge. Hospital General de Agudos Dr. Juan A Fernandez (Avenida Cervino 3356, Tel: 4808-2600) has an emergency department where you can access PEP plus a top notch HIV department (‘Infectologia’) which will follow you up throughout your treatment.