STIs are passed on from one person to another by skin-to-skin contact during unprotected oral, anal and vaginal sex. By using condoms and dental dams every time you have sex, you are protecting yourself and your partner against catching or passing on an STI.
If left untreated, STIs can have severe consequences on your health and on your ability to have children. Understanding the risks involved in catching an STI means you are more likely to learn what to do in order to protect yourself against STIs if you choose to have sex. So, let’s start by learning some facts about STIs.
STI prevention is everyone’s individual responsibility. You need to think about what method is best for you. Depending on your beliefs and values, there are several choices you can make.
Abstinence (not having anal, oral or vaginal sex) is the very best way to protect you against STIs.
Masturbation is another possibility. It can be an alternative to sexual intercourse or oral sex.
But if you do decide to be sexually active with another person you need to practice safer sex to reduce the risk of getting an STI. There are a number of different ways of practicing “safer sex” and reducing your risk of infection.
Mutual monogamy Is when you only have sex with one, uninfected partner who only has sex with you. To ensure you’re both free from infection, get tested before you start having sex. Even if you show no symptoms, it is still possible to have an STI.
Limit your number of sex partners – The more partners you have, the higher your risk of exposure to infection. Choose only to have sex with partners you know and trust.
Talk to your partner Before you start having sex, communicate openly with your partner about STIs and protection against STIs. Talking about these things before you start having sex builds trust and respect and is an important way to lower both your risks for contracting an STI.
Use protection Latex condoms and dental dams should be used correctly every time you have oral, anal and vaginal sex, even if penetration does not take place. Only use water-based lubricants, like K-Y jelly, Astroglide or glycerine, with latex condoms. Oil-based lubricants, like petroleum jelly, baby oil or cooking oil, can cause latex condoms to break and a broken condom gives you no protection.
Have regular check-ups If you are sexually active, visit your doctor or nurse at least once a year. If you regularly engage in sex with different partners, get tested every time you switch partners.