It’s not always easy to tell when someone has an STI. You may not even know if you have one yourself. Here are some tips for protecting your sexual health.
STIs (sexually transmitted infections) are diseases that are usually transmitted through sexual contact. Some STIs may cause burning or discomfort. Others may have no symptoms at all. Some STIs, such as most cases of HPV, can go away on their own and some are treatable, but others, like HIV, can be deadly.
Although abstinence (not having sex) is the only way to completely avoid STIs, there are steps you can take to practice safe sex and protect yourself. Check out these five tips for better sexual health.
You can lower your chances of getting an STI by limiting your number of sexual partners or by practicing mutual monogamy (having sex with only one person, who has sex only with you).
If you have one or more sexual partners, be honest about your sexual activity and your sexual past. By being open, you’ll be able to stay informed about what you may have been exposed to and protect your health and your partners’.
Use protection every time you have sex, including oral sex. Barriers like condoms can reduce the risk of spreading infection and help prevent unplanned pregnancy. Not all forms of birth control protect against STIs, so make sure to use protection that does.
Using drugs and alcohol can interfere with your ability to make good decisions (find out more about how alcohol affects your body here) and may put you at a higher risk for contracting an STI.
If you do drink alcohol, drink responsibly and only with people you trust. Never use shared needles or tools to inject drugs, since many STIs are transmitted through contact with the blood of an infected person.
Vaccines can help protect against some STIs like HPV, Hepatitis A, and Hepatitis B. Ask your doctor if vaccines are right for you.
Getting tested is the only way to know if you have some STIs, such as HIV. If you think you have an infection, see your doctor right away or visit a testing center (find one near you here). For 24/7 support and to find out where to go for HIV counseling and testing, call 1-800-704-6159 or visit STDcheck.com.
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“Prevention Tips,” American Sexual Health Association. Accessed February 10, 2017.
“Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs),” Mayo Clinic. March 18, 2015.
“STD Prevention,” Healthline. September 8, 2014.
“Vaccines,” American Sexual Health Association. Accessed February 10, 2017.