Protecting yourself and others
There is no 100% effective way of preventing an STI except for abstinence. So, if you are going to engage in sexual activity that may involve semen, vaginal fluids or blood between partners, here’s what you need to know to do it safely:
Use a condom
When used correctly, condoms are highly effective in reducing the transmission of STIs. Always use a condom or dental dam during oral, vaginal or anal sex. If you don’t have a dental dam, learn to make one from a condom here!
Talk about your sex!
Yes, talk about your sexual history and current partnering plans with your partner. This way you can clearly disclose any pre-existing STIs you may have, get STI-tested prior to being sexually active and talk about your plans regarding sexual monogamy.
Get STI checked regularly
STI testing can be done by your local GP or a sexual health clinic. Go to local services to find out where you can get tested near you. Getting checked for STIs is quick and easy. Many STIs are curable and all are treatable the earlier they are diagnosed. Starting treatment early is also the most effective way in reducing risk of future negative health outcomes and spreading the infection.
Why is safe sex important?
Sexual health is important at all ages for the following reasons:
- You can’t judge whether someone has an STI based on how they look, dress, behave, who they have slept with, etc. Anyone can get a STI.
- Being sexually active means there is always a chance of contracting an STI. Practising safe sex provides you with peace of mind.
- Thinking ‘HIV won’t happen to me’ provides no protection.
- Some STIs are quite common and using condoms will reduce the risk of infection.
- People with STIs don’t always know that they are infected.
- Safe sex protects you from unintended pregnancies.
What to do you have unprotected sex
If you have had unsafe sex:
- avoid vaginal or rectal ‘douching’ (washing out or irrigating these areas with water or other fluids) as the irritation to delicate tissues could increase the risk of infection
- make sure you are not at risk of pregnancy. Consider taking the emergency contraceptive pill (within 72 hours is best, but it can be taken with 120 hours of unprotected sex or a broken condom if no other form of contraception was used)
- get STI checked promptly.
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