You can take measures to reduce your risk
of becoming infected with a
sexually transmitted infection (STI). You can also
reduce the risk of transmitting an STI to your sex partner.
sexual activity until you are prepared both physically and emotionally to have
sex. Nearly two-thirds of all STIs occur in people younger than 25 years old.
teenagers are at high risk for STIs because they
frequently have unprotected sex and have multiple partners. Biological changes
during the teen years also may increase their risk for getting an STI.
Make sure your immunizations are up-to-date. You can get a hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and HPV vaccine to prevent these infections. The vaccines Cervarix (What is a PDF document?) and Gardasil (What is a PDF document?) protect against two types of human papillomavirus (HPV) that cause cervical cancer. Gardasil also protects against two types of HPV that cause genital warts. For more information,
see the topic
STIs are a concern
worldwide. It is important to practice safer sex with all partners, especially
if you or they may have
high-risk sexual behaviors.
especially important that pregnant women who are at risk for STIs practice safer
sex because an STI can affect their baby (fetus). An STI
may threaten the life of your baby or cause serious long-term problems or
disabilities for your baby.
Practice safer sex
Preventing a sexually transmitted
infection (STI) is easier than treating an infection after it occurs.
- Talk with your partner about STIs before
beginning a sexual relationship. Find out whether he or she is at risk for an
STI. Remember that it is quite possible to be infected with an STI without
knowing it. Some STIs, such as
HIV, can take up to 6 months before they can be
detected in the blood. Ask your partner the following questions.
- How many sex partners has he or she
- What high-risk behaviors does he or she have?
he or she ever had an STI?
- Was it treated and cured?
the STI is not curable, what is the best way to protect yourself?
- Be responsible.
- Avoid sexual contact or activity if you
symptoms of an STI or are being treated for an
- Avoid sexual contact or activity with anyone who has symptoms
of an STI or who may have been exposed to an STI.
- Don't have more than one sex partner at a time.
Your risk of an STI increases if you have several sex partners at the same
- Some STIs can also be spread through oral-to-genital or
genital-to-anal sexual contact.
- Abstain from sexual intercourse to
prevent any exposure to STIs.
Condoms can protect you against sexually
transmitted infections (STIs). Even if you are protected against pregnancy by
birth control pills or another method, use a condom to prevent STIs.
Male condom use
Using condoms reduces the risk of
becoming infected with most STIs, especially if the condoms are used correctly and
consistently. Condoms must be put on before beginning any sexual contact or
activity. Use condoms with a new partner until you are certain he or she does
not have an STI.
- Use a water-based lubricant such as K-Y Jelly
to help prevent tearing of the skin if there is a lack of lubrication with
condom use during sexual intercourse. Small tears in the vagina during vaginal
sex or in the rectum during anal sex allow STIs to get into your
- Do not use petroleum jelly as a lubricant with condoms,
because it dissolves the latex in condoms.
- Use a male condom for
vaginal or anal sex.
Female condom use
Even if you are using another
birth control method to prevent pregnancy, you may wish to use condoms to
reduce your risk of getting an STI. Female condoms are available for women
whose partners do not have or will not use a male condom.
Condoms do not prevent skin-to-sore contact in the
genital area, so it is possible to spread an STI with genital contact. It is
important to have any symptoms in the genital area evaluated.
barriers, such as a dental dam, can be used to reduce the spread of infection
through oral sexual activity. You can discuss this with your dentist or health
Avoid douching if you are a woman, because it can change
the normal balance of organisms in the vagina and increases the risk of getting
Most spermicides contain a chemical
called nonoxynol-9 (N9). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that
N9 in vaginal contraceptives and spermicides may irritate the lining of the
vagina or rectum. This may increase the risk of getting HIV from an infected
So although using a spermicide with a condom is more
effective for birth control, using a spermicide may increase your risk for