What is STIs and how are STIs spread?
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are also known as sexually transmitted infections (STI) is an infection passed from one person to another person through vaginal, anal, or oral sexual contact. An infection is when a bacteria, virus, or parasite enters and grows in or on your body.
Many STIs are spread through contact with infected body fluids such as blood, vaginal fluids, or semen. They can also be spread through contact with infected skin or mucous membranes, such as sores in the mouth. You may be exposed to infected body fluids and skin through vaginal, anal or oral sex. Anal sex is very risky because it usually causes bleeding. Sharing needles or syringes for drug use, ear piercing, tattooing, etc. can also expose you to infected fluids. Most STIs are only spread through direct sexual contact with an infected person.
Anyone who has had sexual contact can get an STI. Men and women of all ages, regions, ethnic backgrounds, and economic levels can get STIs. Anyone at any age can get an STI; however, young people (male and females) who have sex with multiple partners, or have sex with a partner that has many sexual partners, and gay and bisexual men are at a greater risk than others. Additionally, teen girls are more likely to become infected with chlamydia than adult women are.
How can I prevent getting an STI?
The best way to prevent getting an STI is to not have sex. Some STIs can’t be cured, so you should always practice safer sex, or find ways to be intimate in a romantic relationship without having sex. This means preventing the passing of body fluids such as blood, semen, and vaginal fluids, and avoiding direct oral, anal, or genital contact (by using a latex condom).
If you do decide to have sex, you should:
- Use condoms 100% of the time. You need to make sure that you use a new latex condom (or dental dam) correctly every time you have oral, anal, or vaginal sex. If you are allergic to latex, use a polyurethane male or female condom.
- Use a water-base lubricant with condoms. The lubricant will keep the condom from breaking. Never use lubricants that contain oil or fat, such as petroleum jelly or cooking oil. These products weaken “latex” and can cause the condom to break.
- Limit the number of people you have sex with. The more partners you have, the greater your risk of being exposed to an STI.
- Choose partners who have not had sex with many other partners, and who will have sex only with you while you’re together. You should ask your partner(s) if he/she has an STI, has been exposed to one, or has physical symptoms of an STI.
- NOT have sex with anyone that has signs of an STI (sores, rashes, or discharge from the genital area).
- Have your partner get checked out for STI before you have sex. Keep in mind that tests for sexually transmitted infections don’t pick up all STIs.
Other ways to prevent getting an STI include:
- Don’t inject drugs or have sex with someone who has injected drugs
- Avoid alcohol and drugs, since they can make you more likely to take chances with sex
- Don’t douche, since this can cause different germs in your vagina and increase the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease
- Get the Hepatitis B and HPV vaccinations
How effective are condoms against STIs?
When used consistently and correctly, condoms are highly effective in preventing HIV. They are also effective at preventing sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) that are transmitted through bodily fluids, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. However, they provide less protection against STDs spread through skin-to-skin contact like human papillomavirus (genital warts), genital herpes, and syphilis.
Using condoms lowers women’s risk of developing cervical cancer, a disease associated with HPV. Consistent use of condoms can also help people clear HPV infection and/or reduce their risk of re-infection.
How to use a condom correctly?
Roll the condom on when your penis is erect (hard), but BEFORE it touches your partner’s mouth or genital area (vulva, vagina, anus, buttocks, and upper thighs) — and wear it the whole time you’re having sex. This helps protect you from STDs that are transmitted through skin-to-skin touching. It also prevents contact with pre-ejaculate (pre-cum), which can have STD germs and may rarely contain sperm that can cause pregnancy.
- Condoms last a long time, but you should always check the expiration date printed on the wrapper or box. Open condoms carefully so you don’t damage them — don’t use your teeth or scissors.
- Make sure the condoms ready to roll on the right way: the rim should be on the outside so it looks like a little hat, and it will unroll easily. You can unroll it a little bit before putting it on to make sure it’s right-side out. If you accidentally put a condom on inside out, do NOT flip it around and reuse it — get a new one.
- Pinch the tip of the condom and place it on the head of your penis. Leave a little bit of space at the top to collect semen (cum). If you’re uncircumcised, it might be more comfortable to pull your foreskin back before placing the condom on the tip of your penis and rolling it down.
- Unroll the condom down the shaft of your penis all the way to the base.
- You can put a few drops of water-based or silicone lubricant inside the tip of the condom before you roll it on. You can also add more lube to the outside of the condom after it’s on your penis. (Water-based or silicone lube can make sex feel even better, and it helps stop condoms from breaking.)
- Have sex!
- After you ejaculate (cum), hold onto the rim of the condom and pull your penis out of your partner’s body. Do this BEFORE your penis goes soft, so the condom doesn’t get too loose and let semen out.
- Carefully take off the condom away from your partner so you don’t accidentally spill semen (cum) on them. Throw the condom away in the garbage — don’t flush it down the toilet (it can clog pipes).
You can’t reuse condoms. Roll on a new condom every time you have vaginal, oral, or anal sex. You should also use a new condom if you switch from one kind of sex to another (like anal to vaginal).
How should condoms be handled?
Keep male condoms in a cool, dry place. Don’t keep them in your wallet or in your car. This can cause them to break or tear.
Check the wrapper for tears and for the expiration date, to make sure the condom is not too old to use. Carefully open the wrapper. Don’t use your teeth or fingernails. Make sure the condom looks okay to use. Don’t use a condom that is gummy, brittle, discolored, or has even a tiny hole.
Be sure to use adequate lubrication during vaginal and anal sex. Only use water-based or silicone-based lubricants. Don’t use oil-based lubricants (e.g., petroleum jelly, shortening, mineral oil, massage oils, body lotions, and cooking oil) with latex condoms because they can weaken latex and cause breakage. Put the lubricant on the outside of the condom.