Almost everyone knows about STDs and the impact they can play on sexual health and wellbeing. To prevent getting an STD, you need to feel comfortable advocating for yourself, even if it makes a partner uncomfortable. While some sexually transmitted infections can be cured with a round of antibiotics, others have lifelong implications that will stay with you forever. To help limit your chances of contracting an STD, follow these tips:
Always Use Condoms
Latex condoms should be used every time you’re having sexual contact with a partner (even in a monogamous relationship). Although condoms are not 100% effective against the spread of disease or pregnancy, they act as a barrier against bacteria and viral infections that can cause infection. Make sure that any lubrication used is water-based to prevent tears or breaks.
Practice Good Hygiene Habits
Take the time to wash with soap (only externally) before any sexual intercourse, as well as after any play sessions. Avoid sharing underwear or towels with another person as some viruses can live on fabrics. If using toys in the bedroom, make sure not to share items with other people. Clean toys properly with the recommended cleaner after use.
Get Vaccinated Against STIs
There are vaccines available for hepatitis B and HPV, which will offer protection against these STIs long-term. Both vaccines require three shots to build immunity, which is often spaced a few months apart. Vaccines help protect your body from high-risk strains of HPV, including two of the strains that can cause cancer. The HPV vaccine also protects people from multiple strains of the wart-causing virus, which can cause unsightly growths in the genital region.
Assess Your Risk
Participating in sexual activity without knowing HIV, HPV, or herpes status is a dangerous game for everyone involved. While HPV and herpes have no prevention methods (aside from condoms), HIV risk can be mitigated by PreP or PEP medications. PrEP is available by prescription, limiting the chances of HIV by 99% when used correctly. Always talk to your doctor about your relationships and encounters to determine whether these medications suit your lifestyle and prep effectiveness.
Visit Your Doctor Regularly
When you’re sexually active, it’s crucial to schedule STD testing with your sexual health clinic or family doctor. These tests can test for common STIs using urine samples, blood tests, and culture swaps. Knowing your sexual health status can protect you from STDs, especially if you’re sexually active with multiple partners.
Have Symptoms Checked Promptly
Although many symptoms are unrelated to STDs, with overlapping areas, it’s essential to have any new symptoms assessed by a medical professional. These can include any new genital growths or spots (including lesions, bumps that persist, or weeping skin), discharge, pain, or redness. Additional symptoms like fever, swollen lymph nodes, hair loss, and fatigue should also be evaluated.
Learn to Speak Up
Before engaging in any sexual activity, ask your partner about their sexual health. Find out when they’ve last been tested for any STD and whether they frequently get assessed by a doctor. If they haven’t been checked recently, consider abstaining until they find out their current status. If abstaining isn’t an option, always use condoms until you know the person is free of any STDs.
Inspect Your Partner Beforehand
Although it may not seem romantic, giving your partner, a quick once-over can prevent many STIs. Look for anything that appears abnormal or off. This includes any sores, wounds, bumps, or sections that seem odd. Ask your partner to explain any lesions before engaging in intercourse, especially if you’re unsure of what they are. Pay attention to the genital area, pubic area, thighs, and anus. Walk away from any encounter you’re not sure of, even if it offends the other person.
Stop Feeling the Stigma of STIs
Sexually transmitted infections are relatively common conditions that can be lifelong and chronic. There are many ways to protect yourself from contracting STIs, even if your partner is positive. Antivirals, barrier protection, and vaccination are your top methods of protection. It’s important to talk to your partner about any STIs you might have and abstain from sexual activity until they have resolved. If you’re not sure how long to abstain, talk to your doctor about the typical healing process.