Sexually transmitted diseases and infections are something most of us are aware of in today’s world. But, even with knowing the danger is out there, how many of us are aware of how to protect ourselves from these troubling, embarrassing, and in some cases life altering illnesses? Are the majority of women, men, and teens practicing safe sex with every sex act and with every partner? Unfortunately, we know that the answer is – no.
In studies of teens, it is found that unprotected sex is common. We also know that about 10% of all new diagnosis’ of HIV/AIDS in the US are in people 50 and older and is actually once again on the rise in some groups.
Our culture places a tremendous pressure on the individual to be sexually active. Not only that, but the media often portrays “casual sex” and “one night stands” as something to be expected or desired. While we can’t always be sure about how we will feel in any given situation, we do know that the more times we have sex with partners we barely know and as the number of those partners increase, so does the chances of contracting an STD/STI.
All it takes to contract an STD/STI is to have sex with someone who is infected.
So, how can you protect yourself?
- Begin by making sure you are healthy. Get regular check-ups and basic health screenings. If you are already sexually active, and you or your partner/s are not monogamous (only having sex with one person), you will want to be screened for STDs/STIs as well. Talk with your care provider about how often you should be screened. Your first line of protection is your own immune system. A healthy, functioning immune system does a lot to protect you from any illness.
- Make sure that with every new partner a condom (male or female variety) is used with every sex act. This is also necessary for those engaging in homosexual sex. If sex toys (vibrators, dildos, etc…) are used and shared between partner/s, then they should also be covered with a male condom or a female condom should be used and the toys cleaned between every sex act. Continue these “safer” sex practices and regular STD/STI screenings until you and your chosen partner become monogamous. Be sure that you are both equally committed and clear of STDs/STIs before stopping the use of condoms. After you are monogamous, you will still want to consider the risk of pregnancy and use the birth control option that is right for you unless you would like to become pregnant.
- Familiarize yourself with the different STDs/STIs that are our there. Know the symptoms and if possible what they look like when they have an outward appearance on the body of whom they infect. Look at the following websites to learn this information: It’s You Sex Life, Safer Sex (“Safe Sex”), and CDC-Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
There is no way to guarantee that you won’t contract an STD/STI unless you aren’t having sex at all. All forms of sex put you at risk for STD/STI including: vaginal, anal, and oral. However, following these 3 recommendations will help you to reduce that risk.