There are lots of ways to reduce your risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Of course, the best way to avoid STIs and unwanted pregnancy is not to have sex. For those who do choose to become sexually active, though, there are ways you can help reduce your risk of contracting an STI.
Communicate: Talk with your partner(s) about STIs, sexual health, and prevention before sexual activity. Open communication encourages trust and respect among partners and helps reduce the risks for STIs. Also, don’t be afraid to talk honestly with your healthcare provider about your sexual practices or to ask about STI tests.
Get Tested: If you have never had sexual contact of any kind with another person, there is no risk of STD/STIs. But if you or your partner has ever had sex with anyone else, then testing can help you learn whether you may have contracted an STI. You can’t rely on symptoms to know whether you have an STI—many STIs can be “silent,” causing no noticeable symptoms. Also, some STD/STIs may not be detectable through testing for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, so talk to your healthcare provider about the right time to get tested.
Limit the number of partners you have: If you are going to have sex, have it with just one person and ask about his or her sexual history. The fewer partners you have, the less chance you will get an STI.
Protect Yourself: Condoms work really well in stopping most STIs from being passed from an infected partner to another when they are used consistently and correctly every time a person has oral, vaginal or anal sex. Consistently and correctly means that a person makes sure they use a condom every time they have oral, vaginal or anal sex and put it on and use it the right way.
Learn about vaccines: One important prevention tool against STIs is vaccination. Currently, vaccines are available to protect against infection with HPV, hepatitis A, and hepatitis B. Talk to your healthcare provider to see which vaccines might be recommended for you.
Avoid alcohol and drug use: Avoiding alcohol and recreational drug use reduces the risk of contracting an STI, having an unwanted pregnancy, or being coerced to have sex. Alcohol and drug use can reduce our ability to make good decisions. It may also make us more likely to be talked into participating in an activity without being able to give our full consent.