Font Size
A
A
A

Exposure to Sexually Transmitted Infections (cont.)

Prevention

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.

Delay 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. Sexually active 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.

If you are age 26 or younger, you can get the HPV shot. The vaccines CervarixClick here to view a form.(What is a PDF document?) and GardasilClick here to view a form.(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. Three shots are given over 6 months. The series of shots is recommended for girls and boys ages 11 or 12. And catch-up immunization is recommended for certain males and females who haven't yet had the series of shots. For more information, see the topic Immunizations.

STIs are a concern worldwide. It is important to practice safe sex with all partners, especially if you or they may have high-risk sexual behaviors.

It is especially important that pregnant women who are at risk for STIs practice safe 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 safe 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 had?
    • What high-risk behaviors does he or she have?
    • Has he or she ever had an STI?
    • Was it treated and cured?
    • If the STI is not curable, what is the best way to protect yourself?
  • Be responsible.
    • Avoid sexual contact or activity if you have symptoms of an STI or are being treated for an STI.
    • 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 time.
  • 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.

Condom use

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. See male condom use.

  • 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 blood.
  • 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. See female condom use.

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

Mouth 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 professional.

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 an STI.

Spermicide use

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 partner.

So although using a spermicide with a condom is more effective for birth control, using a spermicide may increase your risk for getting HIV.

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

To learn more visit Healthwise.org

© 1995-2012 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.






Medical Dictionary