Preventing STDs: The Dos and Don’ts of Safe Sex
These days safe sex is a must, not an option. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can have long-lasting effects on your health. Learn the dos and don’ts of safe sex.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are a worldwide public health problem. And no one is immune. STDs affect people of all ages, ethnicities and economic levels.
Look at the facts:
- Nineteen million people in the U.S. will get an STD this year alone.
- One in four women and one in eight men carry the herpes simplex virus 2, the virus that most often causes genital herpes. There is no cure for HSV. If you get the virus, you’ll have it for life.
- Syphilis infections – a disease that was once on the verge of being eliminated – are on the rise, mostly in teens and young adults.
STDs leave lasting effects
Getting infected with an STD is more than just a nuisance and an embarrassment. STDs can leave lasting effects on your health. They can:
- Cause major illnesses like cancer, and even death. There is no cure for the human immunodeficiency virus or HIV, the virus that leads to acquired immune deficiency syndrome or AIDS.
- Lead to a lifetime of chronic problems, such as organ damage.
- Lead to infertility. Experts estimate that 24,000 women in the U.S. become infertile each year as a result of untreated STDs.
- Cause pregnancy problems and birth defects.
- Harm your relationships.
- Spread to your partner.
Safe sex: your ticket to good health
Prompt medical care is effective in treating some STDs, but not all. This is why preventing STDs is so crucial.
The only sure way to protect yourself from STDs is to not have sex. But if you choose to have sex, follow these dos and don’ts to reduce your risk – and your partner’s risk – of STDs:
- Use a condom every time you have vaginal, anal or oral sex. Non-barrier birth control methods – like the birth control pill or intrauterine device (IUD) – will not protect you from STDs. Male and female condoms are the most effective birth control choices for preventing STDs.
- Limit sexual partners. The more sexual partners you have, the higher your risk for STDs.
- Be honest with your partner about any risks or infections you have had.
- Know your partner’s sexual history. The saying “you have sex with everyone who your partner has had sex with” is true in a sense when it comes to STDs.
- Get checked for STDs regularly. Not all STDs have symptoms, so regular checkups from your doctor are key. For example, experts estimate that nine in 10 people with HSV don’t know they have it.
- Women, see your doctor for a pelvic exam every year or as often as often as your doctor suggests. Be honest with your doctor about your sexual practices.
- Follow your treatment plan as prescribed by your doctor if you have an STD. Likewise, seek treatment right away if you have any STD symptoms.
- Stick with safe sex activities. Kissing and mutual genital stimulation carry very little risk of STD transmission.
- Don’t let bodily fluids come into direct contact with the vagina, anus or mouth. This includes blood, semen, vaginal fluids and any discharge from sores caused by STDs.
- Don’t have sex if you have sores or other signs of infection around your mouth, genital or anal areas.
- Don’t touch sores or growths caused by STDs.
- Don’t assume you’ll be able to tell if your partner has an STD. You cannot tell if someone has an STD just by looking at him or her. Not everyone with an STD has symptoms. The only way to know if someone has an STD or not is to get tested.
- Don’t believe you don’t have to worry about STDs if you’re in a monogomous relationship. Both you and your partner should be tested for STDs before you have sex without a condom.
- Don’t stop practicing safe sex because you or your partner has an STD. A condom will keep you or your partner from getting a new STD or getting re-infected with the same disease. What’s more, having some STDs, including genital herpes and syphilis, makes it easier to get infected with HIV.
- Don’t use drugs or alcohol. Doing so can lead to risky behaviors like practicing unsafe sex.