Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are preventable! STIs are infections that are transmitted through sex, including vaginal, anal and oral sex. Half of sexually active people will get an STI by age 25, meaning it is more common than most people think so there is no need to feel shame or stigma when trying to navigate STIs and safe sex. Having an STI does not make you “dirty” or say anything about your morals. Planning ahead makes it easier to protect yourself in the moment. Screening for STIs is important and something that can be done easily and often for free.
There are several ways to help keep you from getting an STI:
- Abstinence – the most effective way to prevent STIs is to not have sex with other people completely. While the most effective prevention method, this option isn’t realistic for everyone.
If you are having sex, you can lower your risk of STIs by:
- Using condoms – male latex condoms are very effective at preventing STIs when used correctly. If you are allergic to latex, there are a few latex–free options, however lambskin condoms are not effective at preventing STIs.
- Using dental dams – dental dams are a thin barrier placed over the vulva during oral sex.
- Reducing your number of sexual partners – it is still important for you and your partners to be screened for STIs and share your results with each other.
- Practicing mutual monogamy – this means that you are in a relationship with one person and you both have committed to only being sexually active with each other. It is important for both of you to be tested for STIs before having unprotected sex and to have open and honest conversations with you partner about sex.
- Getting vaccines – there are vaccines available to protect you against hepatitis B and human papilloma virus (HPV). You should get these vaccines before becoming sexually active. You can learn more about the HPV vaccine and the hepatitis B vaccine.
- Regular screening – being screened for STIs regularly can help catch infections early or when there is an infection but there are no symptoms present
Some STIs can cause future health problems and need to be treated before causing you harm or being passed on to someone else. Even if you don’t have symptoms of an STI, you could still be infected and give it your sex partners. All sexually active people should be tested for STIs at least once per year. Your doctor or healthcare provider will help you determine how often you should be tested based on information you share with them.
Learn about different types of STIs and treatment options. There are many different types of infections – it can be hard to know how they might be contracted, which are treatable, etc. The more you know, the better prepared you can be!
Not sure where to go to get tested? Yes Means Test has a free clinic locator.
Have a question you’re embarrassed to ask? Check out the American Sexual Health Association’s (ASHA) resources, including a free online support community moderated by ASHA staff, and premium features (require fees) that allow you to chat with staff or get advice from experts like doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals.
Thinking about getting pregnant? Some STIs do impact fertility and even pregnancy. Click to learn more.
Everyone deserves accurate information, access to healthcare, open and honest conversations.
Everyone involved in a sexual encounter deserves to feel safe and respected, every time. Because of taboos about sex, it can sometimes be hard to talk about things that we’re not okay with or to find ways out of scary situations. Learn more about how to communicate with your partners, friends, provider, and more: https://yesmeanstest.org/
Healthcare is a universal right. Many people have difficulty accessing healthcare because of the cost of insurance and of services as well as where services are offered. Interested in finding a testing center near you? https://yesmeanstest.org/