Promoting Sexual Health Through STI Prevention

Sexually transmitted infections or STIs refer to infections that can be spread by sexual contact, especially when people practice unprotected sex. Even skin-to-skin contact, although not typically thought of as sexual activity, can also enable transmission.

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control, about 20 million STI cases are diagnosed every year in the country. This is despite the fact that STIs are preventable.

Mindfulness on sexual health as well as using the necessary protection may help keep these infections at bay.

Still, if one were to look for a guaranteed way to avoid getting these infections, abstaining from all types of sexual contact is the key. However, if one were to engage in any sexual activity and there is a risk of contracting STIs, it is important to take precautionary measures to limit the risks.

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What Can You Do to Prevent Sexually Transmitted Infections?

The best way to prevent STI infections is to make sure that the necessary protections are already put in place before engaging in sexual activities. Among the things you can do to reduce your risk of getting STIs are:

  • Getting tested before engaging in your first intercourse. This includes your partner too.
  • Being honest and direct with potential sexual partners about your sexual behaviors and history.
  • Avoiding any types of sexual contact if you’re intoxicated (under the effect of drugs or alcohol). Using substances puts us at a higher risk of engaging in risky behaviors. 
  • Using PrEp or pre-exposure prophylaxis. This is a medication that people who are negative with HIV can take to further reduce their chances of becoming HIV-infected.
  • Using barrier methods when engaging in sexual activity of any kind.
  • Getting vaccinated against hepatitis A, the human papillomavirus or HPV and HBV or hepatitis B.

Opening the communication lines with your partner about both of your sexual health can make all the difference. Unfortunately, not everybody who is infected with STIs is aware that they have it. This is where getting tested comes into play.  

In the event that you or your partner get diagnosed with an STI, then make sure to talk about it. This ensures that both of you will be able to make informed decisions.  

When using any barrier method including condoms, always make sure to follow the instructions to the tee. The effectiveness of these barriers will be even more increased when they are used correctly. When using external or internal condoms, be sure to follow these precautions:

  • Make sure that it isn’t expired.
  • Check that there is an air bubble in the packaging, so you are sure that it’s not punctured.
  • Put it on correctly.
  • When using an external condom, be sure to leave enough room at the tip. Be sure to unroll it onto the penis or the sex toy you are using and not only before it actually goes on.
  • Always use lubricants that have been identified as condom-safe. Oil-based lubes are a huge no-no for latex condoms.
  • Be sure to hold onto the condom after sexual contact to prevent it from slipping off.
  • Make sure that the condom is disposed of properly.
  • Removing a condom and then trying to put it on again is a big no.
  • Condoms should never be reused.

When engaged in any sexual activity, using barrier methods can help reduce your risk of sexually transmitted infections. You can use:

  • Internal or external condoms for any type of penetrative intercourse. This includes the use of sex toys.
  • Dental dams or condoms when engaging in oral sex.
  • Gloves for performing manual penetration or stimulation.

Proper hygiene before and after any sexual contact can also help against the transmission of STIs. This includes:

  • Properly washing your hands before engaging in an activity of sexual nature.
  • Urinating after sexual activity (this can help you avoid UTIs or urinary tract infections).
  • Rinsing off the genitals or other body parts after engaging in sex.

Condoms and other types of sexual barriers are designed to help prevent bodily fluids that may contain bacteria and viruses from getting exchanged during the sexual act. They are also effective at keeping skin-to-skin contact minimal. Despite this, it is also important to note that they do not, in any way, eliminate risks 100%.

Sexually transmitted infections that can be contracted this way include:

  • Herpes
  • HPV
  • Syphilis 

If you are diagnosed with herpes, it is always best to talk to your doctor about potentially undergoing suppressive therapy. This therapy is aimed at preventing herpes outbreaks. But while it is effective in preventing transmission, it is important to remember that it does not cure the infection. It’s also worth noting that herpes transmission can still happen even when there isn’t any active outbreak.

STIs are common these days but reducing your risk if not fully preventing them is more than possible. If you’re not sure which methods are right for you, it doesn’t hurt to discuss the matter openly with your partner so you can both decide together. You can also consult your doctor to help you make an informed decision, especially if you engage in sexual intercourse with multiple sexual partners.