Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are, as the name suggests, infections that are spread by sex or sexual contact. Some are easy to get rid of and some you can’t get rid of but you can get treatment. Protect yourself against STIs by doing these tips below:
Condoms are probably the easiest way to protect yourself against STIs.
The top reason we hear from people on why they don’t use condoms is that they don’t feel as good. Did you know that we have super thin ones available at our groups? We also have ribs and dots, flavours, cooling, heating – loads of different fun options (as well as latex free for those with a latex allergy). Sex with a condom is a lot more enjoyable than getting an STI!
Don’t forget that you can get an STI from oral sex too so pop a condom on before giving someone a blowjob.
Dental dams are little sheets of latex that you can use when rimming someone or giving oral sex to someone with a vagina. STIs can be spread by oral sex, as well as some bacterial infections (like shigella), so using a dental dam is an easy way to massively reduce this risk.
Use internal condoms
As well as external condoms (the ones you're probably familiar with which go on a penis), there are also internal condoms. These line the vagina which protects against pregnancy and reduces the risk of getting an STI. These aren’t as easy to get hold of as external condoms and are a little less effective so you’re probably best off with external condoms.
Internal condoms were not designed for anal use but some people use them this way and the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV say that they can be used for anal sex. If you're interested in using internal condoms for anal sex, read up more on this here.
You can’t use an internal and external condom together.
Wash sex toys between partners (or pop a condom on it)
STIs can be spread by sharing sex toys. If you’re sharing a sex toy, you should either pop a condom on it for each new partner, or give it a good wash between each partner.
Don’t have sex with sores
If you or a partner has visible sores around their genitals, mouth or anal area, you should avoid having sex or sexual contact. Yes, it’s not ideal, but even with a condom some STIs, like genital herpes and syphilis, can be passed through skin-to-skin contact with the sores. If you’re super horny you could always try mutual masturbation – it can be really hot and has no STI risk!
Communicate with partners
Talk to your partner(s) about STIs, sexual health and contraception use before having sex. This isn’t always reliable as you never know if someone is lying but it’s good to open up communication about sexual health nonetheless.
Know about PEP
Post-exposure Prophylaxis (PEP or PEPSE) is a month-long course of HIV drugs that someone takes very soon after sex which had a risk of HIV transmission. The drugs are the same ones taken by people with HIV. PEP is an emergency measure to be used as a last resort, e.g. if a condom breaks or you have a ‘slip up’ from your usual safer sex routine. PEP is free of charge but can only be prescribed by doctors and if certain criteria are met. Sexual health and HIV clinics can provide it, as can A&E departments of hospitals.
If left untreated, STIs can cause serious health problems. If you think you may have an STI, visit the sexual health clinic at Cobridge Community Health Centre for a full sexual health check-up.