While it is near impossible to have entirely safe sex with another person, there are several things you can do to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Let’s discuss how to avoid catching an unwanted infection.

Catching or transmitting an STI is easier than you may realise at first. Understanding how to prevent STIs is important for protecting your long-term health and that of others.

So, how can you prevent an STI?

1. Condoms

Condoms are the most common barrier method used to prevent STIs, as well as pregnancy. Although using a condom will not provide complete protection, it is always a good idea to use one, especially if you do not know your partner’s sexual history.

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2. Honest conversations with partners

Openly discussing your sexual history with a partner before engaging in sexual activity allows you to find out whether your partner has recently had an STI test or not. This may feel uncomfortable at the time, but it will prevent awkward conversations in the future and, more importantly, protect both your and your partners’ health.

3. Regular STI testing

Frequent testing helps to prevent leaving an infection undetected and passing an STI on to a partner, therefore reducing the overall incidence of infections. In many cases, regular STI testing helps to detect an STI early on, which prevents an infection advancing to a later stage where it may cause irreversible damage. Better2Know can help you to get tested for STIs in confidence.

4. Having sex with one partner

When practised faithfully, a monogamous relationship is normally very safe, as long as both people have been tested for STIs. Having an STI test at the beginning of a new relationship, and encouraging your partner to have one too, ensures that you can enter the relationship feeling confident about your sexual health status.

5. Be careful when under the influence of alcohol

It is important to remember that if you drink alcohol or take drugs your judgement may be impaired and your ability to resist having unsafe sex may be reduced. If you do engage in risky sex, you should get tested for STIs as soon as possible.

6. Vaccines

The HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV which are responsible for most HPV-related cancers and diseases, including cervical cancer (types 16 and 18) and genital warts (types 6 and 11). There are also vaccines available for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B. Being vaccinated will help to protect against these infections, but not other STIs. Therefore, practising safer sex is always advised.

7. PEP and PrEP

Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) are treatments taken by those who do not have a current HIV infection to provide protection against the virus. PEP is taken following potential exposure to the virus, while PrEP is taken before engaging in risky sex with a partner who has HIV. Find out more about PEP and PrEP.

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