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Five ways to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections

Posted on: November 29, 2018

Nobody wants a rash on their private parts. Obviously. But sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause a lot more damage than that. Some of them can lead to ongoing health issues, infertility or even death. Here’s what you can do to protect yourself.

Just like their name says, STIs are infections that are transmitted from one person to another when they have unprotected sex. According to the World Health Organization, there are more than 30 different viruses, bacteria and parasites known to be transmitted by sexual contact; some by the exchange of bodily fluids, others through skin-to-skin contact. Each year, an estimated 357 million people newly contract one of these four STIs: chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and trichomoniasis.Even though many of those diseases have mild symptoms—like blisters or a burning sensation during urination—or no symptoms at all, the consequences can be severe. What’s more, for some infections such as HIV or herpes there is no cure. Here’s what you can do to stay safe and protect yourself against STIs:

1. Use a condom. Always.

One way to protect yourself from STIs is to not have sex. Well. Tricky. Luckily, there’s a plan B and it is super simple: use a condom. It’s the only contraceptive method that can protect you and your partner from getting infections that are spread through bodily fluids. A condom can also protect you from infections that are transmitted from skin to skin, but only if it covers the affected areas.

2. Get tested. Both of you.

As some STIs have no or only mild symptoms they can go unnoticed for quite a while. If untreated, some of these infections can lead to long term health issues or even infertility. On top of that, undetected STIs might be passed on to other people as well. Before you sleep with a new person, it’s best to make sure that you are both healthy and have nothing to worry about. If you have cause for concern, talk to your healthcare provider and get tested. It might be scary at first but it is much better to know for sure what’s happening to your body and how to treat it in case something is wrong.

3. Choose your partner(s) carefully.

Theoretically, the more people you sleep with, the higher your risk is of getting or passing on an STI. It’s simple math. Obviously, this doesn’t mean that you have to live monogamously if you don’t want to. Who you sleep with is your decision alone. But in order to stay safe it’s best to choose people who you can have an honest and open conversation with about contraception as well as protection from STIs, and who get themselves tested regularly.

4. Don’t mix sex with alcohol or drugs

Let’s face it. People tend to lose control when they’re drunk or on drugs. Having unprotected sex may have serious consequences, which you might regret for the rest of your life. So take it easy and stay in control of your body. Some decisions are best made sober, particularly those involving sex and contraception. Be prepared and think about how you want to protect yourself before you head out to a party. Our quiz can help you decide which contraceptive method is right for you. 

5. Do not douche.

It may sound weird but too much hygiene and too few bacteria can actually be a risk factor. One example of that is specifically designed shower gels called vaginal douches which girls can use to wash their private parts. There’s nothing wrong with keeping clean but these douches can remove some of the natural bacteria in the vagina that protect girls from infection. That’s why douching can increase your risk of getting STIs.

Further information about STIs



A coalition of international partners with an interest in sexual and reproductive health