Everyone who is sexually active is at risk for getting a sexually transmitted disease (STD). In fact, STDs seem so widespread that some health organizations predict nearly everyone could have an STD in their lifetime. The Guttmacher Institute reports that each year 1 in 4 teens contracts an STD. Untreated STDs can cause chronic conditions that could ultimately lead to infertility.
Practicing safe sex allows you to reduce your risks of getting an STD. Safe sex is not intended to eliminate spontaneity and passion, but is a way of enjoying sex without giving or getting STDs. It shows respect for yourself and your partner, and it must be practiced each and every time you have a sexual encounter.
Some ideas to make sex safer for you and your partner:
- COMMUNICATE: Talk before you become sexually active, and decide what you feel comfortable with and what precautions you will take. Some activities such as kissing are lower-risk activities than vaginal or anal intercourse.
- Talk about getting tested before having sex. You or your partner may have an STD with no symptoms, especially if you have had unprotected sex in the past. This month, Planned Parenthood Arizona is offering coupons for discounted STD screening in observance of STD Awareness Month.
- Decide if you will have a monogamous relationship, that is you will only have sex with each other. This can lower your risk of getting an STD.
- Use latex or polyurethane condoms. They significantly lower the risk of STDs when used consistently. Never use a condom twice. If you are worried about bringing up the use of condoms, just remember how serious the consequences can be if you contract an infection. And often it only takes one time!
- Use latex dams or dental dams during oral sex to reduce risk of transmitting STDs.
- Learn about the symptoms of STDs and get to a health care provider if you think you may have one. Remember, some people have no symptoms, so if your partner tells you he or she has an STD, get yourself tested.
- Do not use alcohol or recreational drugs in situations where you may have sex. They can interfere with your ability to make good decisions.
- Consider getting vaccinated. Human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis A and hepatitis B viruses are transmitted sexually and can be prevented with vaccines.
Planned Parenthood can provide more information about safe-sex practices and has health care providers experienced in prevention, testing, and treatment. You can visit a Planned Parenthood health center, as well as other clinics, health departments, and private health care providers for more information on safe sex.