Safe sex is more than a physical act. It involves the decision to have sex in a responsible way to avoid becoming infected with or transmitting a sexually transmitted infections (STI).
In the United States, an estimated 19 million new cases of STIs are reported each year. STIs do not discriminate by gender, age, ethnic group or economic background.
The most reliable way to avoid joining those numbers is not to have sex, also known as abstinence.
For most people, however, abstinence is not an option or lifelong goal. When this is the case, sexually active people must rely on “safe sex” practices.
- Talk with your partner before the passion of intimacy distracts you from asking important health-saving questions.
- You owe it to yourself and your partner/s to learn as much about STI symptoms as possible.
- Don’t have sex if you have genital sores, warts, itching or sores in your mouth.
- Avoid any exchange of bodily fluids such as semen, vaginal secretions or blood during sex (anal, oral or vaginal).
- See your doctor to get checked for STIs if you have any concerns about your risk or the risk of your partner(s).
Although people in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner have a very low risk of STIs, infections may sometimes be passed from partner to partner unknowingly. So make sure you are always prepared.
No matter the form of intercourse, remember, safe sex always requires thinking and preparing before acting.
|If you practice: Then:|
|Vaginal sex||Use a condom every time you have sex, unless you have only one partner and you both have been tested for STIs. Latex condoms offer the best protection against STIs. Learn to use them correctly. Use a new condom for each individual act.|
|Oral sex to a male||Use a condom for each act, unless you have only one partner and you both have been tested for STIs. Latex condoms offer the best protection against STIs. Learn to use them correctly. Infections that can be transmitted by oral sex include herpes, gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, some forms of hepatitis and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). It is possible to transmit herpes during kissing, oral-genital sex, or skin contact between an open sore and broken skin. It is also possible to transmit gonorrhea to the throat during oral sex.|
|Oral sex to a female||Use a dental dam, a thin sheet of latex placed over the vagina, clitoris and anus prior to oral sex. Female condoms, also known as “intravaginal pouches” or “vaginal condoms,” are made of polyurethane and cover the vaginal walls, cervix and a small portion of the external genitalia. They are useful but do not cover as broad an area as the dental dam. Protection against infection using these devices depends on proper placement and consistent use.|
|Anal sex||Always use a condom for each act of intercourse. Latex condoms offer the best protection against STIs. Learn to use them correctly. Use a new condom for each individual act.|
10 Questions to Ask Your New Partner before Having Sex
You may find it difficult to talk about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) while you are just getting to know someone intimately. Nevertheless, you should ask the following questions before you have sex to reduce your risk of getting infected. Consider printing the list and keeping it in your wallet or pocketbook.
- Are you having sex with anyone else?
- How many sexual partners have you had?
- Have you ever had an STD?
- Have you ever had a sexual partner who had HIV or another STD?
- How long has it been since you’ve been tested for HIV and other STDs?
- How many sexual partners have you had since then?
- Have you ever had genital ulcers or warts?
- Do you have any STD symptoms — ulcers, warts, vaginal or penile discharge?
- Do you know how to tell if you are infected with an STD?
- Do you prefer getting tested for HIV and other STDs, and then having a monogamous relationship, or using condoms each time we have sex?