Sex serves many purposes. It can provide intimacy, pleasure and procreation. Yet, sexual activity can lead to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), some of which are treatable and some are incurable. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that there are 20 million new sexually transmitted infections each year. These include chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes, the human papillomavirus (HPV), HIV and viral hepatitis.
The only way to completely avoid contracting an STD is to not have sex. If that is not an option, then consider taking these steps before you and your partner have sex:
- Have your healthcare provider screen you for all STDs and ask about vaccines, particularly hepatitis A, B and HPV.
- Always use condoms correctly during sex, especially intercourse, and to be extra safe, do not have your partner ejaculate inside you, even with a condom.
- Get routinely screened for STDs, approximately every 3-6 months.
- If you are in a monogamous relationship, this substantially decreases your risk of acquiring an STD, but remember, just because you’re monogamous doesn’t mean your partner is. Be sure to have frank discussions about sex and get tested for STDs and pregnancy routinely.
- Remember, oral birth control does not protect you from STDs. You still need to use a barrier method.
- If you contract an STD, seek treatment immediately and inform your partner.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs. The risk of unprotected sex increase with their use.
- If an “accident” occurs during intercourse (condom breaks) seek out medical attention immediately, especially if you suspect you’ve been exposed to HIV.
- Talk to your doctor about HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis and HIV Post-Exposure Prophylaxis especially if you are in a sero-different relationship (one partner is HIV positive and the other is HIV negative).