The best protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is abstinence, not having sex at all (i.e., vaginal, anal, or oral). Many people choose abstinence until they are married or in a committed relationship. Many people find that they can be abstinent, but many others find that they cannot. If you choose to be sexually active, there are things you can do to make sex safer for you and your partner(s).
Monogamy, or having sex with only one partner who is only having sex with you, is the next best thing to abstinence. If you choose monogamy as a way to reduce your risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection, you and your partner should be screened for STIs and HIV before you begin having unprotected sex. Unprotected sex means sex without a barrier method such as male condoms, female condoms and dental dams. If you are in a monogamous relationship but don't know whether or not your sex partner has a sexually transmitted infection, consider using barrier methods.
Remember, for monogamy to protect you against STIs, you need to be 100% sure that your partner isn't having sex with anyone else. It is important to have an open and honest conversation with your partner.
Couples that are concerned about unplanned pregnancy should still use another method of contraception ("birth control") even if there is no risk of STI or HIV transmission.
Condoms? Dental Dams? Barrier Methods?
Barrier methods are an effective way to reduce your risk of contracting HIV or a sexually transmitted infection when they are used consistently (EVERY TIME YOU HAVE SEX) and correctly.
Condoms can and should be used for vaginal, anal and oral sex. There are currently two types of condoms available. A third barrier method availabe is the dental dam.
The male condom is a sheath that covers a man's penis to prevent the exchange of body fluids during sexual acts. Male condoms are made of latex, polyurethane or natural animal skin. All types of male condoms will reduce the risk of unplanned pregnancy. However, only latex or polyurethane condoms, NOT natural skin condoms, will reduce the risk of STI and HIV transmission.
The female condom is a polyurethane pouch that fits inside a woman's vagina to prevent the exchange of body fluids. Initially some women find it awkward, but many appreciate the fact that it allows them to take control of their own health and safety.
A dental dam is a square piece of latex that is placed over the vulva or anus during oral sex to prevent contact with body fluids. If dental dams are not available, condoms can be cut length-wise and used as a barrier. Another inexpensive alternative is non-microwavable plastic wrap.
Whichever you choose, it is important that you use a new barrier for each sex act. Using a water-based lubricant like K-Y Jelly, AstroGlide, Probe etc., can make barrier methods more pleasurable and decrease the chance of breakage. NEVER use an oil-based lubricant like petroleum jelly, vegetable oil or hand and body lotion with a latex barrier, as it causes erosion, decreasing their effectiveness and increasing the chance of breakage.
Some condoms come pre-lubricated. Non-oxynol 9, a spermicide found on some pre-lubricated condoms and in some lubricants, should not be used if you are concerned about preventing the transmission of STIs.
Stop by any of the Milwaukee Health Department Health Clinics to pick up free condoms and learn how to use them correctly!
It's Your Body - Be Responsible
Your sexual health is in your hands. You have the power to make informed choices that promote sexual health and responsibility.
- Don't have sex while you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Being drunk or high increases the chances that you will make dangerous choices, such as not using barrier methods, or using them incorrectly.
- Ask questions about your partner's sexual and drug use history BEFORE you decide to have sex.
- Avoid having sex with anonymous partners.
- Avoid exchanging sex for drugs or money.
- Know your status? Get tested for STIs and HIV. Find infomation here.
For more information about anything you have seen on this web page, contact Keenan Central Health Clinic at (414) 286-3631.