Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are spread by
sexual contact involving the genitals, mouth, or rectum, and can also be spread
from a pregnant woman to her fetus before or during delivery. STIs, which
affect both men and women, are a worldwide public health concern.
Some STIs, such as HIV, can
take up to 6 months before they can be detected in the blood. Genital herpes
and the human papillomavirus (HPV) can be spread when symptoms are not present.
Even if you and your partner have been tested, use condoms for all sex until
you and your partner haven't had sex with another person for 6 months. Then get
symptoms of STIs, such as unusual discharge, sores,
redness, or growths in your and your partner's genital area, or pain while
Don't have more than one sex partner at a time. The
safest sex is with one partner who has sex only with you. Every time you add a
new sex partner, you are being exposed to all of the diseases that all of their
partners may have. Your risk for an STI increases if you have several sex
partners at the same time.
Use a condom every time you have sex. A condom is the best way
to protect yourself from STIs. Latex and polyurethane condoms do not let STI
viruses pass through, so they offer good protection from STIs. Condoms made
from sheep intestines do not protect against STIs.
water-based lubricant such as K-Y Jelly or Astroglide to help prevent tearing
of the skin if there is a lack of lubrication during sexual intercourse. Small
tears in the vagina during vaginal sex or in the rectum during anal sex allow
STI bacteria or viruses to get into your blood.
Avoid douching if you are a woman,
because it can change the normal balance of organisms in the vagina and
increases the risk of getting an STI.
Be responsible. Avoid sexual
contact if you have symptoms of an infection or if you are being treated for an
STI, such as HIV. If you or your partner has herpes, avoid sexual contact when a
blister is present and use condoms at all other times.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.