Let’s get straight to the facts–there are over 20 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the US every year.
Add this figure to existing cases and we’re looking at 110 million total STDs among Americans. And those are only the reported cases.
But drawing attention to these stats isn’t meant to put you off having sex. Sex is good for the mind, body, and soul. Which is why we need to take better care of our bodies by following safe sex practices.
Read on to find out how to practice safer sex and cut your risk of getting STDs.
If you’re prepared to have sex with someone you should be prepared to talk about sex with them in an open and honest way before anyone gets naked.
Talking to your partner(s), and asking them questions like ‘what is safer sex to you?’ can help you both discover information that will help inform the decisions you make within your sexual partnership.
The kinds of things you need to talk about include protection, sex outside your relationship, and whether they’ve been tested for STDs. If you’re not on the same page about these issues, you’ll need to negotiate what sexual activities (if any) you’ll do. This is all part of healthy sexual communication, which is always the first step of a safe and healthy sex practice.
Birth control methods like the contraceptive pill and the coil might help you avoid pregnancy but they do not protect you from STDs.
Unless you’re in a monogamous relationship and have both tested negative for all STDs, the only way to protect yourself and your partner is by using a barrier.
Barriers, such as condoms, gloves, and dental dams, prevent the bacteria and viruses that cause STDs from spreading during sexual activity. Barriers also help to cut the risk of spreading STDs like genital warts and genital herpes, which you can transmit by simple skin to skin contact.
But it’s vital to always follow the instructions to ensure you use condoms and other barriers for safer sex in the correct way. This includes holding onto the condom when withdrawing and never reusing a condom.
Making the decision to have sex with someone under the influence of alcohol or drugs often makes safe sex less of the priority it should be. This is especially the case with new partners as you might not have discussed your preferences with them yet.
You may have the best intentions about practicing safe sex. But it’s harder to make good decisions or stick to your principles after drinking too much.
Try to keep a clear head if there is a possibility that you’ll have sex that night. And, if you’re socializing with a new partner, make sure to talk about safer sex practices with them before you start drinking.
If you have an active sex life, and especially if you have multiple partners, you need to watch out for common signs and symptoms and get tested if you spot any.
But, many people with common STDs such as chlamydia present no symptoms at all. This is why you should have regular tests regardless of whether you have any symptoms. But how often is regular?
This depends a lot on your level of sexual activity. The CDC recommends getting tested once a year for various STDs. And some doctors recommend you get tested every six months if you’re having casual sex with multiple partners.
That said, if you care about maintaining good sexual health and you don’t always practice safer sex then you might want to get tested more often. A good method is to make a rule about testing and then sticking to it. For example, you might want to get tested after every three new partners.
You can get vaccinated against some STDs, including hepatitis B and the human papillomavirus (HPV). Getting vaccinated is a surefire way to reduce your chance of getting infected. That said, you will still need to be vigilant when protecting yourself against the many STDs that have no vaccine.
While some people might think it’s fine to limit yourself to oral sex as a way to avoid STDs, that’s not the case. STDs aren’t only passed along through penetrative sex. You can get gonorrhea, chlamydia, HPV, and more from oral sex alone.
And, around 80 percent of Americans have oral herpes and 20 percent have genital herpes. As such, it’s more likely to contract something through oral sex than you might expect.
To avoid getting infected, wait until you’ve seen your partner’s STD screening results before any kind of oral sexual activity. Or, stick to sexual acts that ensure you’re both protected, such as penetrative sex with a condom.
It might sound obvious but STDs don’t go away on their own like the common cold. While you shouldn’t feel ashamed if you get an STD, if there’s a cure, you have to get treated.
Not only does avoiding treatment make it likely that you’ll pass on the STD, but some untreated STDs can also lead to complications, including infertility. Then, once you’ve finished the treatment, you’ll need to go for further tests to ensure you’re free from infection.
There are also some STDs, such as genital herpes or warts, which often recur after treatment. When it comes to the latter, make sure you and your partners take the necessary treatments to manage further outbreaks. For example, if you have the herpes virus you should take a suppressive antiviral drug to avoid passing it on to other people.
As this guide shows, there’s no need to resign yourself to a life of abstinence if you want to avoid getting an STD.
By communicating and making smart choices when it comes to sex practices, you and your sexual partners will enjoy a better, safer sex life.
For the added peace of mind of an all-clear STD test, find out where your nearest rapid testing center is today!