Despite the spreading awareness and education about sexually transmitted infections and diseases, research reports indicate that many people still engage in risk behaviors and experience negative outcomes. You might be surprised to learn that the AIDS diagnosis for American boys aged 15 to 19 years is today nearly double of what it was a decade ago. The rate of syphilis and other sexually transmitted infections is also rising.
Here are 7 ways to help you protect yourself from STIs and lead at healthy life.
- Practice abstinence or no-risk sexual activity
The best way to avoid any risk of contracting an STI is to abstain from sex. If you’re not sure about your partner or your relationship, the safest choice is simply not to have sex. But remember that not all sexual behaviors put you at the risk of contracting an STI.
Any activity that doesn’t include blood, pre-ejaculate fluid, or semen transmitted from one person to another is considered safe. That’s why alternative activities such as kissing, hugging, sex toys, or masturbation carry very little risk.
Before any skin to skin contact, make sure that the person does not have any sores or lesions in their genital area. Contact with such a lesion can result in easier transmitting or acquiring of an STI. That’s why adult circumcision is beneficial for reducing the risk of STDs in men.
- Make a conscious decision
Make decisions about sex while you are sober and not influenced by any substances such as alcohol or drugs. Using these substances before sexual activity might decrease your inhibitions and impact your decision or ability to negotiate safe sex. Ensure that your partner knows your limits for sexual activity if you’re planning to use such substances.
- Discuss it with your partner
It takes two to tango so make sure to openly communicate with your sex partner and talk to them about your fears or concerns. Safer sex choices are in the interest of both of you. That’s why you should decide together what you’re both comfortable with. It’s smart to advise your partners and get tested for STIs before engaging in unprotected vaginal, oral, or anal sex.
- Use protection
If you decide to have sex, remember to always use a latex condom. Using a condom or other barriers will significantly reduce the risk for transmitting or acquiring STIs.
- Safe oral sex
It might come as a surprise but giving or receiving oral sex without any barrier might transmit STIs, for instance, syphilis, hepatitis B, herpes simplex virus, HPV, or chlamydia.
While the risk of transmitting or acquiring HIV during oral sex is low, it might be more risky to give oral sex in this context.
Why is oral sex risky at all? The risk is increased if there are any sores, lesions, burns, or bleeding gums in the mouth and the pre-ejaculatory fluid or semen gets in touch with them. Eating foods like chips or popcorn might create small lesions inside your mouth and increase the risk of transmitting or acquiring STIs through oral sex.
- Safe anal sex
Since tissues in the rectum are very delicate and may tear easily, that area is far more susceptible to transmitting or acquiring STIs than any other. That’s why condoms are recommended to reduce the risk of STI transmission. Make sure to use a water-based lubricant as well – that’s how you reduce tissue damage. Using these and other protective barriers is a smart move.
- Needles and drugs
If you or any of your partners use drugs, you should discuss whether they practice safer injections or if anyone uses shared needles. Safer injections mean that a person is not sharing needles or any other drug equipment. That’s the best way to prevent transmitting or acquiring STIs like the hepatitis B and C, or HIV.
If you touch needles or such equipment, make sure to clean your hands and never reuse the equipment. If you or your partners have any piercings or tattoos, or have had manicures and pedicures, you still might transmit or acquire STIs during sexual activity.
Manicures, pedicures, piercing, and tattooing all pose a risk of transmitting infections such as hepatitis B and C or HIV if the needle or other equipment are shared or not properly sterilized. Most businesses that provide these services make sure that the equipment is safe and need to pass regular health unit inspections. But it’s good to know that the risk of contracting an STI comes not only from sexual activity.
Use these 7 ways to practice safer sex and you will be on your way to promoting a healthy lifestyle and raising the awareness among your partners.
David Beeshaw is a writer and a blogger at raTrust – a non-profit organization which helps those at risk of STIs and HIV. David is also a staunch supporter of physical activities and a healthy lifestyle, promoting sports and movement whenever and wherever he can.