9 ways to protect yourself from STDs
Maybe contracting a sexually transmitted disease is at the bottom of your health concerns list. But perhaps it should be near the top. The statistics on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are alarming. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than half of all people will have an STD at some point in their lifetime. Rough estimates show that there are 19.7 million people who are diagnosed with new STDs every year in the U.S. The problem with STDs is that anyone can become infected through sexual intercourse with an infected person. In addition, changing sexual partners increases the risk of becoming infected.
Even though some STDs may be asymptomatic, meaning without any outward symptoms, many others can cause serious health complications including infertility.
In order reduce the incidence of contracting an STD, there are certain steps everyone should practice to reduce their risk. Here are 9 ways you can lower your chances of getting an STD:
The most effective and for sure way to avoid getting an STD is to not have sex or to remain celibate. However, this is a choice most people are unwilling to make. But beginning a sexual relationship with someone should not be taken lightly. Until both partners are ready to commit themselves exclusively to one another in a monogamous committed relationship, sex should be avoided. The practice of abstinence does not mean a couple cannot have a close relationship as there are other ways to show affection such as hugging or kissing.
2. Every time you have sex, it must be safe
It only takes one time of unsafe sex for someone to contract an STD. Why take any chances? Make it a rule that no matter what, you will always have safe sex. This means whether you have intercourse of anal or vaginal sex, you will always use a condom. A barrier method such as a condom, even though not 100% foolproof against an STD, if used properly and consistently, they are highly effective in reducing the risk of spreading sexually transmitted infections.
Condoms are especially effective at preventing STDs that are transmitted through bodily fluids, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. But they provide less protection against STDs spread through skin-to-skin contact such as human papillomavirus (genital warts), genital herpes, and syphilis.
3. Be in a mutually monogamous relationship
If you limit having sex to only one person, and you both have been tested for STDs and are healthy, then there is no opportunity to bring in a new STD into the relationship. When in a mutually monogamous relationship it means security from contracting an STD. It also means you are practicing safe sex by limiting yourself to just one sexual partner greatly reducing the likelihood of the wrath of an STD.
4. Get tested on a regular basis
Not only should you be tested regularly but this also includes your partner too. Consistency in being tested for STDs can help to prevent but also catch one at an early, more treatable stage of an STD. It is strongly advised before starting a new sexual relationship, that both partners be tested for STDs. Until you get the results back, refrain from engaging in sex.
5. Before you have sex, talk with your partner
This is a very important step in any new relationship. It may feel uncomfortable bringing up the subject of safe sex but very necessary. All strong relationships involve open, honest, and clear communication which includes talking about sex and STDs. If this is not possible or one partner is unwilling to do this, than it is probably best to get out of the relationship.
6. Avoid drugs or drinking
Anyone under the influence of drugs or alcohol will have a very difficult time making wise decisions, especially when it comes to sex. A person is more like to give in to sex or not using a condom after they have had a few drinks or smoking weed. To avoid this situation, make a promise to yourself to not engage in these activities. Ask a friend to help you keep this promise by helping you stick to your plan.
7. You have the right to say no
Remember, it’s your choice to say yes to sex but it’s also your choice to say no. Having sex is a decision in which both partners should be comfortable with and agreeable to. If a person does not respect your decision to not have sex with them, then they are someone you shouldn’t be seeing to begin with. On the other hand, if your partner says no, respect their decision also.
8. Be responsible for your own health
No one is responsible for your health and well-being except you. That includes your sexual health. This means if there is a chance you will end up having sex with someone, you must take measures to protect yourself by carrying a condom with you. This applies to both women and men. Do not depend on a man carrying a condom with him. If neither one of you have a condom, then sex should be delayed until a time when a condom is available.
9. Limit sexual partners
With each new person you have sex with you increase your risk of being exposed to an STD. Limiting the number of sexual partners is a good thing as all of us need to be selective in choosing who we decide to be intimate with. It is recommended to have criteria of what you expect in an intimate relationship such as exclusive monogamy, regular STD testing, waiting to have sex until truly ready and always using a condom. The best partner to be with is someone who shares your same sexual values.
- More than half of all people will have an STD/STI at some point in their lifetime.
- Recent estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Infection show that there are 19.7 million new STIs every year in the U.S.2