Understanding & Reducing the Risk of STIs
It doesn’t matter whether or not you are sexually active, who it’s with, or how often—everyone needs to understand STIs and how to avoid them.
What are STIs/STDs?
How are STIs transmitted?
STIs are very common. Having one does not make you a bad person. Regardless of gender or sexual orientation, anyone who is sexually active can get an STI.
Reducing Your Risk
Protection for Vaginal & Anal Sex
Male (external) condoms and female (internal) condoms are the only methods that can reduce the risk of both STIs and pregnancy. The best way to lower your risk of STIs—other than not engaging in sexual activity—is to wear a condom. Every. Single. Time. Most male (external) condoms are made of a material called latex. For people who are allergic to latex, they’re also available in other materials, and female (internal) condoms are not made of latex.
Remember, use one condom for each sex act (for example, switching between vaginal and anal sex) and never use two at once. Condoms are easy to get and often free.
How To: Male (External) Condom
Pinch tip to remove air and leave room for cum. If condom doesn’t roll down, it’s backwards. Throw it out and get a new one.
Make sure the condom doesn’t come off and that nothing leaks when you pull out. Remove, twist, and throw away.
A Few Things to Keep In Mind About Male (External) Condoms
Lubricant (lube) is good. Most condoms are lubricated. You never want a condom to dry out. Dry condoms break easily. If you buy lube make sure it’s water-based like KY Jelly. Never use oil-based lube like Vaseline, baby oil, or lotion—these can break condoms.
Never use two condoms at once. Friction between the condoms will break both condoms. Never use two male condoms at once and never use a male condom and a female condom together.
One condom for every sex act. That means if you are having sex and you stop but then you start again, get a new condom. Or, if you are having sex in one part of the body and switch to another part (like you are having vaginal sex and switch to anal sex) get a new condom.
Most condoms are made of a rubber material called latex. For people who are allergic to latex, there are other materials (like polyurethane) that protect against STIs. You may have heard of natural membrane condoms (like lambskin) – those do not protect against STIs.
Store condoms in a cool, dry place. Condoms should never be kept somewhere too cold or too hot like the glove compartment of your car (or your wallet for more than a day).
How To: Female (Internal) Condom
Squeeze the inside ring and put it into the vagina, using your fingers to push in the rest of the material. It should feel comfortable. The outside ring stays on the outside of the body.
Twist the condom so no fluids can leak out, gently pull it out, and throw it away.
A Few Things to Keep In Mind About Female Condoms
The expiration date is NOT on the back. This condom lists two dates inside the fold on one side of the package. “MFG” is the date the condom was manufactured. “EXP” is the date when the condom expires.
Female (internal) condoms can be used for anal sex. If you’re using this condom for anal sex, remove the inner ring before putting it in your body. However, since there isn’t much evidence about female condoms right now, we’re not sure just how effective they are at reducing a person’s chance of getting an STI.
It gives you more coverage. Because the outer ring coves more of your skin, it offers a little more protection against STIs that are spread through skin-to-skin contact, like HPV and herpes.
Female (internal) condoms give you control. You can wear an internal condom even if the person you’re having sex with won’t wear a condom.
Never use an external condom and an internal condom together. Friction between the condoms will break both condoms.
This condom is not made of latex. It’s good for people who are allergic.
Protection for Oral Sex
Flavored condoms are meant for oral sex.
Testing is not a big deal. Make it a part of your health routine, like going to the doctor for a checkup. It’s often free, very accessible, and always confidential. It’s very important to get treated if you have one of these STIs. Find a clinic near you.
Think ahead. Use condoms every time you have sex. If you are having vaginal sex, use condoms plus another method of birth control. Condoms are easy to get, and often free. Check your school-based health center, if you have one, and check here for a list of other Chicago locations.
It can be awkward, but it’s really important. Get tips on how to have that discussion. If you have an infection, you should also talk to anyone you’ve had sex with in the past. Your healthcare provider can provide fast and easy treatment (known as EPT or expedited partner therapy) for anyone you’ve had sex with who may have the infection too.
You cannot get chlamydia or gonorrhea from kissing, sitting on a toilet seat, a swimming pool, or sharing clothes.
The only way you can get one of these STIs is through sexual activity.
The only way to treat an STI is to get proper medication from your doctor or healthcare provider. Douching, or squirting water into the vagina or anus, can actually be harmful to your health.
If you treat chlamydia or gonorrhea, how do you know it actually went away?
Treatment is very effective, as long as you and the person you are sexually active with have both been tested and treated. Take all the medication as directed and ask your doctor or healthcare provider if you have any questions.
All condoms go through the same testing process by the FDA before they are distributed. Some brands just spend more money on marketing. To prevent damage or breaking, check the expiration date, use lube, and make sure you’re keeping your condoms in a cool, dry place.