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

There are simple ways you can reduce your risk of getting STIs. It’s just part of taking care of yourself.

Not having sexual contact.

Talk about it.

Use protection every time.

Test regularly and get treated if you have an STI.

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: find free condoms near you at ChicagoWearsCondoms.com.

Male (external) Condoms

Female (internal) Condoms

Condom images   powered-by-bedsider

How To: Male (External) Condom

Check for Holes & Expiration Date

Inspect the wrapper to make sure there are no holes or damage. Check for the expiration date. If this date has passed or the package is damaged, throw it away and get another condom.

Push to the side & open with fingers

Use only fingers. Don’t use anything sharp like teeth or scissors.

Pinch Condom Tip & Roll Down

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.

After Sex Hold the Condom At the Base & Pull Out

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

Check for Holes & Expiration Date

Inspect the wrapper to make sure there are no holes or damage. Check for the expiration date (“EXP”) printed on the package. If this date has passed or the package is damaged, throw it away.


Use only fingers. Don’t use anything sharp like teeth or scissors.

Unroll, Squeeze the Ring, & Put Into The Body

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.

After Sex, Twist & Remove

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

Flavored condoms are meant for oral sex.

Dental Dam

A dental dam is a thin sheet of latex (usually flavored). It acts as a barrier between the vagina or anus and the other person’s mouth. While using a dental dam, you must hold it in place so that it doesn’t move or flip.

DIY: Dental dams are sometimes hard to find, so some people make their own out of a flavored condom.

Chlamydia · Gonorrhea · HPV · HIV · Herpes · Syphilis

1. Know your rights.

If you’re 12 or older, it’s your legal right in the State of Illinois to get tested and treated for STIs and get birth control without anyone else’s permission.

2. Get tested and treated.

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.

3. Get protection.

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.

4. Talk to the person you’re having sex with.

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 can have more than one STI at a time.

Even if you and the person you’re having sex with have the same STI, you still need to use condoms. Having an STI can increase your likelihood of getting another one—this is especially important when it comes to HIV.

You can get an STI after getting treatment.

You can also get the same STI again, so it’s important to get tested regularly, get treated for any STIs, talk to whoever you’re having sex with, and use condoms every time you’re sexually active.

Anyone who is sexually active can get an STI.

You can only get an STI from another person who has an STI.

You can’t get an STI from masturbation. If two people have no STIs and have never had any kind of sexual activity, they can’t give each other an STI.

You can get an STI if it’s the first time you’ve had any sexual activity.

If the person you’re with has an STI, you can get it—even if it’s your first time.

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.

You cannot wash or rinse away an STI.

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.

You can get an STI from anal sex.

Condoms can reduce your risk of getting an STI during anal sex.

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.

People don’t spread STIs on purpose.

Since most STIs don’t have symptoms, people often don’t know they have one. That’s why it’s important to talk to the person you’re having sex with and get tested regularly.

Everyone with a vagina will have discharge.

Discharge is common and healthy. If you notice a change in texture or color, burning or itching, or odor, you should see a healthcare provider to make sure you don’t have an infection.

Getting tested is the only sure way to know if you have an STI.

You cannot tell someone has an STI by looking at them. You can not tell by the way they walk or by the way they look or smell.

No one condom brand is better than others.

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.

Condom fit and size is a personal preference.

Condoms come in different sizes and fits. Most condoms can stretch enough for everyone and if it is too loose it might fall off. Make sure you have the best fit for you.