STIs: Tips for Safer Sex And All That You Need To Know About
Sexual interactions put one at the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancies. It is important to have safer sex that does not involve the exchange of semen, vaginal fluids, or blood between partners.
One should engage in sexual activities by taking some steps to limit STIs.
What Are STIs?
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are infections that spread through unprotected sex or direct genital contact.
Common types of sexually transmitted infections include:
Chlamydia can be easily passed on during vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
2. Genital Warts:
Genital warts are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) that is passed through skin-to-skin contact. They don’t necessarily spread through penetrative sex. Men and women who are sexually active are vulnerable to this infection. They appear as bumps or skin changes around the genital or anal areas.
3. Genital herpes:
Genital herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) that also causes cold sores. There’s no cure for this virus but the symptoms can be controlled by antiviral medicines like acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir), and valacyclovir (Valtrex).
Gonorrhoea is a bacterial STI. Almost 50% of women and 10% of men who are infected don’t experience the symptoms.
Syphilis is a bacterial infection that is painless in the early stages. The primary symptoms are soreness on the genitals or around the mouth. The secondary symptoms that include rash, flu, or hair loss develop at the later stages. Conditions such as heart problems, paralysis, and blindness occur at the third stage which usually develops after many years.
HIV is spread through unprotected sex. Also, the transmission of the virus through blood can happen. The virus weakens the immune system. Although there’s no cure for HIV, there are treatments that make it easier to live a healthy long life for the infected people.
Trichomoniasis is caused by a tiny parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis that is passed on through sex.
8. Pubic Lice:
Pubic lice or crabs are spread through direct genital contact. The lice are found in pubic hair, underarm hair, body hair, beards, and sometimes in eyebrows or eyelashes.
Scabies is caused by tiny mites that burrow into the skin. They then spread through direct skin contact, sexual contact, or from clothing that is infected.
How Are STIs Transmitted?
Different types of sexual contact among the partners may put one at risk of spreading STIs. These infections can be transmitted through semen, vaginal fluids, skin contact, saliva, and sometimes through blood and faeces.
The types of sexual activities that put one at the risk of transmitting the STI include:
- Oral sex
- Fingering (anal and vaginal)
- Sexual activities that involve cuts or tears to genitals or anus
- Vaginal sex
- Anal sex
- Sexual activities involving sex toys
- Vulva-to-vulva sex
Prevention of STIs: How To Have Safer Sex?
Not having sex with multiple partners is the best idea for preventing the spread of STIs. But there are few safer ways to indulge in sex, and these include:
- Getting tested regularly for STIs
- Using barriers while having sex
- Being in an exclusive sexual relationship
STI Prevention: How Is Testing Done for STIs?
Doctors take the following samples to test whether one has an STI:
- Blood test (blood draw or finger prick)
- A swab from the urethra in men
- Urine sample
- A swab from the mouth
- A swab from the cervix in women
Prevention of STIs: Usage of Barriers While Having Sex
Barriers can reduce the risk of STI transmission during sexual activities. They create a barrier between one and one’s partner. Barrier methods that include condoms, gloves, or dental dams must be used during any kind of sexual activity. But these do not completely prevent the risk of transmitting as STIs may spread through skin contacts. Such infections are along the lines of HPV or herpes.
Latex external condoms are most often recommended for penis-in-vagina sex. If one has a latex allergy, one may switch to polyurethane condoms instead. However, there is a chance of breakage, or they may slip off.
In relation to condom efficiency, HIV can be prevented by 80% to 95% of the time. If a condom is used effectively the spread of STIs like chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and trichomoniasis can be prevented. However, STIs that spread through the skin like genital herpes cannot be prevented by a condom.
During oral sexual activities involving the vulva or anus, dental dams can be used for STI prevention. Dental dams are used to cover the vulva or anus. Infections like HIV, herpes, gonorrhoea, trichomoniasis, and chlamydia can also be prevented by dental dams.
Latex or nitrile gloves can be used in sexual activities that involve the touching of genitals. This method also prevents small tears or cuts around the genitals. Also, they prevent the transmission of STIs through the blood.
Are Sex Toys Safe?
Sex toys may pass on STIs if they are not used responsibly and kept clean.
One can avoid STIs by:
- Keeping sex toys clean (washing them after every use)
- Covering penetrative sex toys like vibrators with a barrier every time they are used
- Having a separate set of sex toys for each other
Sexually transmitted infections that a sex toy may pass on include:
- Bacterial vaginosis
A sex toy that may draw blood from the skin shouldn’t be shared with the partner. These types of sex toys can pass on blood-borne infections. Care must be taken while using penetrative sex toys, particularly if they may cause any cuts or sores around the vagina, anus, or penis. Remember, STIs like hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV, and AIDS can be passed on via such situations.
Cleaning the Sex Toys:
Cleaning of a sex toy depends on:
- What material the sex toy is made of
- If the sex toy uses batteries and has parts that cannot be washed
- One must always wash them after using them on the mouth, vagina, and anus
- One must check sex toys regularly for any scratches or breakages as this can increase the risk of infection
Can Contraception Reduce the Risk of Getting STIs?
Contraceptives protect women from getting pregnant and getting infections during sex (this includes men too). But, they are not effective.
Only barrier methods fully protect against STIs. No other methods of contraception can completely prevent the transmission of STIs, because the infected areas are not covered by them.
STI Prevention: Are There Some Sexual Activities That Don’t Transmit STIs?
There are few risk-free sexual activities that do not cause the spread of STIs. Masturbation, grinding, or touching the partner’s genitals through the clothes are few known safer sexual activities.
Can One Stop Using Barrier Methods During Sexual Activities after a While?
It is possible to stop using barriers in an exclusive sexual relationship. After using barriers during sex for a long time, one must get tested for STIs. One can consider stopping the use of barrier methods during sexual activities when the tests are negative.
What If My Sexual Relationship Isn’t Exclusive?
The non-exclusive relationship can put one at risk of getting STIs. But, there are ways to prevent the spread of STIs. One must always use barriers while having sex. It is important for the partners engaging in sexual activities to get tested. It’s best to avoid sexual activity if the partner refuses to get tested.
How Can Someone with STI Have Safer Sex?
If one has STI, it is important to have safer sex and avoid passing the infection on. STIs can be cured with medications. So, once it is cured, there is no worry of passing them on.
Although some STIs cannot be cured, there are ways to avoid passing on the infection to the partner. Here are a few ways to follow:
- Communicate to the partner about safer sex
- Always using barrier method during sexual activities
- Avoid having direct contact with the infected areas during sex
- Partner must be regularly tested
STI Prevention: Are There Any Vaccines Available?
There aren’t many vaccines available for STIs. Currently, vaccines are available for two STIs – hepatitis B and HPV. These vaccines had shown effectiveness in STI prevention.
Vaccines for STIs like chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, and trichomoniasis are in the early stages of development. However, there might be vaccines available for STIs in the coming years.
Read this article to know about the myths surrounding STI’s: Top 6 STI Myths On The Internet You Shouldn’t Believe
Although engaging in sexual activities without any barriers seems less awkward, STIs pose a greater risk to one’s health. Usage of condoms, dental dams, or gloves during sex doesn’t necessarily prevent STIs completely. It is 100% risk-free sex only if there is no exchange of body fluids and direct contact of the skin during sexual activity.
March 25, 2021 Sam Bell