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Facts about Sexually Transmitted Infections | Print |

STIs are spread through contact with:

  • infected blood and body fluids such as vaginal secretions or semen
  • infected skin or mucous membranes - for example, sores in the mouth

Activities that expose you to infected body fluids or skin include:

  • vaginal, anal, or oral sex WITHOUT proper use of a latex condom or other barrier methods. Anal sex is especially risky because it often causes bleeding.
  • sharing needles or syringes for drug use, ear piercing, tattooing, etc.
  • Having an STI may increase your risk of getting HIV. STIs can break down the body's most important defense - the skin and mucous membranes, causing sores and thus provide a way for HIV to enter the body.

How you can protect yourself from STIs, including HIV:

Abstinence is the only sure way to avoid getting an STI.

If you have sex:

  • Use latex condoms with a water-based lubricant every time you have vaginal, anal or oral sex. Latex condoms will help protect from STIs much of the time. Both men and women should carry condoms
  • Use plastic (polyurethane) condoms if you are allergic to latex. These come both male and female styles.
  • Talk to your partners about past sex partners and about needle drug use. Avoid having sex with someone that you think may have an STI.
  • Look closely at your sex partner for signs of STIs such as a rash, sores or discharge. If you are not comfortable, do not have sex!

Take action!

  • Have regular physical exams. If you think you've been exposed to an STI get tested, get treated! Regular tests help find STIs early, when treatment can be most effective.
  • Know the signs and symptoms of STI. If you notice a symptom that worries you, get checked!

If you have an STI, be sure to:

  • Talk to your sex partner(s). Encourage them to get tested and treated. Partners need to be treated to avoid reinfection.
  • Avoid sex until your physician says it's okay to resume. Follow your treatment plan and finish all medications, even if you feel well. Follow up exams can make sure treatment was effective.
  • Get counseling if you're worried or upset about having an STI. Your physician or STI clinic can recommend a counselor.

Condoms help protect from STIs and unwanted pregnancies. To use a condom properly:

  • Use a new condom every time you have sex, even oral or anal. Discard any "new" condom that's damaged, sticky, or brittle.
  • Squeeze tip of condom to remove any air. Excess air could cause condom to break.
  • When penis is hard (before any sexual contact), place condom on tip and roll down all the way.
    After ejaculation, withdraw penis while still hard.
  • Hold on the rim of condom as you withdraw so nothing spills. Discard properly.
  • If more lubrication is needed, use K-Y Jelly or other water-based or silicone lubricant.
  • Do not use oil-based lubricants such as Vaseline petroleum jelly, mineral oil, vegetable oil or cold cream as these could break the condom.

To help further reduce the risk of contracting an STI:

  • Don't inject drugs. Sharing needles or syringes can expose you to infected blood. Not injecting drugs is an essential part of protecting yourself from STIs.
  • Avoid alcohol and other drugs. They can make you more likely to take chances when having sex.
  • Don't douche if you think you have an infection. You may force germs farther into the vagina or alter the natural balance of vaginal fluids.

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