If every sexually active person is at risk for getting STDs, is there any way to minimize it? The answer is, yes, there is. Although a lot of healthcare professionals believe that sex can never truly be 100% safe and the only way to be warded from STDs is to abstain from all sexual activities, there is such thing as practicing ‘safer sex’. Safer sex signifies that people are taking measures to protect themselves and sexual partners from contracting STDs. Not only does practicing safer sex make us feel more secure, it can also improve the quality of sex.
How safer sex protects you from STDs
Taking steps to protect ourselves and our partners is imperative, because even an activity as simple as kissing is not without its risks since herpes can spread through it. Basically, STDs can be transmitted through any sexual activity: oral sex, anal sex, vaginal sex, skin-to-skin contact and exchanging sexual fluids with another individual. The practices of safer sex may include the following:
- Before beginning any sexual activity with a new partner, think twice. You might want to discuss their past records when it comes to STDs, sex life and drug use.
- Using barriers such as condoms, internal condoms (female condoms), dental dams, and latex gloves. Every time you are about to engage in anal sex, oral sex, vaginal sex or any activity that involves passing sexual fluids such as sharing sex toys, it is best to apply an extra layer of protection. Choose male condoms that are made of latex or polyurethane, not ones made of natural materials. Polyurethane makes for a great alternative if we are allergic to latex. Also take note of STDs that can spread even with condoms.
- Getting regularly screened for STDs is another way to make sure that you and your partner are practicing safer sex. Nothing gives us a better good night’s sleep than knowing that we are free from sexual diseases. Even if you use condoms or other protective methods, it is perfectly fine to routinely go to your trusted STD clinic for STD testing. Most STDs are sneaky because they may present no symptoms, thus leading people to think that they are not infected. Therefore, the only way to be absolutely sure is to get screened and attain accurate diagnosis. When a person is infected, they can spread the disease easily to their sexual partners. Getting tested also means that even if a person does have an STD, they can prescribed the right treatment before it gets worse and leads to severe health problems.
- To avoid passing sexual fluids, washing our hands is a wise step to take. If you touch your partner’s genitals or areas around it and are about to touch your genitals, eyes or mouth, cleanse your hands first.
- Sharing sex toys should also be done carefully. Since this activity can enable the exchange or passing of sexual fluids, be sure to cleanse them with soap and water before they make contact with another person’s body. Bagging up sex toys with condoms is also another smart move to minimize the risks of transmitting STDs.
- Do not drink too heavily or consume drugs since these activities can lure people to engage in high-risk sexual behaviors. As we know, alcohol impairs our senses, which can lead to blurry memory and make us take reckless decisions.
- Some women think that douching after intercourse will flush away STDs. This, however, cannot be further from the truth. If anything, douching increases the risk of STDs spreading farther to the reproductive tract.
- Pay more attention to your partner’s and your own body for symptoms of STDs. Periodically check for signs of abnormalities (rash, sores, blisters and unusual discharge).
- If possible, also consider other sexual activities apart from anal, oral, and vaginal sex. This means activities that do not involve exchanging sexual fluids or contact between mucous membranes such as outercourse, masturbating, dry humping, or touching genitals sans the sexual fluids.
STDs that can spread if we don’t practice safer sex
Several STDs are carried in bodily fluids such as semen, vaginal fluids and blood. However, some can be passed on through mere skin-to-skin contact (by touching infected areas). When we do not layer up and use condoms or other protection, our risks for contracting STDs increase.
When we do not use condoms during vaginal or anal sex, we are at risk for getting chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV, herpes, HPV and genital warts, trichomoniasis, pubic lice, hepatitis B and scabies
Not limited to the genitals, some STDs also infect the lips, mouth and throat. If we do not use dental dams, herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, HPV and hepatitis B can be transmitted
Having safer sex when you have an STD
Knowing your sexual health status by getting tested is already part of practicing safer sex. If you have an STD, it is imperative that you notify your partner to also get tested and to avoid passing on the disease. Lucky for us, many STDs can go away with the help of antibiotics and the right treatment. Here are some solid tips you can follow to better protect your partner if you have an STD:
- Whether or not you have an STD, use condoms and dental dams
- If you notice any STD symptoms such as rashes, sores, pain, swelling in your genitals and strange discharge, refrain from doing any sexual contact
- Consult your doctor so that the right medications and treatment can be administered as soon as possible
- If you are suffering from curable STDs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea or syphilis, you might want to wait until you finish your medications even if the symptoms have gone away. This is because the infection will probably still stay in the body until the treatment is completed.
- If, however, you have an STD that is incurable such as herpes or HIV, do consult your doctor for medicine that will lower the viral load and decrease the chances to spread the disease to a partner.
- Always tell the truth to your partner if you have an STD prior to having sex no matter how uncomfortable it is. This way, both of you can devise the right plan to prevent your partner catching the disease.
Shim Clinic is a sexual health clinic based in Singapore that provides reliable STD testing and STD treatment. We also specialize in STD prevention methods and medications such as HIV PrEP, HIV PEP and HPV vaccination (Gardasil-9).