10 Ways to Protect Yourself from STIs
Here are 10 ways you can protect your sexual health, regardless of your lifestyle choice:
1. Abstinence and no-risk sexual activity
- Not all sexual behaviours put a person at risk for STIs.
- Any activity that does not include semen, pre-ejaculate fluid, or blood going from one person to another is considered safer.
for lesions or sores in the genital area before any skin to skin
contact. Contact with a lesion or sore can result in transmitting or
- Alternative activities such as
hugging, massaging, body kissing, solo masturbation, and using sex toys
without sharing pose little to no risk.
2. Communicating with sex partner(s)
- Talk to partner(s) about your concerns, fears, and safer sex choices.
- Decide together what sex choices are comfortable for both / all partners.
- Discuss STI risks with your partner(s).
- Advise all partner(s) to get tested before engaging in unprotected anal, oral or vaginal sex.
3. Condom use
- Using a condom from the time an erection occurs to after ejaculation will increase the effectiveness.
- The consistent use of condoms or other barriers reduces the risk for transmitting or acquiring STIs.
4. Safer oral sex
or receiving oral sex without a barrier can transmit STIs, such as
gonorrhea, syphilis, hepatitis B, herpes simplex virus, HPV and
- While the risk for transmitting or
acquiring HIV during oral sex is low, it is somewhat more risky to give
oral sex than to receive it.
- There is a risk for
transmitting STIs to the person giving unprotected oral sex because
pre-ejaculatory fluid (pre-cum) or semen can get into the mouth. The
risk is increased if there are bleeding gums (common after dental work,
brushing or flossing), cuts, sores, lesions, ulcers or burns in the
mouth, or if there is a cut or sore on the genitals.
sharp foods, like popcorn or chips, may create tiny cuts in the mouth,
increasing the risk for transmitting or acquiring STIs through oral sex.
- You can reduce the risk of transmitting or
acquiring STIs by avoiding ejaculation of semen in the mouth and by
using a condom or other barrier.
5. Safer anal sex
in the rectum are very delicate, and can tear easily, leaving this area
more susceptible to transmitting or acquiring STIs. Condoms are
recommended to reduce risk of STI transmission, including HIV.
- Water-based lubricant should be used to reduce tissue damage.
- Barriers like a dam should be used for oral-anal contact.
6. Effects of Substance Use
alcohol or drugs before sexual activity can decrease inhibitions and
affect decisions and the ability to negotiate safe sex.
- Plan ahead if drugs and/or alcohol are to be used, ensuring your partner(s) know your limits for sexual activity.
7. Needle & drug equipment
you or your partner(s) use drugs, it is important to discuss whether
everyone practices safer injection or if anyone has shared needles.
injection means not sharing needles or any other drug equipment. This
helps to prevent transmitting or acquiring STIs like HIV, hepatitis B Hep B and hepatitis C Hep C
hands touching needles or equipment should be clean and not
contaminated with blood, and the equipment should never be re-used.
- For more information on health unit Harm Reduction Programs, please click here.
8. Tattoos, Piercings, Manicures and Pedicures
you or your partner(s) have any tattoos or piercings, or have had
manicures or pedicures, it is possible to transmit or acquire STIs
during sexual activity.
- Tattooing, piercing, manicures and pedicures can pose a risk of transmitting infections such as HIV, hepatitis B (Hep B) and hepatitis C (Hep C) when needles, ink or other equipment are shared, or when equipment is not properly sterilized.
businesses that provide these services and pass health unit inspections
are deemed to be safe, equipment may not always be properly sterilized,
placing people at risk.
- For more information on the health risks of tattoos and piercings, please click here.
9. Risk when sharing razors or toothbrushes
- Hepatitis B (Hep B) can live on a dried surface for seven days, while hepatitis C (Hep C) lives on surfaces for at least 16 hours and as long as four days.
- Sharing razors or toothbrushes increases the risk of becoming infected with HIV, Hep B or Hep C.
10. Risk when Sharing sex toys
toys (e.g. dildos, vibrators, butt plugs, etc.) should be kept clean
and should not be shared. If you choose to share sex toys, ensure they
are protected with a barrier, condom, or clean cover.
a sex toy is shared, the toy should have a clean cover each time it is
used to reduce the risk for transmitting STIs. Cleaning sex toys
regularly before and after each use can also decrease the risk.
sex toys in the anus poses significant risk to damaging the tissues in
the rectum. It is recommended that plenty of lubricant is used to reduce
- Sex toys need to be cared for
differently based on what they are made of. Refer to sex toy packaging
or specific cleaning instructions.
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