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Preventing Sexually Transmitted Disease

Written by Jenna Lee Dillon on April 25, 2011

Knowledge about sexually transmitted infections (STIs, commonly known as STDs) is on the rise, due in large part to the availability and promotion of information about STIs. Organizations like Planned Parenthood and state-funded prevention programs have contributed to the distribution of this helpful and necessary information, but we are still a long way from where we need to be in terms of a national awareness that will lead to fewer people contracting STIs.

As we saw in our last STI statistics blog, even in this information-age, the numbers of some STI occurrences are still increasing. This is particularly unfortunate, because many STIs are easily preventable.

Sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy are 100% preventable through abstinence.

choosing abstinence with your partner

#1 Method of STI Prevention, Get Checked Regularly

The most effective way for sexually active people to prevent the spread of STIs is to get checked regularly. It is safest to have yourself and your potential partner tested before engaging in sexual intercourse, as many people unknowingly carry an STI, which they pass to their partner(s) unintentionally. There are treatment options available for many STIs, some of which are simple and quick, but it’s imperative to know what, if anything, needs to be treated.

condoms prevent sti's

Condoms as a Method of STI Prevention

Condoms are the most common and recognizable form of STI protection, as well as the safest method other than abstinence. Both male (more well-known) and female condoms can successfully protect against many STIs. Male condoms cover the shaft of the penis. A female condom is inserted into the vagina and additional latex material drapes out, covering much of the skin surrounding the vagina. Both of these methods of contraception prevent STIs by providing skin-to-skin barriers and by capturing bodily fluid.

Condoms lower the risk of STIs including the following

Chancroid: a type of bacteria rarely found in the United States. It is transmitted through sexual contact, causing sores on the genitals.

Other Methods of Prevention

  • Condom, Glyde Dam, or Dental Dam during oral sex
  • Avoid touching a sore and thoroughly wash hands after contact.

Chlamydia: a type of bacteria that produces no symptoms. It is transmitted through sexual contact and can infect the penis, vagina, anus, cervix, urethra, eye or throat, although transmission through oral sex is not common. Abstain from sex until treatment is complete, and then use condoms.

Genital Herpes: caused by a virus and affects one in four Americans. Herpes remain in the body for life, although symptoms may come and go.

Other Methods of Prevention

  • Most contagious when sores are open, moist or leaking fluid. Abstain from sex at this time.
  • Can be spread when no symptoms are present
  • Daily doses of anti-herpes medications can reduce risk of spreading.

Genital Warts: growths of the skin in and around the genital area. They are caused by certain types of human papilloma virus (HPV) and are not as preventable with condom use as other infections.

Other Methods of Prevention

  • Get the HPV vaccine
  • Stop smoking
  • Smokers are likely to develop genital warts than nonsmokers
  • Smokers’ warts are more likely to recur than nonsmokers

Gonorrhea: an infection caused by a kind of bacteria passed from person to person during sexual contact. It can infect the penis, vagina, anus, cervix, urethra or throat. It is common in the U.S. and easily treated. Abstain from sex until treatment is complete, and then use condoms.


Hepatitis B: a kind of liver infection and can be a very serious disease. It is passed through the sharing of bodily fluids such as semen, vaginal fluids, blood and urine, which can be prevented by the use of male or female condoms.

Other Methods of Prevention

  • Get the Hepatitis B vaccine
  • Don’t share items like razors or toothbrushes that may have infected blood on them.

HIV & AIDS: HIV is the infection that causes AIDS. HIV may have very few or no symptoms for up to a decade before symptoms of AIDS develop. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS, but treatment is available. Male and female condoms are very good protection against HIV, because it is passed through the sharing of bodily fluids such as semen, vaginal fluids, blood and urine.

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV): a virus with more than 100 strains, about 40 of which can infect the genital area (vulva, vagina, cervix, rectum, anus, penis or scrotum). Some types produce genital warts. Other “high-risk” types of HPV cause cell changes that can lead to cervical cancer and other genital and throat cancers. 50 percent of men and 3 out of 4 women have had HPV at some point in their lives.

Other Methods of Prevention

  • Get the HPV vaccine

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID): serious infection that harms women’s reproductive organs, developing from an infection in the vagina and cervix and spreading into the fallopian tubes, uterus, and ovaries. It is usually caused by untreated chlamydia or gonorrhea .

Other Methods of Prevention

  • Avoid douching; it can spread infection from the vagina into the uterus and fallopian tubes.
  • Get tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea.
  • Hormonal birth control (pill, patch, ring) can offer protection against PID by thickening cervical mucus which impedes infection from reaching the uterus.

Pubic Lice/Crabs: tiny insects that attach themselves to skin and hair in the pubic area. They are spread easily through sex play and sometimes during other kinds of close physical contact. Avoid sex with someone who has pubic lic, or seek treatment if you think you may have it.

Syphilis: a disease caused by bacteria that are transmitted through sexual contact. It can infect the vagina, anus, urethra or penis, and the lips and mouth. Abstain from sex until treatment is complete, and then use condoms.

Trichomoniasis: an infection caused by a microscopic, one-cell animal called a trichonoma. It is easily passed through sexual contact including intercourse, sharing sex toys and mutual masturbation. Abstain from sex until treatment is complete, and then use condoms.

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