Safe sex means taking steps before and during sex that can prevent you from getting an infection, or from giving an infection to your partner.
Chlamydia - safe sex; STD - safe sex; STI - safe sex; Sexually transmitted - safe sex; GC - safe sex; Gonorrhea - safe sex; Herpes - safe sex; HIV - safe sex; Condoms - safe sex
A sexually transmitted infection (STI) is an infection that can be spread to another person through sexual contact. STIs include:
STIs are also called sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
These infections are spread by direct contact with a sore on the genitals or mouth, body fluids, or sometimes the skin around the genital area.
Before having sex:
Your sexual partner should be someone who you know does not have any STI. Before having sex with a new partner, each of you should get screened for STIs and share the test results with each other.
If you know you have an STI such as HIV or herpes, let any sexual partner know this before you have sex. Allow him or her to decide what to do. If you both agree to have sexual contact, use latex or polyurethane condoms.
Use condoms for all vaginal, anal, and oral intercourse.
Other tips include:
Get tested regularly for STIs if you have new sexual partners. Most STIs have no symptoms, so you need to be tested often if there is any chance you have been exposed. You will have the best outcome and will be less likely to spread the infection if you are diagnosed early.
Consider getting the HPV vaccine to keep from getting the human papillomavirus. This virus can put you at risk for genital warts and for cervical cancer in women.
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Gardella C, Eckert LO, Lentz GM. Genital tract infections: vulva, vagina, cervix, toxic shock syndrome, endometritis, and salpingitis. In: Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Lentz GM, Valea FA, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 23.
LeFevre ML; US Preventive Services Task Force. Behavioral counseling interventions to prevent sexually transmitted infections: US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med. 2014;161(12):894-901. PMID: 25244227 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25244227/.
McKinzie J. Sexually transmitted diseases. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 88.
Workowski KA, Bolan GA; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines, 2015. MMWR Recomm Rep. 2015;64(RR-03):1-137. PMID: 26042815. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26042815/.
Review Date: 4/9/2020
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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