What does best reduce STI risks?
Not having any kind of sex with other people. This is the ONLY situation in which we can say there is NO risk of sexually acquiring an STI. (However, it’s important to note that if we have been sexually abused or assaulted, that choice has been taken from us, so even though we did not choose for someone else to have sexual contact with us, we may still have been at risk.)
1. To use barriers correctly and consistently for any and all oral, vaginal or anal sex for at least the first six months of any sexual relationship. 2. For all partners to get at least one new, full round of STI testing 3-6 months into a relationship if it continues for that long, then keep testing once a year. 3. For all partners to do their best to follow some or all of the lifestyle guidelines listed below in this article.
Will everyone always use barriers for all kinds of sex? No, they (or you) may not. Everyone may not get tested as often as they should either, or lack healthcare access to do so, and everyone may not always be in great health or limit their partners. The steps above are what’s ideal. We’re giving you this information so you can know how to reduce your risks as best as you can and make your choices informed ones. Some people will feel more comfortable taking risks, some people will want more protection. It’s up to each of us what we do based on what we want, need, have access to, can handle and feel most comfortable with.
Step One: Barriers
If we’re going to have sex with other people, the most important and effective prevention of STIs are barriers (latex or polyurethane condoms, dental dams or gloves) used correctly and consistently for all and any vaginal, anal and/or oral sex, with any or all of your partners. The other parts of safer sex don’t really prevent STIs or don’t prevent STIs as well as barriers. Think of barriers like seatbelts when you’re driving, or pads or helmets for some kinds of sports: those things help prevent injuries if you’re going to drive or play, like barriers help prevent illness if you’re going to be sexual with partners. It’s ideal to utilize all the parts of safer sex practices, but when it comes to prevention for people who are sexually active, barriers are the most important.
When to Use What
Ideally, here’s what you should be using to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections when you’re sexually active. This list is ordered with the highest risk activities first, ending with activities with the lowest risks.
- Anal intercourse or vaginal intercourse: Condom and lubricant, a few drops on the inside, plenty on the outside, added as needed (ALWAYS use a new condom if switching between vaginal and anal intercourse OR a female condom can be used for each orifice)
- Analingus (rimming): Dental dam or saran wrap barrier, lubricant
- Fellatio (giving head/blow job): Flavored condom or unlubricated condom.
- Cunnilingus (going down/eating out): Dental dam or saran wrap barrier, lubricant (on the inside)
- Manual sex (fingering/hand job): Latex gloves or freshly-washed hands), lubricant
Need to know how to use a condom properly? Proper use makes a major difference in how effective condoms are. Not wearing a condom from start to finish, not using lube or not holding the base as the partner withdraws, for instance, are all ways to goof up condom use. For more on proper use, click here. Want some help shopping for the condoms for you and/or your partners? We can help you there, too. Do you or a partner need coaching on why condoms are smart to use and can wind up being something a person can love using? Lookie here. How about unpacking some gender disparities with condom responsibility? Check it.