Safe Sex: How to Prevent STDs | Revere Health

Sexually transmitted diseases are transmitted through sexual contact—they are caused by infected organisms that pass through bodily fluids like blood, semen or vaginal fluid, or often through shared needles. In rarer cases, STDs can be transmitted through childbirth or blood transfusions.

Part of what makes the human-to-human spread of STDs so difficult to manage is the frequent non-presence of symptoms. Many STDs don’t present constant symptoms or may never show any at all, and it’s possible to get one from someone who appears 100 percent healthy.

With the right precautions, the spread of STDs can be contained and even prevented.

Signs and Risk Factors

A basic knowledge about the risks of STDs, and their simple signs, can go a long way. There are several factors that may increase your likelihood of exposure to an STD:

  • Unprotected sex: Both through vaginal or anal penetration
  • History of STDs
  • Multiple sexual partners: Each additional partner increases your risk of STD
  • Injecting drugs: Needles can spread some of the most severe STD infections, like hepatitis and HIV
  • Age: Half of all STDs are present in people between ages 15 and 2
  • Forced intercourse: Victims of rape or sexual assault are at higher risk of STDs, which is part of the reason why immediate reporting and treatment is vital in these cases
  • Alcohol or drugs: Substance abuse doesn’t directly lead to higher STD risk (except cases involving needles), but it causes lapses in judgment, and these can lead to the sorts of behaviors associated with high STD risk
  • Erectile dysfunction: Men who use drugs to combat erectile dysfunction have a higher rate of STD transmission
  • Pregnancy: Conditions like chlamydia, HIV, gonorrhea and syphilis can be passed from mother to child during either pregnancy or delivery

Because so many STDs go unnoticed and unreported, it’s important to know their basic signs and get checked immediately if you have any of them. Signs of STDs include:

  • Sores or bumps on the genitals or rectal area
  • Pain during urination or sex
  • Discharge from the penis or vagina, often with an odd smell
  • Vaginal bleeding in women
  • Swollen lymph nodes, especially in the groin
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Rash

If you have any of these symptoms and are sexually active, see your doctor right away to check for STDs. In addition, it’s recommended that sexually active teens and young adults are checked regularly, and especially when they first become sexually active.

STD Prevention

There are two conditions that must be present for unprotected sex that’s safe and doesn’t risk the spread of STDs:

  • You and your partner only have sex with each other, never anyone else.
  • Both of you tested negative for STDs at least six months ago, and you haven’t had sexual contact with anyone else since.

If these conditions aren’t present, you can take some of the following precautions to help prevent the spread of STDs:

  • Practice abstinence: The most thorough and effective way to avoid STDs is through abstaining from sex altogether.
  • Use condoms: For those who do have sex, use condoms for the entire sex act—including foreplay. If you’re unsure how to use condoms correctly, ask your doctor or a healthcare professional. Condoms are not 100 percent effective at preventing STDs and pregnancy, but they’re very efficient if used in the right ways.
  • Limit sexual partners: Staying with one partner or limiting to as few partners as possible will help prevent the spread of STDs.
  • Get tested: Don’t engage in sexual activity with a new partner unless both of you have recently been tested for STDs.
  • Get regular vaccines: There are vaccines available for STDs like HPV (human papillomavirus), hepatitis A and hepatitis B.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs: Avoiding regular drinking and drug use can help prevent the risks associated with STDs.
  • Practice genital hygiene: Wash genital areas before and after intercourse.
  • Avoid sharing certain items: Try to avoid sharing towels, undergarments or any other items that might touch the genitals regularly.
  • Male circumcision: Men who are not circumcised could consider doing so. Circumcision can reduce the risk of acquiring HIV by up to 60 percent via heterosexual transmission, and can also help prevent HPV and genital herpes.
  • Ask your doctor about Truvada: In 2012, a drug called Truvada was approved to reduce the risk of HIV in high-risk people. Ask your doctor if it might be right for you.

With all these tactics, proper communication with your partner is vital. Helping each other practice safer sex is the best way to prevent the spread of STDs.

 

Partner Notification and Spread Prevention

In the case where you do contract an STD, taking the proper steps is very important. The first of these is partner notification, which is required by law to some degree in most states—you must inform all recent or current sexual partners of your condition so they can receive testing and treatment as well. This can be done confidentially if needed, and there are disease intervention specialists in public health departments who can assist with this process.

In addition, there are some steps you should take to prevent spreading any recently acquired STDs:

  • Stop sexual intercourse until a doctor recommends otherwise.
  • When approved for sex, always use condoms.
  • Return to the doctor for re-check.
  • Make sure partners are also treated.

If you’re worried you or a partner is showing signs of an STD, speak to your doctor together about options.

Obstetricians/gynecologists at Revere Health OB/GYN provide a full range of healthcare services to women throughout all stages of their lives including; puberty, child-bearing years, menopause.

Sources:

“Understanding Sexually Transmitted Disease Prevention.” WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/understanding-stds-prevention

“Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).” The Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sexually-transmitted-diseases-stds/home/ovc-20180594

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.

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