Avoiding STIs

The best way to avoid STIs is to use a condom every time you have sex

STIs are usually passed on by sex with an infected person. Remember you can’t tell by looking at someone if they have an STI.

STIs are usually passed on by sex with an infected person, although some infections can be passed on in other ways as well. STIs can be caught during oral (licking, kissing or sucking someone’s genitals), vaginal or anal sex and some can also be passed through sexual touching and skin-to-skin contact.

Even if you’re using other kinds of contraception to prevent pregnancy, like the pill, you should still use a condom as well. Using a condom every time you have sex is the only way to protect yourself from STIs as well as pregnancy.

  • Not all vaginal discharges are caused be STIs
  • Not all STIs cause symptoms
  • Alcohol or drugs may lower you ability to make responsible decisions about your sexual behavior and correct use of condoms
  • Always use a good quality condom with the BSI kitemark and CE mark
  • Do not share sex toys or vibrators
  • Do not share needles if injecting drugs. Remember any exchange of bodily fluids can be dangerous
  • Be careful with whom you have sex with. Unsafe sex can endanger your health

Condoms and dental dams

Some STIs, such as Genital Warts and Herpes, can be passed on through skin-to-skin contact, so although condoms and dental dams can’t protect against all STIs, they are still the most effective way to reduce the risk of picking up, or passing on an infection – including HIV.

Use a condom for vaginal sex, anal sex or oral sex. Male or female condom, it doesn’t matter, they both work. A condom acts as a barrier and stops body fluids from mixing during vaginal, oral or anal sex.

Dental dams are small squares of latex which work well as a barrier during sex involving contact between the mouth and the vagina, or mouth and the anus.

Remember condoms, when used properly, provide the most reliable means of protection against STIs.

Final word: we are only providing basic information about STIs. You may come across conflicting advice on certain points. If you are unsure or would like more information, ring or visit a GUM clinic. There is a list of clinics and phone numbers provided in our Where to Go section.