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Safer Sex - Topic Overview

Safer sex practices

Some STIs, such as HIV, can take up to 6 months before they can be detected in the blood. Genital herpes and the human papillomavirus (HPV) can be spread when symptoms are not present. Even if you and your partner have been tested, use condoms for all sex until you and your partner haven't had sex with another person for 6 months. Then get tested again.

  • Watch for symptoms of STIs, such as unusual discharge, sores, redness, or growths in your and your partner's genital area, or pain while urinating.
  • Don't have more than one sex partner at a time. The safest sex is with one partner who has sex only with you. Every time you add a new sex partner, you are being exposed to all of the diseases that all of their partners may have. Your risk for an STI increases if you have several sex partners at the same time.
  • Use a condom every time you have sex. A condom is the best way to protect yourself from STIs. Latex and polyurethane condoms do not let STI viruses pass through, so they offer good protection from STIs. Condoms made from sheep intestines do not protect against STIs.
  • Use a water-based lubricant such as K-Y Jelly or Astroglide to help prevent tearing of the skin if there is a lack of lubrication during sexual intercourse. Small tears in the vagina during vaginal sex or in the rectum during anal sex allow STI bacteria or viruses to get into your blood.
  • Avoid douching if you are a woman, because it can change the normal balance of organisms in the vagina and increases the risk of getting an STI.
  • Be responsible. Avoid sexual contact if you have symptoms of an infection or if you are being treated for an STI, such as HIV. If you or your partner has herpes, avoid sexual contact when a blister is present and use condoms at all other times.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 05, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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