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Prevention

You can take measures to reduce your risk of becoming infected with a sexually transmitted infection (STI). You can also reduce the risk of transmitting an STI to your sex partner.

Delay sexual activity until you are prepared both physically and emotionally to have sex. Nearly two-thirds of all STIs occur in people younger than 25 years old. Sexually active teenagers are at high risk for STIs because they frequently have unprotected sex and have multiple partners. Biological changes during the teen years also may increase their risk for getting an STI.

Did You Know?

Under the Affordable Care Act, many health insurance plans will cover preventive care services, including checkups, vaccinations and screening tests, at no cost to you. Learn more.

Health Insurance Center

Make sure your immunizations are up-to-date. You can get a hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and HPV vaccine to prevent these infections. The vaccines Cervarix(What is a PDF document?) and Gardasil(What is a PDF document?) protect against two types of human papillomavirus (HPV) that cause cervical cancer. Gardasil also protects against two types of HPV that cause genital warts. For more information, see the topic Immunizations.

STIs are a concern worldwide. It is important to practice safer sex with all partners, especially if you or they may have high-risk sexual behaviors.

It is especially important that pregnant women who are at risk for STIs practice safer sex because an STI can affect their baby (fetus). An STI may threaten the life of your baby or cause serious long-term problems or disabilities for your baby.

Practice safer sex

Preventing a sexually transmitted infection (STI) is easier than treating an infection after it occurs.

  • Talk with your partner about STIs before beginning a sexual relationship. Find out whether he or she is at risk for an STI. Remember that it is quite possible to be infected with an STI without knowing it. Some STIs, such as HIV, can take up to 6 months before they can be detected in the blood. Ask your partner the following questions.
    • How many sex partners has he or she had?
    • What high-risk behaviors does he or she have?
    • Has he or she ever had an STI?
    • Was it treated and cured?
    • If the STI is not curable, what is the best way to protect yourself?
  • Be responsible.
    • Avoid sexual contact or activity if you have symptoms of an STI or are being treated for an STI.
    • Avoid sexual contact or activity with anyone who has symptoms of an STI or who may have been exposed to an STI.
  • Don't have more than one sex partner at a time. Your risk of an STI increases if you have several sex partners at the same time.
  • Some STIs can also be spread through oral-to-genital or genital-to-anal sexual contact.
  • Abstain from sexual intercourse to prevent any exposure to STIs.

Condom use

Condoms can protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Even if you are protected against pregnancy by birth control pills or another method, use a condom to prevent STIs.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 16, 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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