How to prevent STIs

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This STI Awareness Week, we want to make sure you have the tools to protect yourself from STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections, sometimes called STDs). STIs are spread through sexual contact. STIs are very common and most STIs can be cured and all can be treated with medication. However, if left untreated, STIs can lead to things like infertility, or being unable to have children in the future, and other long term health issues which is why it is important to have these tools to protect yourself.

Abstinence:

The best way to prevent STIs is abstinence, or not having sex. Since STIs are spread through sexual contact, choosing to not have sexual contact prevents STIs. Someone can choose to be abstinent at any time, even if they have had sex in the past.

If you are sexually active:

Get Tested:

The most common symptom of an STI is to not have any symptoms at all. The only way to know for sure if someone has an STI is to get tested. Testing is easy, confidential, and free! Find a clinic near you to get tested. You may even be able to get an at home STI test through telehealth. Ask your clinic or health care provider about your options. There is no one test for all STIs so your doctor will have a conversation with you to help decide which ones are right for you.

Use a Condom!

Condoms (both internal and external) protect against pregnancy AND STIs! Other barriers, like dental dams, can also be used to protect against STIs during oral sex. Using a condom every time you have sex can help protect against STIs. Condoms can be used in addition to another method of birth control, such as the pill or IUD. Find free condoms near you!

HPV Vaccine:

HPV is the only STI that has a vaccine. The HPV vaccine helps prevent against cancer and genital warts. The vaccine is recommended for people 11 or 12 years old but if you have not already gotten it, that’s ok! You can start now. Even if you are not having sex, the HPV vaccine will protect you in the future, when you choose to have sex. The HPV vaccine is confidential and free for most teens! Find a clinic near you to get the HPV vaccine.

Start a Conversation:

There are many people to have open conversations with when it comes to preventing STIs. Teens can get STI testing and birth control without a parent or other adult but it can be helpful to have a conversation with a trusted adult. Also, if your doctor or health care provider is asking questions about your sexual history, it is important to be honest with them. They are there to help you make informed decisions about your health. If you have questions about protecting yourself, getting tested for STIs, or  anything else, ask! Your doctor is there to be a resource for you. It is also important to have a conversation with your partner. Being open about your expectations around condom use and getting tested is part of consent and a healthy relationship.

When it comes to preventing STIs, there are many tools you can use to protect yourself and prevent STIs. Follow us on Instagram (@teensourceorg) for more information about STIs and join us tomorrow when we answer your STI questions!