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How to prevent STDs: key steps you can take

Medically reviewed by Neka Miller, PhD on October 13, 2020. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.


Want to know how to prevent STDs so you can enjoy an active sex life without putting your health at risk? If so, here are 6 key ways to help prevent STDs and keep your sexual health safe.

Use condoms

Condoms lessen the risk of infection for many types of STDs, such as gonorrhea, HIV, and chlamydia. The key is to use condoms consistently—ideally every time you have sexual intercourse if you and your partner aren’t mutually monogamous or haven’t been tested recently for STDs.

Can you get an STD with a condom? The answer is “yes.” You can still get certain STDs, particularly those that can be transmitted via genital sores—like genital herpes or HPV. Also, when you’re using a condom, it’s crucial that you use it the right way. Check out these useful condoms dos and don’ts as outlined by the CDC.

Regularly test for STDs

Left untreated, some STDs can lead to health complications—including conditions like infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease, cervical cancer, liver disease or liver failure, and heart and blood vessel damage. Additionally, an untreated STD may contribute to a higher risk of premature delivery, miscarriage, or ectopic pregnancy for pregnant women. Fortunately, however, routine STD testing can help prevent long-term health issues and keep you from spreading an STD to a partner. (Related: How often to get tested for STDs?)

You can get tested at a healthcare provider’s office, healthcare facility, or clinic—and you can even take a test without leaving your home. Our STD test for men and STD test for women, for example, allow you to discreetly check for 6 common sexually transmitted infections from the comfort of home: chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis C, HIV, syphilis, and trichomoniasis.

Get vaccinated

The most common STD is HPV, but fortunately, there’s a vaccine that can prevent it. HPV is a sexually transmitted infection that—in some cases—can lead to the development of various cancers, especially cervical cancer (high-risk HPV types are the main cause of cervical cancer in women). The CDC’s recommendation is that both girls and boys from ages 11 to 12 should get a vaccine (though the vaccine can start at age 9) through age 26 (if not already vaccinated). After age 26, talk to your healthcare provider about HPV vaccination and whether it’s right for you.

Take PrEP for HIV prevention

PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a tablet taken daily that can effectively prevent HIV infections, even in the absence of using protection like condoms during sex. This FDA-approved HIV prevention method is made up of two antiretrovirals and is intended for people at high risk for getting HIV. When taking PrEP, it’s important to undergo regular HIV testing—generally around every 3 months—which you can do easily from the privacy of home with the Everlywell HIV Test kit.

Have fewer sexual partners

If you’re wondering how to prevent STDs, it can help to know that having fewer sexual partners can decrease your risk. The risk of STD transmission goes down substantially if you and your partner are mutually monogamous (you both agree to only have sex with each other), particularly if you have both been tested for STIs. Of course, monogamy isn’t for everyone, but knowing that multiple sex partners can increase the risk of STDs can help encourage extra precautions if you aren’t mutually monogamous with someone.

Communicate with your partner(s)

Communicating about sex and STDs can be uncomfortable, so maybe you’re wondering how to talk about STDs with a new partner.

First, keep in mind that being open and honest with your partner is essential for preventing STDs. Consider suggesting to your partner that you both get tested for STDs together, so you can see where you each stand. From there, you can work together to come up with a plan to protect one another’s health and engage in safer sex.

Treatment for STDs

There are different treatment options, depending on the type of STD under consideration. Sexually transmitted infections caused by bacteria are typically easier to treat compared to viral infections. Viral STDs can be managed, though they can’t always be cured. Treatment often consists of either antibiotics or antiviral drugs. Antibiotics can cure many bacterial infections (like gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis). Antiviral drugs, such as those prescribed for herpes or HIV, can keep the virus in check for years, though it may still be transmissible to one’s partner.

Conclusion

Knowing how to prevent STDs is key for not only protecting your sexual health but also for greater peace of mind during sexual activities. So try the suggestions above that work best for you, and don’t forget: STD testing is fast and easy with the Everlywell at-home STD test for men, at-home STD test for women, or our other STD panels.


References

1. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed November 13, 2020.

2. How You Can Prevent Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Accessed November 13, 2020.

3. Huynh K, Gulick PG. HIV Prevention. [Updated 2020 Sep 2]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. URL.

4. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed November 13, 2020.

5. The Right Way To Use A Male Condom. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Accessed November 13, 2020.