There are a number of effective prevention strategies for avoiding sexually transmitted infections. Dr. Patel, can you tell us about STI prevention?
Sure, Dr. Mayzik. We're talking about infections that are transmitted through sexual activity, so the most obvious and effective way to avoid STIs is by abstaining from sex; no sex, no infection.
Another strategy is to know and limit your sexual partners. Your partner's sexual history is as important as your own. The fewer partners you or your partner have, the lower your risk of getting an STI. Being in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner is one of the most reliable ways to avoid STIs if you are both certain you don't have an infection. It's important to have an open and honest conversation with your partner.
Using a latex condom every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex decreases, but does not completely eliminate, the chances of infection. Condoms lubricated with spermicide do not offer extra protection from STIs. In fact, frequent use of some spermicides can actually increase your chance of contracting HIV. If you have latex allergies, synthetic non-latex condoms can be used. However, these condoms have higher breakage rates than latex condoms. Natural membrane condoms are not recommended for STI prevention. It's also important to know that it's still possible to get certain STIs, such as herpes or HPV, from contact with your partner's skin even when using a condom.
Avoid risky sexual practices. Sex acts that tear or break the skin carry a higher risk of STIs. Anal sex poses a high risk because tissue in the rectum tears easily. Having any unprotected sexual contact with an infected person exposes you to a high risk of STI.
Finally, vaccinations are a safe, effective, and recommended way to prevent hepatitis B and HPV. HPV vaccinations for men and women can protect against some of the most common types of HPV. It's best to get all three doses, or shots, before becoming sexually active. It's important to note that hepatitis B and HPV vaccines are recommended for teens, so you may already have been vaccinated.