STIs are not only uncomfortable, painful, and sometimes embarrassing, but they can also lead to health complications such as infertility, cancer, or even death. With that said, here's a reminder of the ways you can protect yourself, brought to you by the MayoClinic.
- Talk to your partner. It's important to feel comfortable asking your partner about his or her sexual history. If you feel nervous, you may have to question whether or not you're ready to have sex in the first place.
- Get an STI screening. Some people will either lie about having an STI, or they may not even know they've contracted an infection. Either way, it's a great idea for both you and your partner to get tested before becoming sexually active — peace of mind is definitely a turn on.
- Immunize. In most countries, it's mandatory to receive the vaccine for Hepatitis B, so you most likely have it already. We're also lucky enough to have Gardasil, the vaccine that guards against HPV, the STI that causes certain types of cervical cancer. If you're not in a mutually monogamous relationship, it may be a great idea to get this vaccine.
To find out how else you can protect yourself,
- Condoms are a must. Although using male and female condoms doesn't guarantee 100 percent protection from STIs, they definitely help dramatically. Even if you're on the pill to protect against pregnancy, you still want to use a condom if you're unsure whether your partner is STI-free.
- Don't mix sex with alcohol or drugs.I don't need to tell you that using drugs or alcohol decreases your awareness and makes it more difficult for you to make responsible decisions regarding your sexual safety. It's harder to remember to use a condom, and you may not be as picky about who you end up in bed with. Not only that, but using drugs and alcohol can also make sex less pleasurable, so it's really not worth it.
- Be safe in public settings. If you're at a new bar or a friend's house party, remember that you can't be too careful. It's OK to try out new social scenes, just make sure you go with a group of friends that agree to arrive and leave together. Also, don't let your drink out of your sight. Date-rape drugs are colorless and odorless, but they can impair your judgment or make you pass out. You don't want anyone taking advantage of you, so if you forget to watch your drink, throw it out and get a new one — you're better safe than sorry.