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Safer Sex

Safer sex means being intimate, but using measures that minimize the risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Not having sex, including intercourse, oral sex, anal sex, and genital-to-genital contact is the only sure way to eliminate the risk for STDs. Caressing, hugging, dry kissing, and masturbation are no risk or extremely low-risk practices. So is limiting your sexual contact to one person your entire life if your partner is also monogamous and does not have an STD.

Measures to reduce the risk for contracting an STD


Latex and polyurethane condoms may offer partial protection in preventing transmission of HIV infection and may reduce the risk for other STDs. To do this, they must be used properly and carefully and for every sex act. Sex with condoms isn’t totally “safe sex,” but is “less risky” sex. Use condoms with “prevent disease” on the package label. Barriers made of natural membranes, such as lamb skin, do not offer effective protection against STDs. Unless they are in a monogamous relationship in which neither partner has an STD, both females and males should carry latex or polyurethane condoms and insist that they be used every time they have genital-to-genital contact and/or oral sex. Use polyurethane condoms if either partner is allergic to latex.


For oral-vaginal sex and oral-anal sex, use latex dams (“doilies”). These are latex squares.


Using latex condoms with spermicides, such as nonoxynol-9 (N-9) are no more effective than other lubricated condoms in protecting against HIV and other STDs. Using spermicides with N-9 are not effective in preventing chlamydia, cervical gonorrhea, or HIV infection. Thus, spermicides alone are not recommended for STD/HIV prevention. Also, frequent use of spermicides with N-9 has been associated with genital lesions which may be associated with an increased risk of HIV transmission. In addition, N-9 may increase the risk for HIV transmission during anal intercourse. For adequate lubrication during intercourse, you may need to use lubricants. Use water-based ones, such as K-Y Brand Jelly. Don’t use oil-based or “petroleum” ones, such as Vaseline. They can damage latex barriers.


Don’t have sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.


Limit sexual partners. Sexual contact with many persons increases the risk for STDs, especially if no protection is used.

  Discuss a new partner’s sexual history with him or her before beginning a sexual relationship. (Be aware, though, that persons are not always honest about their sexual history.)

If you have multiple sex partners, ask your health care provider to check for STDs every 6 months or as often as he or she advises even if you don’t have any symptoms.

Seek treatment for a sexually transmitted disease if you suspect or know your sex partner is infected. Your sexual partner(s) should also be contacted and treated.



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