Now that we’ve been informed about the main physical risks associated with sex: STIs, HIV, and unplanned pregnancy, what can we do to reduce the risk?
Abstinence: Not having sex means you’re at a 0% risk of getting pregnant of contracting an STI.
Having less sexual partners: It’s common sense. The less sexual partners you have, the less chance you’ll have of being exposed to the STIs.
But if you choose to be sexually active, there are options for you too:
Get Tested: If you and your sexual partner(s) get tested regularly, you’ll be able to accurately know what kinds of risks you’ll be taking.
Use a condom: Condoms reduce the risk of getting STIs, HIV, and becoming pregnant. The following sections will give you a bit more info about this stretchy wonder.
Condoms a.k.a. rubber, wrap, sheath… act like a thin wall between the vagina and the penis. It helps to stop sperm and most STIs from passing between partners. It also provides some (not complete) skin-to-skin protection against viral STIs.
Both male and female condoms provide very good protection against pregnancy and STIs. When used with contraceptive foam, they provide excellent protection against pregnancy. For many people, condoms are the cheapest and easiest form of birth control (other than not having sex).
Note: Condoms should be used during vaginal, anal, and oral sex.
Before we get into condom stuff, there’s one more topic: lubricant. Lube is a fluid that is used to make vaginal or anal intercourse safer and more comfortable. It can also be used when inserting a finger or dildo into the vagina or anus. It's important to use lubricants that are made specifically for sex, because they are water-based. This kind of lubricant is not harmful to the body. Do not use oil-based lubricants such as baby oil or Vaseline with a latex condom, because they will break down the latex condom.
Most condoms are made already lubricated, but it's a good idea to check that they are lubricated before using them. If not, use extra lubricant. You don't need to use a lot of lubricant, just a few drops on the outside of the condom before penetration.
PS: Oil-based lubricants do not break down polyurethane condoms.
Some STIs (such as herpes and genital warts) can be spread by oral sex (mouth to genitals). If you have oral sex you need to be careful in some cases you cannot see STIs, including herpes and genital warts.
To protect yourself from getting an STI through oral sex on a man, you can put a condom on the penis before you put your mouth on it. If you are giving oral sex to a woman you can put a barrier over the vulva (vagina area). Examples of barriers to use on a woman are a non-lubricated condom cut in half, a piece of Saran wrap, or a dental dam.
Note: When using a condom as a barrier for oral sex, you may choose to use non-lubricated or flavoured condoms because of the taste.