Risk Reduction for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
Methods of protecting yourself from sexually transmitted infections range from abstaining to practicing safer sexual behaviors. Outlined below are a number of ways in which you can protect yourself from STIs.
What behaviors can transmit a sexually transmitted infection (STI)?
We're really talking about four different behaviors here, listed below:
- Vaginal intercourse: the insertion of a man's penis into a woman's vagina.
- Anal intercourse: the insertion of a man's penis into another person's rectum/anus.
- Oral sex on a man: oral contact with a man's penis or testicles.
- Oral sex on a woman: oral contact with a woman's labia, vagina, clitoris.
These four behaviors can all transmit an STI to an uninfected partner, in either direction. In other words, it is possible to become infected with an STI whether you are receiving or performing oral sex, on anyone, or if you are the insertive or receptive partner in either act of intercourse.
What is safer sex?
Safer sex entails a wide range of sexual activities. Some sexual activities carry no risk of infection. Others have limited risk. If you do choose to have sexual intercourse it is important to practice responsible sexual behavior, often referred to as 'safer sex'.
Again, we're talking about a series of behaviors:
Honest, open communication is a must these days for any kind of responsible (and enjoyable!) sexual experience. Not only do you find out about what risks you might be at, you can also find out what your partner likes and dislikes, how they prefer to be touched, where the limits of sexual expression are for a given encounter, and increase trust between people.
This clinically means engaging in sexual behavior exclusively with one person for the rest of your life, after you've both either tested negative for all testable sexually transmitted infection, or if both of you have never been sexually active before with anyone else.
Having several 'monogamous' sexual relationship over the course of a semester or a year - often known as serial monogamy - is not the same as clinical monogamy. A series of protected sexual experiences where a person has sexual behaviors with 'only one person at a time' carries more risk than clinical monogamy. It can also bring a level of intimacy and sexual pleasure to a relationship that is difficult to find elsewhere.
Using male condoms and female condoms
Using barrier protection every time you have oral, vaginal or anal sex is is the best protection currently available against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) for sexually active people. While not 100% effective in prevention of all STIs, consistent barrier use does greatly lower risk for chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, and HIV, and it reduces the risk of skin-to-skin transmission of STIs, such as herpes and HPV.
The ASU Student Wellness provides information on the use of safe sex supplies. They also coordinate the distribution of these safe sex supplies in various locations across the Appalachian campus.
Other Safer Sex Techniques
- Avoid sexual contact until you and your partner(s) have been tested for pre-existing sexually transmitted infections (STIs). However, be aware that some STD infections may not be detected by testing or visual exam.
- Limit your number of sexual partners. Restricting your sexual activities to a committed relationship in which you and your partner make an agreement to be faithful sexually makes good emotional as well as disease prevention sense.
- Do not rely upon your partner to tell the truth because studies indicate that some college men and women do not reveal everything about their sexual history. Also, your partner may not know the sexual history of their partners.
- Before you have sex, look closely for any signs of a sexually transmitted infection (STI): a rash, a sore, redness or discharge on your partner's genitals. If you notice anything unusual, refrain from any sexual contact and insist your partner(s) get a medical checkup. STI testing and treatment is available through ASU Student Health Services.
- If you or a partner was ever infected with a viral infection like herpes, HPV (genital warts), hepatitis B, or HIV, avoid unprotected sex. Even if no symptoms are present, the virus is still there and can be transmitted.
- Get checked for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) every time you have an annual health maintenance exam, especially if you have changed partners or if you have more than one partner. This is very important for women who often have no symptoms of STIs. If you have more than one partner, you should have a regular STI checkup one to two times a year.
What if you have a sexually transmitted infection (STI)?
- Testing and treatment is available at Appalachian State University Student Health Services.
- Notify your partner(s) so they can be evaluated and treated and will not infect or reinfect others.
- Refrain from sexual activity until you and your partner(s) have completed the entire treatment, even if your symptoms disappear before the treatment is finished.
- Talk with a healthcare provider at ASU Student Health Services about ways to reduce reoccurrences and minimize the risk of infection to future partners if you have an infection that is not curable.
Page content reviewed: 6/4/15 kal
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