How to Prevent STIs

The only way to completely avoid getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) is to abstain from all intimate contact. However, that is not practical for most people. Fortunately, STIs are largely preventable by practicing safer sex both correctly and consistently.

Make these strategies for lowering your risk of getting an STI part of your overall commitment to your health.


Watch Now: 7 Tips For Preventing STDs

Seek (and Encourage) STI Testing

You and your partner should strongly consider being tested before entering a new sexual relationship. If one or both of you are at high risk of disease, you should be tested even more frequently.

If you're being treated for an STI, wait until you're done with treatment before resuming sexual activity. If you don't, you and your partner could end up passing an infection back and forth.

Only Have Sex Within a Mutually Monogamous Relationship

One benefit of long-term monogamy is a reduction in the likelihood of bringing a new STI into the relationship. This, of course, hinges on starting the relationship having tested negative and, importantly, ongoing trust and commitment to this shared promise.

It is important to note that STI testing is not 100% accurate and both false positives and false negatives can occur.

With herpes, the virus can lay dormant and undetected for years before a flare-up occurs. If you or your partner is diagnosed with herpes despite long-term monogamy, this could be why.

Make All Sex Safer Sex

Of course, mutual monogamy is not for everyone. If you or your partner are having sex with other people, or you are not sure of your partner's behaviors, you need to practice safer sex.

Use an external condom, internal condom, or dental dam, as appropriate, when engaging in intimate contact. This includes vaginal and anal sex, as well as oral sex.

Barriers are not 100% protective against all STIs, but they will greatly reduce your risk.

Practicing safer sex is only effective if you do it every time you have an encounter. Take responsibility for your own sexual health and bring your own safer sex supplies.

Know Your Limits

It can be hard to think clearly and critically "in the moment." That's why it's wise to be certain about how far you are willing to take things before things heat up.

While making a decision ahead of time can help you have an agenda you can lean on later, it is also important to be prepared with external or internal condoms in case you change your mind.

Talk to Your Partner

Open and honest communication is important in all aspects of a relationship, including this one.

Talk openly with your partner about sex, practicing safer sex, and STI testing. Share not only that testing was done, but what tests were performed and when.

It is also important to be comfortable talking to your partner about whether or not you are exclusive and what monogamy means to you.

Sharing this information with your partner will not only make your sex life safer, but it could also help further define your relationship.

Don't Drink or Use Drugs Before Having Sex

It is difficult to make responsible choices about your sex life and practicing safer sex if you're impaired by drugs or alcohol.

When under the influence, a person is more likely to have sex with someone they may not pick if they were sober.

In addition, being inebriated can make it more difficult to remember to practice safer sex.

Be Comfortable Saying "No"

If you don’t want to have sex, say so. Sex is not something you "owe" someone because they bought you dinner or because you've been on a certain number of dates, for example.

It's your choice to say "yes" to sex. It's also your choice to say "no." Own those rights, demand they be respected, and extend respect for your partner's same decisions in kind.

Consider Vaccination

Vaccines are available to protect against hepatitis B and human papillomavirus (HPV)—sexually transmitted infections that can have long-term consequences.

Hepatitis B infection can result in a mild illness including fever, fatigue, vomiting, and jaundice, but it can also be more serious and lead to liver failure.

The hepatitis B vaccine is given as a series of shots over the course of several months and is recommended at birth. Children, adolescents, and adults who have not been previously vaccinated should consider getting the vaccine.

HPV infection can cause warts and certain types of cancer. The vaccine—Gardasil 9—protects against nine strains of HPV, including types 16 and 18, which cause about 70% of cervical cancers.

Recommended at age 11 or 12 years, the vaccine can be administered between the ages of 9 and 45.

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4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Genital herpes screening: FAQ.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How you can prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

  3. MedlinePlus. Hepatitis B vaccine.

  4. Workowski KA, Bachmann LH, Chan PA, et al. Sexually transmitted infections treatment guidelines, 2021MMWR Recomm Rep. 2021;70(4):1-187. doi:10.15585/mmwr.rr7004a1