Sexually transmitted infections and diseases (STI or STD) are, as the name implies, health conditions which are transferred from one person to another via sexual contact. While they can be very varied and different when it comes to, for example, root causes of infection, methods of treatment or symptoms, they are all transmitted through unprotected sexual acts.

This why knowing that safe sex practices are the crucial step in preventing STIs is considered common knowledge today. In this article we will dive deeper into this topic and discuss the most effective methods of preventing the spread of STIs.

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Non-penetrative sex

It goes without saying that the most reliable and comprehensive way of avoiding STDs is abstinence. However, it’s doubtful that this can be considered a viable preventive practice. However, non-penetrative sex is somewhat safer. Practices such as masturbation (or mutual masturbation), body rubbing and kissing all come with a significantly lower risk of transmitting an STI as opposed to penetrative sex. The main point of interest with non-penetrative sex is avoiding contact between penile and vaginal secretions with mouth, anus, penis or vagina.

However, while non-penetrative sex is considerably safer as opposed to the alternative, this isn’t true for all STIs. Some of them, like herpes (HSV) can be transmitted through kissing if the condition affects the mouth. Usually, cold sore should be indicative of the presence of herpes on the mouth, but not in all cases. The situation here is further complicated by the fact that most cold sores are caused by HSV-1 virus which isn’t an STI – genital herpes is caused by the HSV-2 strain.

It is important to note that HSV can be passed from the mouth to genitalia and vice versa through oral sex.


Since unsafe sex is the single biggest risk factor when it comes to contracting STIs, it’s not a surprise that using protection is the best way to minimize the risks. Especially when it comes to vaginal sex, there are numerous reliable protection methods which can successfully prevent transmission of STIs, without compromising the enjoyment of the act.

Condoms are considered to be 95% effective in this regard, and the same is true for both male and female condoms.

Female condoms are very successful in the prevention of infection when used correctly. Prior to intercourse, the soft inner ring of the female condom should be inserted into the vagina using fingers, so that the loose latex bag encompasses the area. Male condom is equally efficient when properly used.

Even if you are allergic to latex, today you can find numerous manufacturers specialized in non-latex condoms that offer the same level of protection.

To optimize efficiency of condoms, it is important to pay special attention when removing it so that no semen is spilled. After use, you should dispose of the condom and never reuse it.

It is also important to note that STIs can be transmitted at any point during intercourse and not just at the point of ejaculation, so putting on a condom halfway through the intercourse isn’t a reliable way to stay safe.

Oral sex protection

Oral sex is just as effective in spreading STDs as is the case with penetrative sex which is why it’s important to use proper protection in case you are practicing it with someone who isn’t your long-term partner. A male condom can be used to cover the man’s penis, while a dental dam can be very useful for covering female genitalia or anus.

Anal sex

Anal sex denotes any form of penetration of the anus using fingers, penis or sex toys. This form of sex comes with the highest risk of spreading STIs since the lining of the anus is very thing and thus prone to injury and infection. Condoms are rather safe way to prevent STI spread during anal sex.

Sex toys

Sex toys are used by many in order to enhance sexual pleasure. However, it is important to note that they too are considered to be risk factors when it comes to spreading STI. This is why you should never share sex toys unless it’s with your long-term partner with whom you are sure that there is no risk.

Some STIs such as hepatitis can live without a host for several weeks at a time which makes it imperative to thoroughly clean all sex used after use, especially so if they are shared between individuals. If a sex toy is shared during sex, a new condom should be placed over it prior to switching users.

STI testing

In order to ensure that you are not contributing to the spread of sexually transmitted infections, but also in order to get proper and timely treatment if needed, it is very important to know for certain whether you might be infected. The safest way to do this is, of course, to get tester regularly. This practice becomes even more important if you are practicing unprotected sex or have recently started having sex with a new partner. You can get tested for STIs either using an at-home STI kit or at your local genitourinary medicine clinic (usually called GUM clinics), at a sexual health clinic, or by asking your general practitioner for advice on the issue.

Vaccination as STI prevention

Although there has been some talk about the possibility of general purpose vaccination against STI, so far, there is no vaccine that can protect an individual from all different STIs out there. For now, you can get vaccinated for hepatitis A and B if you consider yourself to be in the high risk group. However, prior to vaccination, you will need to get the green light from your doctor.

Planning ahead

If you think that sex is likely to happen, you should always plan ahead which method of protection you will use if something does happen. In addition to this, although it might be uncomfortable, it is advisable to talk to your partner and check whether they have been recently tested for STIs.

Sexual partners and safety

It goes without saying that those who frequently change or have multiple sex partners are at a significantly higher risk of contracting an STI. On the contrary, if you are in a long-term monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested negative for STIs, then your chances of contracting one are close to zero, with the only exception being those conditions which aren’t really STIs, but are conditions brought on by other factors – for example, the change of vaginal flora due to use of new shampoo or shower gel that can bring on the onset of bacterial vaginosis.