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Safe Sex

What is safe sex?

Safe sex is a combination of practices taken to prevent pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). These practices help to decrease or prevent the exchange of body fluids during sexual contact. Body fluids include saliva, urine, blood, vaginal fluids, and semen.

How do I practice safe sex?

Use these safe sex measures every time you have sexual contact with another person:

  • Use condoms and barrier methods: Use a new condom or latex barrier each time you have sex. This includes oral, vaginal, and anal sex. If you are allergic to latex, use a nonlatex product such as polyurethane.

  • Limit sexual partners: Avoid having multiple sex partners. Do not have sex with people if you do not know their sexual history.

  • Avoid activities that can pass germs: Do not use saliva as a lubricant or share sex toys.

  • Tell others if you have an STI: Tell all your sexual partners if you are diagnosed with STI. They may need to be tested and treated. Do not have sex while you are being treated for an STI or with a partner who is being treated.

  • Have regular screenings and exams for STIs: If you have had sexual contact with someone with an STI, contact your caregiver.

  • Get vaccinated: Vaccines may help to prevent your chances of getting an STI like HPV, hepatitis A, and hepatitis B. Ask your caregiver for more information on vaccines for STIs.

What are the risks of not having safe sex?

If you do not practice safe sex, you may get an STI. This may make you feel bad about yourself or your partner and may damage your relationship. Women who do not practice safe sex may become pregnant. Some STIs cannot be cured. Some STIs may cause severe illness, lead to cancer, or be life-threatening.

What other things should I keep in mind?

  • Use water-based lubricants: Do not use oil-based lubricants, such as baby oil or hand lotion, with latex condoms or barriers. These will weaken the latex and may cause it to break.

  • Do not use chemical irritants: Products with chemical irritants, such as spermicides, can irritate the lining of your vagina or rectum and may increase your risk of getting an STI, such as HIV.

  • Be careful of open sores or cuts: Open sores or cuts may increase your risk of an STI. This includes new piercings and tattoos.

  • Avoid alcohol and drugs: These substances can cause poor judgment and increase your risk of having unsafe sex.

Where can I find more information?

  • American Social Health Association (ASHA)
    P.O. Box 13827
    Research Triangle Park , NC 27709
    Web Address:

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • You think you might be pregnant.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • A condom breaks, leaks, or slips off while you are having sex.

  • You notice sores on your penis, vagina, anal area, or skin around them.

  • You have had unsafe sex and want to discuss emergency contraception or treatment for STI exposure.

Care Agreement

Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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