STD basics

STD prevention


How can I protect myself and others from STDs?

Abstinence (no sexual contact) is the only sure way to prevent STDs. But if you are sexually active, the best ways to stay healthy are:

  • To be mutually monogamous (ideally with a person who has tested negative for STDs, or who has been tested and treated for any STDs, if necessary)
  • To use a latex condom or a dental dam every time you have vaginal, anal or oral sex (you may also want to consider female condoms, FC1 and FC2)

The best way for men and women to decrease their chance of infection when having oral sex with women is to use a latex dental dam.

Get tested and take charge of your health

If you're sexually active, getting screened for STDs annually is the surest way to know if your status. If you have multiple sexual partners or unprotected sex, we recommend getting tested every six months. Protect yourself, protect your partners...and give yourself peace of mind.

If you have an STD...

First, you're not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate 19 million new STD cases in the United States every year. If you are positive for an STD, it's critical to complete the recommended treatment exactly as instructed.

And while it's not easy to do, be sure to tell everyone you've had sexual contact with in the last six months so they can get tested and treated, too. If it's been more than six months since you were sexually active, be sure to inform your most recent partner.

Remember, once you've been treated for an STD, you're not immune...you can be re-infected. That's why sexual partners should be treated at the same time so that an untreated partner still carrying the bacteria or virus doesn't re-infect the treated partner. Additionally, with gonorrhea and chlamydia, you and your partner shouldn't have sexual contact again until one week after you've both completed treatment.

Last reviewed by Lisa Oldson, MD, January 2011.

Lisa Oldson, MD

STD expert

"The first thing I tell a patient about STDs is that if you're worried about one STD, you should probably worry about all STDs. In other words, if you had unprotected sex and you're worried about a possible HIV exposure, it's important to understand that hepatitis can be spread in the same fashion...ditto for chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes and syphilis."