When it comes to how you can and can’t contract an STD, there are a lot of misconceptions. To start with, sharing a shower or toilet with someone who suffers from an STD does not put you at risk of infection (unless you’re in sexual contact with them in the shower or on the toilet…!). But, all jokes aside, understanding sexual health can often be a bit of a minefield and a rather embarrassing subject.
However, by familiarizing yourself with the do’s and don’ts when it comes to sex, you’ll be able to protect yourself as much as possible from contracting an STD. Unfortunately, if you’re having sex, you’re not 100% guaranteed not to catch an infection, even if you’re using dental dams and condoms. So, unless you abstain, you are at some risk, but knowing your sexual partners and your own body will go a long way to keeping you happy and healthy.
Other Ways You Can Contract an STD:
Refraining from genitally penetrative sex is not going to protect you from contracting an STD because STDs can also be transmitted through genital contact, anal sex and oral sex. Even kissing can! Essentially, an STD transmission can occur whenever bodily fluids are being exchanged – so always be wary of this too.
Even though you can’t catch an STD by sitting on the toilet seat after an infected person, there are indirect ways you can catch an STD. For example, if someone with pubic lice uses a towel and someone without pubic lice uses it after them, they are at risk of contracting this parasite themselves. Again, this is low-risk but it’s just something else to be wary of.
How to Prevent STDs:
We’ve already established that abstaining is the only sure-fire way to protect yourself from an STD but if you don’t want to do that, there are a number of safety measures you can put in place to protect yourself.
Firstly, as awkward as it is, when you meet a new partner, you need to have the “safe sex” conversation with them. It’s incredibly cringe worthy but hugely important and it’ll make sure you’re both safe when you’re having sex. And, if neither of you are sure, you should both go for STD testing before you have sex.
Lowered inhibitions are another way you could put yourself at risk of an STD, so try to avoid alcohol and drugs for this reason. These may lower your guard and might see you taking risks that you wouldn’t normally take if you were sober. You might forego the usual sexual protection, which could put you at risk of STDs and a range of other problems too.
Latex dental dams and condoms are must for each sexual act, whether it’s anal, vaginal or oral and you should never use a lubricant that’s oil-based (e.g. petroleum jelly) when you’re using one of these as it can make them ineffective.
It’s not recommended to use condoms that are made from natural membranes either as these aren’t as effective at preventing the contraction of STDs. You should also bear in mind that even though condoms will protect you to some extent, they’re not as effective when it comes to STDs that involve genital sores, e.g. herpes or human papillomavirus (HPV). Other forms of contraception such as intrauterine or oral contraceptives are not a protection against STIs.
If you’re exposed to An STD:
If the worst happens and you think or know you’ve been exposed to an STD, you should seek medical advice straight away. The sooner you can do this, the sooner you can be tested to see if you have been infected by anything. Equally, if you have contracted an STD, you can be given the right medication to help treat the STD.
It’s also important that you don’t jump to any conclusions if you find out that you have an STD, like immediately assuming that your partner has been unfaithful. STDs can often go undetected for quite some time and you may find that a previous partner has infected you or your partner without you knowing.
Discovering you have an STD is traumatic and you may feel angry that someone has put you at risk of contracting an STD, and you may also be ashamed that you could have put others at risk too. However, health care workers can provide you with a lot of support as you come to terms with it, and being open and honest with your partner and previous sexual partners can help to prevent this awful disease from spreading any further.
Joshua Morton is a medical student who enjoys writing articles for people his own age whenever he gets a free moment, which is rare! He writes about sexual health and other important issues affecting young people.