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What You Should Know: Safe Sex Practices and the Importance of STD Testing

Category: Posted on: 12/4/19 10:12 AM

STD rates continue to rise among Americans. Although research has shown that Americans are having less sex than in the past, people are still contracting STDs at an alarming rate. So what is the cause? Is it a lack of education? Overindulgence in risky behavior? Bad luck?

Truth be told, there are numerous explanations and contributing factors to the spike. However, by staying vigilant, making good choices, and becoming educated, you can buck the trend and keep yourself free from STDs and STIs.

The first and most effective method of avoiding STDs is, obviously, through abstinence. A 2018 General Social Survey found that nearly a quarter of people surveyed had been celibate in the past year. There is a litany of reasons people choose to remain celibate, including past trauma, religious beliefs, and focus on work. Celibacy is a choice and a viable option for those seeking to eliminate the odds of contracting an STD.

For those who eschew abstinence, the next best strategy would be to practice monogamy. To that end, it’s a good idea to communicate with potential sexual partners before engaging in sexual activity. You don’t need to pry, but if you are interested, it is prudent to ask if they are sexually active and if they’ve ever been tested before. If it makes you more comfortable, demand your partner get tested before you do anything. If they truly love you and want to be with you, they’ll have no qualms. Seeing that clean bill of health will certainly ease your nerves and allow you to have a less stressful experience.

If you wish to be sexually active with a variety of partners, the best thing you can do for yourself would be to use protection. If you are not looking to get pregnant or start a family, use contraceptives like birth control pills or condoms. The latter is also an effective method of blocking the spread of STDs. To be extra safe, make sure you are using them correctly; wear them for the entire duration of skin-to-skin genital contact. It may also help to utilize the withdrawal, or “pull out” method while wearing a condom, as it will keep semen completely out of the vagina. If you want to stay free from STDs and pregnancy, condoms should be worn in every incidence of anal, oral, and vaginal sex.

Many couples choose to bring an extra dimension into the bedroom, either through adding a partner into the mix or the utilization of sex toys. Regarding the former, the same rules of communication should apply before you start getting frisky. The last thing you want to do is be responsible for infecting both yourself and your partner. If you do choose to use sex toys, make sure you’re cleaning them after every use. You may also want to sterilize them between uses as an added layer of protection.

It was previously believed women should rinse off and/or douche after sex. Research has shown that is no longer the case. Doing so can increase the risk of STDs, as it can remove from the vagina natural bacteria which helps the body fight STDs. So whether you’re having unprotected sex or not, it’s a good idea to wait a little while before showering after sex.

If you indulge in drugs and alcohol, be careful. While the use of alcohol and drugs on their own won’t directly cause or increase the odds of catching an STD, it may affect your judgment, leading to risky behavior which does put you at an increased risk of obtaining an STD. Try to be mindful and avoid overindulgence. It can be a good idea to utilize the buddy system. If you want to drink or use drugs, do it with people you trust and remember communication is vital.

At the end of the day, only you are responsible for your sexual health. By staying educated and making good choices, you can have safe sex and avoid sexually transmitted diseases.