The statistics can be disconcerting – according to the World Health Organisation, one million individuals acquire a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) or Disease (STD) every day. A majority of them go unnoticed by the individuals as the symptoms are mild. Hence, experts prefer to categorise the condition as an infection rather than a disease. Even though the symptoms can be mild, they can lead to emotional, physiological, social, and sexual dysfunction. Since the STIs and STDs are infectious, i.e. they can spread from one person to another through sexual contact, here are the different ways of STD prevention:
Highly effective vaccinations are available for Hepatitis B and Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Most countries have adopted these vaccines as part of their infant immunisation programmes or routine immunisation programmes. Consult your doctor to know how you can get access to the vaccines if you are not already vaccinated.
2. Male circumcision
As much as 60% of the risk of acquiring HIV in men in heterosexual relationships is reduced when the man is circumcised. The biomedical procedure also offers some protection against herpes and HPV.
3. Use condoms
Practise safe sex and always use a new latex condom when engaging in any type of sexual activity. Do not use a condom made from natural membranes as they aren’t as effective at preventing STIs. Condoms greatly reduce the risk of contracting an STI/D from a partner but only when used correctly.
Please note, condoms may not completely protect against infections whose symptoms include exposed genital sores. Abstaining from sex and physical contact is the only way to prevent yourself from getting the infection.
4. Abstain from alcohol and drugs
Being under the influence can inhibit your critical thinking abilities. You may end up practising unsafe sex with a known or unknown partner with an STI/D.
5. Practise monogamy
Staying in a mutually exclusive long- term sexual relationship with an uninfected partner can significantly reduce the risk of either of you catching an STI/D.
Before you get into a sexual relationship with your partner, explicitly ask if they have an STI/D. Depending on their answer and how much you trust them, clearly, delineate what sexual contact is allowed and what isn’t. If they have an STI/D, you may wish to abstain from sex until the infection has cleared and they are no longer infected, or you may wish to limit your sexual contact to only oral sex with the correct use of condoms or dental dams.
7. Screen for STI/D
This may be difficult to do, but when you’re thinking of how to prevent STD, one of the best ways is to get yourself, and your new partner screened for STI/D before you become sexually active with each other, especially if you wish to engage in anal or vaginal intercourse. If you are engaging in oral sex, using condoms or dental dams is the best way to go.
8. Other non-sexual behavioural methods
Avoid sharing needles, towels, undergarments; wash yourself before and after intercourse to prevent contracting an STI/D.
Lastly, the most effective way to prevent yourself from acquiring an STI/D is abstaining from sex. However, if that is a lifestyle choice that you are comfortable with, the methods mentioned above should significantly reduce your risk of getting infected with an STI/D.