Sexpert Column: STIs and Safe Sex

Laia Alonso, Shaw Wellness Institute Intern

There is beginning to be more conversation surrounding STIs and the importance of getting tested. However, there is still an overall lack of awareness of all the other STIs that can be transmitted. Depending on the manner of sexual activity, there are different risks and infections involved. Today, we will run through the different STIs that can be transmitted during each activity. 

When having vaginal or anal intercourse, there are several STIs one can come across. The most well-known are chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV. Other less “popular” STIs include herpes, human papilloma virus (also known as HPV or warts), Scabies, syphilis and hepatitis. However, lesser discussed infections include bacterial vaginosis, cytomegalovirus (CMV), molluscum contagiosum, pubic lice and trichomoniasis. 

When having oral sex, you can  also come in contact with similar STIs. These include chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, cytomegalovirus, hepatitis, herpes simplex, molluscum contagiosum and syphilis.

In the case of manual sex (also known as a “hand job” or “fingering”) you can come across bacterial vaginosis, cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex, HPV, molluscum contagiosum, pubic lice and scabies.

Although this all might seem very scary, it demonstrates the risks we must be aware of when deciding to have sex. Practicing safe sex is incredibly important to maintaining your’s and your partner´s health. A way to stay protected is to create a barrier. The most popular barrier is the condom, which can be either the external “male” condom or the internal “female” condom. Male condoms are the most widely used and, although most people understand how to use them, it is always important to check the expiration date and make sure that the condom is not broken before using it using it as a barrier. An internal condom can be put in ahead of time and also allows for a barrier to be created. The internal condom has a ring base, which is squeezed and can be inserted into the vagina or anus, depending on the activities you may be interested in. Dental dams are also an excellent method to create this barrier. You place it over the genital area, and you hold it in place during sexual activity. 

Furthermore, gloves and finger cots can also be used to reduce the risk of infections. Although these options are used far less, they can still offer extra protection if wanted or needed, and some people even believe that they can make sexual activities even more enjoyable. However, when using latex barriers, it is also essential to take into consideration that you should not use oil-based lubricants, as they can break down latex.

It is also important to get tested regularly. Try to shoot for getting checked once a year. However, if you are very sexually active, consider getting tested more frequently. It is especially important to keep in mind that some STIs and STDs do not have symptoms, further increasing the importance of getting regularly checked. If you do notice some symptoms of STIs and STDs such as excessive itchiness, or a burning sensation when urinating, go see a professional and get tested as soon as possible. Testing, therefore, is the way to find out what you can do to get the proper treatment and avoid transmitting the STI. 

As always, safe sex is the best sex. If you would like more information, resources or to submit a question, feel free to contact the Shaw Wellness Institute.

Contact Laia Alonso at [email protected]