The following are some options on how to prevent STDs for a person who chooses to be sexually active:
Talk about STDS
Talking with any potential partner about their STD status (and the status of their previous partners) reduces the risk of getting an STD. Getting tested together for STDs can provide peace of mind. Please be sure to confirm which STD tests are being done as not all clinics test for all of the most common STDs. If either partner tests positive, be sure to talk with a medical provider about how to get treated and how protect the other partner.
Choosing to be sexually active with only one person, and confirming your partner is only having sex with you, greatly reduces the risk for STDs.
Wear a condom
Wearing an external (male) or internal (female) condom, every time, with every sex act, can reduce the risk of STD transmission. See the condom page for more info.
Use a dental dam
Dental dams are thin sheets of latex that are used to cover the vagina or anus during oral sex. Bacteria or viruses that can lead to infections or cancer, can enter a persons mouth, vagina, or anus during oral sex. The dental dam was originally designed to isolate a tooth during dental procedures. They were later found to be useful protection for oral sex. Many people think to use a condom for oral sex of the penis. People do not always realize that they should also use protection when licking the vagina or anus. The dental dam is used to cover the vagina or anus when oral sex is being given. If a dental dam is not available, cutting a condom open to make a square, or non-microwavable seran wrap can be used instead. Microwaveable seran wrap has little pores to let steam out, which may also allow bacteria and viruses in.
HPV Vaccine: Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common STD. There are different strains of HPV. According to The World Health Organization "There are more than 100 types of HPV, of which at least 13 are cancer-causing (also known as high risk type). HPV is mainly transmitted through sexual contact with an infected partner. While some strains of HPV can “just” cause ugly warts, other strains of HPV can cause cervical, anal, penile, and oral cancer. Thankfully, there is now a vaccine that offers protection against four of the most common strains of HPV. While not all strains are covered by the vaccine, protecting against the most common cancer and wart causing strains will provide good protection. Even if someone has tested positive for HPV, getting the vaccine can still protect a person from getting other strains of HPV.
Hepatitis A&B Vaccine:
Hepatitis is a medical condition where the liver is attacked and becomes inflamed. This can lead to liver failure or liver cancer. There are hepatitis viruses that can be prevented with vaccines.
Hepatits A is a virus that is spread through contact with an infected person's feces that has the virus in it. If someone has oral contact with someone's anus, there is a risk of transmission of hepatitis A.
Hepatitis B is a virus that is generally spread through blood. It may also be spread through body fluids such as semen, saliva, and vaginal fluids of an infected person.
A person’s immune system will often fight and clear these viruses from the body naturally. However, if the person's immune system fails to clear the viruses, a person is at risk living with hepatitis that can eventually lead to liver failure or cancer. While there is no cure for either of these viruses, vaccines can prevent them. Men having sex with men and IV drug users are at a greater risk of getting hepatitis. If you are having unprotected oral, vaginal, or anal sex with someone at risk for hepatitis, consider talking with your medical provider about whether or not getting vaccinated would be the right thing for you.
HIV Prevention Pill
Men who have sex with men and IV drug users have a higher risk of getting HIV. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) are medications a person can take to prevent the transmission of HIV.
PrEP is a daily antiretroviral medication for people who do not have HIV but are at very high risk for getting infected with HIV. PrEP can stop HIV from taking hold and spreading throughout a person’s body. It is highly effective for preventing HIV if used as prescribed, but it is much less effective when not taken consistently.
Daily PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90%. Among people who inject drugs, it reduces the risk by more than 70%. Your risk of getting HIV from sex can be even lower if you combine PrEP with condoms and other prevention methods.
PEP is an antiretroviral medicines (ART) that can be taken after being potentially exposed to HIV to prevent becoming infected. PEP should be used only in emergency situations and must be started within 72 hours after a recent possible exposure to HIV. If you think you’ve recently been exposed to HIV during sex or through sharing needles or if you’ve been sexually assaulted, talk to your medical provider or go to an emergency to ask about PEP right away.
Avoiding sexual activity is the only guaranteed way to prevent STDs.
Emotions play a huge role in the choices a person makes. Being depressed, anxious, or even elated can sometimes lead someone to make choices they might regret later on. For example a person might feel depressed and not care if they use a condom, only to regret that choice later when they are feeling better. Other factors such as drugs or alcohol can impact a person's mental state and their ability to properly use protection. Being aware of yours (or your partners) emotional or mental state, prior to having sex, can help prevent you from making a choice you might regret later on.
Jewish communities generally stress the importance of following the laws of yichud, and avoiding all intimate activity before marriage. Young people who choose to become sexually active may feel if they have engaged in some intimate activity they may as well just do it all. This may as well do it all response sometimes come from a place of guilt and shame about being intimate, rather than a complete desire to engage in sexual activity. If you are feeling conflicted about being sexually active, please find someone to talk to who can help you sort your feelings out.
Another challenge to STD prevention that comes up in frum communities is that of virginity status. Many young women are taught that it is important to remain a virgin until marriage. In an effort to maintain virgin status, vaginal sex is avoided and replaced with unprotected oral or anal sex. This often seems like a safer option as oral and anal sex have no chance of leading to pregnancy and does not impact virginity. Anal sex actually carries the highest risk of HIV transmission. Anal sex causes small microscopic tears in the recturm that can increase the risk of STD transmission. Additionally, as part of the GI tract, the rectum is designed to absorb which makes it is a more willing recipient to STDs. While oral sex does not carry as high a risk of STD transmission, there are still many STDs that the oral cavity can host. Should a person choose to be sexually active, it is important that they are aware of these risks so they can take the proper precautions.