What STIs could I get from unsafe sex?

Chlamydia, genital warts, herpes and gonorrhoea are the most common sexually transmitted infections
causing genital symptoms. Hepatitis B, HIV and syphilis can also be transmitted sexually. In addition, pubic lice (crabs), scabies, and other less common infections can be sexually transmitted.

Does the pill protect against STIs?

No. The birth control pill, like most of the other contraceptive methods, prevents unplanned pregnancies but does not protect against STI. A sexually active person should always use a condom during sexual contact (vaginal intercourse, oral sex and anal intercourse) to reduce the chances
of getting an STI.

How can I protect myself from STIs?

The most risky forms of sex are penetrative anal intercourse and penetrative vaginal intercourse with no condoms. You can reduce your chance of infection greatly by using a condom.

It is important to make sure the condom is put on before any penetration takes place, and to make sure the condom stays on until withdrawal is complete. This means withdrawing before the erection is lost and holding the condom in place during withdrawal. Condoms can sometimes break, so it is important to check the condom is still intact after sex.

Ensuring the condom is not out of date, and using a water based lubricant (KY jelly, wet stuff, lubrafax) when you feel dry may help prevent breakages. Oil based lubricants (such as moisturiser or massage oils) can damage the latex of condoms and so should be avoided. Other sexual activities put you at less risk of sexually transmitted infections. These include mutual masturbation, penetrative sex with
condoms, massage, and oral sex with a condom.

See our Condom page for more info about condom use.

What are the safest forms of sex ?

Sex doesn't have to involve penetration. If you are sexually active, you could consider doing other things with your partner, like kissing, mutual pleasuring, self pleasuring, touching or hugging, instead of having intercourse.

For oral sexual activities, anal or vaginal intercourse, a condom should be used to reduce the chance of catching a sexually transmitted infection.

It is possible to pick up a sexually transmitted infection even if you do not have intercourse.Some infections such as genital warts, crabs, and scabies can be passed by skin-to-skin contact during
sex without any penetration taking place

Herpes can be passed on by kissing, oral sex or intercourse (remember a lot of people who have herpes don't know they are infected).

There is less risk of infection if both you and your partner have been tested for sexually transmitted infections and are free of infection.

There is a risk of infection if:

  • you or your partner are having sex with other people
  • you are unsure about whether your partner may be having sex with other people

<back to top>

Why practise safe sex?

There are really good reasons why sexually active people should practise safe sex:

  • You can’t tell whether someone has an STI based on how they look

  • STIs are common

  • Just because you don’t have symptoms doesn’t mean that you don’t have an STI

Want to know more about condoms, STIs or
safe sex
? Check out the links page for more information.

Why use condoms?

Condoms are the best way to protect yourself and your partner from HIV, chlamydia and many other STIs. Find out more.

What does testing involve?

The type of test or tests you have will depend on the type of sexual activity you have been involved in and what symptoms you have. It's important to remember that you can have and STI and not have any symptoms at all. Find out more.