STD - Prevention

By David A. Thompson, M.D. 
March 22, 2017

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STD - Prevention

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  • Seeking information about how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STD)

General Information

  • A sexually transmitted disease is an infection that is transmitted through sexual intercourse (vaginal, anal, oral). It is also sometimes referred to as a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

  • Examples of STD's include chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes, HIV, pubic lice, and trichomonas.

  • Some STD's can be cured with antibiotics (e.g., gonorrhea, chlamydia).

  • Some STD's cannot cured, but the symptoms can be reduced (e.g., herpes, HIV) by taking prescription medications.


  • Most STDs are transmitted by exchange of body fluids (e.g., semen, vaginal secretions or blood) during oral, anal, or vaginal sex.

  • Also can occur following direct contact with any sores/lesions during sex.

  • A latex condom acts as barrier and is effective at preventing STD's.

Abstinence and Other "Safe" Sexual Activities

  • There are only two 100% effective means of avoiding STDs:

    • Abstaining from sexual intercourse and from oral sex.

    • A truly monogamous (one sexual partner only) and longstanding relationship between two uninfected partners.

  • Sexual behaviors that are considered safe (and do not usually transmit STDs) include holding hands, hugging, touching and kissing (as long as there are no sores on the lips or in the mouth).

  • Touching semen during mutual masturbation generally is safe.

Behaviors That Do Not Prevent STD's

  • Douching the vagina or showering after sex does not prevent STD's.

  • Withdrawal (when a man pulls his penis out before he ejaculates) is not a way to prevent STD's or pregnancy.

  • Having a STD once does not prevent you from getting it again.

  • Using the birth control pill, birth control patch, or Depoprovera shots won't prevent you from getting a STD. You still need to protect yourself with condoms.

Additional Resources

  1. American Social Health Association

    • “Answers to your questions about teen sexual health and sexually transmitted diseases”


  2. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines 2006. MMWR. 2006; 55(RR-11):1-94.

  3. Public Health Agency of Canada

If not, see these topics


When to Call Your Doctor

call now

Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If

  • You were forced to have sex (sexual assault or rape)

  • You had sexual intercourse (in the past 72 hours) with someone who was diagnosed with HIV

call within 24 hours

Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If

  • You think you need to be seen

call within 24 hours

Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If

  • You have other questions or concerns

  • You are worried you might have a sexually transmitted disease

  • You had sexual intercourse with someone who was diagnosed with a STD

home care

Self Care at Home If

  • No symptoms and you don't think you need to be seen

  • Questions about preventing STD's by using condoms



  1. General condom information:

    • Latex condoms are the only effective way to prevent STDs during sexual intercourse.

    • You can also use condoms during oral sex.

  2. Obtaining a condom:

    • Buy latex rubber condoms. Persons who are allergic to latex can use a polyurethane (plastic) condom. Never use condoms made from animal skins; they can leak.

    • You can get condoms at public health clinics (often free), drug stores, supermarkets, and via the internet. You do not need a prescription.

  3. Storing condoms

    • Store condoms at room temperature. Avoid extreme heat, extreme cold, or sunlight.

    • You might want to keep a condom in your wallet or purse; this way it is ready and available.

  4. Putting on a condom - Instructions:

    • Hold the condom at the tip to squeeze out the air.

    • Roll the condom all the way down the erect penis (Do not try to put a condom on a soft penis).

    • If you use a lubricant during sex, make sure it is water-based (e.g., K-Y Liquid, Astroglide). Do not use petroleum jelly (Vaseline), vegetable oil (Crisco), or baby oil; these can cause a condom to break.

  5. Taking off a condom - Instructions:

    • After sex, hold onto the condom while the penis is being pulled out.

    • The penis should be pulled out while still erect, so that sperm (semen) doesn't leak out of the condom.

  6. Female condoms

    • There are female condoms (e.g., Reality) that you can also buy without a prescription.

    • A female condom is a polyurethane (plastic) sheath that is placed inside the vagina.

  7. STD National Hotline

    • The CDC National STD Hotline provides information on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, HPV/genital warts, herpes, and HIV/AIDS. Specialists can provide general information, referrals to local clinics, and written materials about STDs and disease prevention.

    • Toll-free number (English): (800) 227-8922

    • Toll-free number (Spanish): (800) 344-7432

    • Their website is at:

  8. Pregnancy test, when in doubt:

    • If there is any possibility of pregnancy, obtain and use a urine pregnancy test from the local drug store.

    • Follow the instructions included in the package.

  9. Call Your Doctor If:

    • Pregnancy test is positive or if you have difficulties with the home pregnancy test

    • You become worse

And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.


March 22, 2017