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There are several ways to prevent getting an STI and others that significantly reduce your risk of getting an STI:

  • The only 100% effective method for preventing STIs is abstinence or not having sex and not sharing needes. This includes not having oral sex (like a blow job) and not sharing sex toys. 
  • If you are going to have sex, using a condom or other barrier method (see below) can significantly decrease your risk, but some STIs can spread even with condom use. 
  • If you use needles for drugs, medications, self-piercing, and/or self-tatooing - Do not share your needles with other people and use a clean needle (and works) every time. Check out Milwaukee's clean needle exchange program for more information. 
  • Getting tested is the only way to know your status and your partner's status for sure. Getting checked with every new partner, yearly or every three months if you have multiple partners or use intravenous drugs (drugs injected directly into a vein) is a great idea.

Barrier Methods

If you do choose to have sex - whether that be oral, anal or vaginal - there are ways you can stay safe using the following:

  • Wearable or "male" condoms - for any type of sex that includes penetration, including with sex toys 
  • Insertable or "female" condoms - for any type of sex that includes penetration, including with sex toys
  • Dental Dams - dental dams are a thin layer of latex or polyisoprene that can be used as a barrier for oral sex. Dental dams can be difficult to find, but many free condom locations will give them to you if you ask. You can also make your own using the tips below.
    • Take any type of condom and using a scissors make a cut up one side and flatten it out
    • Using a latex, polyurethane or polyisoprene glove, cut up the side of the glove that has the pinky finger and then cut off all fingers, leaving the thumb and flatten it out
    • Anything other than latex, polyurethane or polyisoprene materials have a higher risk of potentially spreading an STI. 

It's important that you use a new condom, dental dam, or other barrier only one time for each time you have sex or if you switch between types of sex. 

How someone gets an STI

STIs are mostly spread through bodily fluids like blood, sperm, and vaginal secretions (cum) as well as skin-to-skin contact during all types of sex including:

  • Oral (i.e. giving or receiving head, blow job)
  • Anal (i.e. penetration in the anus with a penis or sex toy)
  • Vaginal (i.e. penetration in the vagina with a penis or sex toy)
  • Genital rubbing without penetration/skin-to-skin contact (i.e. dry humping with clothes off)

Some STIs, like HIV and Hepatitis are spread by sharing needles like the ones used for drugs, injectable medications like insulin, and needles used in self-tattooing and self-piercing.