Five ways to prevent sexually transmitted infections

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, the highest reported rates of some sexually transmitted infections are in young people. However, cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are increasing among both younger and older Canadians.

The increases may be due in part to better testing and screening as well as an inconsistent use of safer sex methods among sexually active people.

If you are sexually active, you can reduce your risk, by following these five safer sex methods:

  1. Discuss sex openly with your partner. Talk about using protection and getting tested. Even if you're in a monogamous relationship or have had multiple monogamous relationships in a row, that is no guarantee against infection. If you are not comfortable enough to talk about sex, you may want to rethink having sex.

  2. Use condoms consistently and correctly. The major advantage to condom use is that condoms give you dual protection against both unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Condoms, used consistently and correctly, are the best barrier against infection, especially condoms without the spermicide nonoxynol-9, which can cause irritation that may increase your chance of contracting a sexually transmitted infection.

  3. Get tested. Get tested for sexually transmitted infections if you are sexually active. Be specific. Tell your health care provider you want a sexually transmitted infection test, as routine blood work and urine tests don't check for these types of infections.

  4. Talk to your health care provider or local sexual health clinic. Inquire about safer sex methods such as using non-spermicidal or non-lambskin condoms. If you're diagnosed and treated for a sexually transmitted infection, be sure to follow your health care provider's treatment and follow-up recommendations. You can easily be re-infected if your partner is not treated as well.

  5. Make informed decisions. Learn as much as you can about the signs, symptoms, testing, treatment and prevention of sexually transmitted infections.

Remember, many sexually transmitted infections have no signs or symptoms, so if you are sexually active, the only way to know for sure if you or your partner has an infection is for you both to get tested. While some infections such as gonorrhea are showing antibiotic resistance and treatment failure, the good news is that many sexually transmitted infections, including chlamydia, can be treated and cured.