Safer Sex and HIV/STIs

Safer Sex Resources

More than one million STIs are acquired every day. According to WHO, 374 million new infections with one of the four STIs (chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and trichomoniasis) was estimated in 2020. Reducing the risk of transmission requires an understanding and practice of safe sex. Here are some guidelines for safer sex:

  • Discuss with your partner your past partners, history of STIs, and drug use.
  • Use condoms every time you have sex.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol or using drugs since they are both associated with high-risk sex practices.
  • Be aware of your and your partner’s body: visible sores, blisters, rash, discharge, etc.
  • Women are not recommended to douche after intercourse. It doesn’t prevent or “wash away” STIs. It may actually spread infection further into the reproductive tract.
  • Practice abstinence
  • Have regular screening visits. Women should also have regular Pap smears and pelvic exams.

Places in NYC to find free condoms, lube, and other barrier methods can be found here, through the NYC Condom app (iOS) (Android), or the NYC Condom mobile site, and the Female Condom (FC2) can be found online at Walgreens.com. For free confidential testing in NYC, visit NYC Health.

Safer Sex Toolbox: Ways to protect yourself during sexual activity

HIV and AIDS

HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) damages the body’s immune system. The immune system protects the body from disease. A person with HIV can range from being very healthy to being very sick. AIDS is the stage of HIV when the immune system gets very weak. When this happens, other diseases and infections can enter the body. People can have HIV for years without getting sick.

They may look and feel healthy. They may not even know they have it. But people with HIV can pass it to their sex partners or someone they share a needle with. A pregnant woman with HIV can pass it to her baby. There is no cure for HIV or AIDS. But treatments can help people stay healthy longer. And HIV can be prevented.

You can get HIV if:

  • You have sex (vaginal, anal or oral) with someone who has HIV.
  • You share needles and works to inject drugs.
  • You share needles to inject vitamins or steroids or needles used for tattoos or piercing.
  • HIV can be passed from a mother to the fetus in her womb, or to the baby during birth or breastfeeding. A pregnant woman with HIV can take medicine to greatly reduce the baby’s risk.

HIV doesn’t travel in the air. It must get inside the body to infect a person.

You can’t get HIV from:

  • Donating blood.
  • Casual contact such as hugging, dry kissing or sharing food.
  • Telephones, toilet seats, towels or eating utensils.
  • Tears, saliva, sweat or urine.
  • Mosquitos or other insects.

How Is HIV Prevented?

Anyone who has sex or shares needles with a person who has HIV can get it. If you have sex, help protect yourself by practicing safer sex:

  • Use a new latex condom and a water-based lubricant every time you have vaginal or anal sex. People who are allergic to latex can use plastic (polyurethane) condoms, which come in both male and female styles.
  • Don’t use oil-based lubricants. Oils in hand lotions, massage oils, Vaseline, etc. can cause the condom to leak or break.
  • For oral sex on a woman, (or on a man or woman’s anus) use a barrier such as a dental dam, a latex condom cut and rolled flat, or plastic food wrap. Use a new barrier each time.
  • For oral sex on a man use a new condom each time.
  • Never share sex toys. If you do share, wash them well and cover them with a new condom each time.

What Are the Symptoms?

Many symptoms of HIV can also be symptoms of other illnesses or infections. See a doctor if any of these symptoms persist:

  • Unexplained weight loss greater than 10 pounds
  • Recurring fever and/or drenching night sweats
  • Unexplained tiredness
  • Diarrhea
  • Swollen glands, usually in the neck, armpits or groin
  • Unexplained dry cough
  • White spots or unusual sores on the tongue or mouth

Special Concerns for Women

  • Vaginal yeast infections that don’t go away through standard treatments
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Genital warts
  • Ovarian or cervical disease
  • Abnormal Pap tests

(Some content taken from materials published by ETR Associates)

Additional STI/STD Resources

Sexually Transmitted Infections/Disease (STI/STD) Guides (PDF) from the NYCDOHMH, DHHS and CBWCHC

Getting Tested

In addition to prevention, it’s a good idea to get tested regularly. Tests are confidential. Your result is told only to you, but it is also put in your medical file, so ask who has access to this file.

Find testing centers and sexual health clinics