Girl holding up condom
© Love Matters / Jeppe Schilder

Staying Safe

If you go beyond kissing and caressing, it’s important to have safe sex. To avoid getting sexually transmitted diseases or infections, and if you don’t want to get pregnant, you should always have safe sex.

This is unsafe

  • Intercourse (the penis inside the vagina) without a condom or another form of contraception such as the pill.
  • Penetrative anal sex (the penis inside the anus) without a condom.
  • Oral sex without a condom for a man or a dental dam (also called a vaginal dam – a square of latex to cover the vagina) for a woman.
  • Using each other’s sex toys without washing them in-between.

This is safe

  • Caressing, tongue kissing, cuddling, massaging, masturbating yourself or your partner.
  • Intercourse (the penis inside the vagina) with a quality approved condom.
  • Intercourse (the penis inside the vagina) with a quality approved condom to prevent infection and another form of contraception such as the pill to be sure of preventing unwanted pregnancy.
  • Oral sex without getting sperm or blood (for example menstrual blood) in your mouth.

Two is better than one

The safest way to have sex is using both a condom and another form of contraception, such as the pill. The condom protects you against many sexually transmitted diseases. The other contraceptive, such as the pill, is to make sure you don’t get pregnant. Because a condom isn’t 100 per cent effective. For more information, see the section on birth control.

What’s in a name – STD or STI?

What's the difference between an STI and an STD? You've got a sexually transmitted infection (STI) when you've been infected by bacteria, viruses or parasites through having unprotected or unsafe sex. If the infection goes on to cause symptoms, such as unusual discharge from your penis or vagina, you've got a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

Generally speaking, the only difference between an STI and an STD is whether you've got symptoms. Either way, you still have an infection that you can pass on to someone else. To keep things simple, we stick to the term STD at Love Matters.

Different types of STDs and STIs – Bacterial, viral and parasitic

  • Bacterial STDs are caused by bacteria: chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis.
  • Viral STDs are caused by a virus:genital warts (human papillomavirus, HPV), genital herpes (herpes simplex HSV-1,HSV-2), water warts (molluscum contagiosum), Hepatitis B, HIV (which causes AIDS).
  • Parasitic STDs are caused by parasites: Trichomoniasis (Trich), pubic lice, scabies.
  • Other infections that make it easier to catch STDs: bacterial vaginosis, candida (yeast infection).

The tricky thing about some STIs is that you can have them without noticing any symptoms, so you don't even realise you have an infection. But if you do have symptoms, it's important to get them checked out by your doctor/health care provider.

In women, the most common symptoms are:

  • Pain when you urinate
  • Pain when you have sex
  • Bleeding in between your periods or when you've had sex
  • Yellow, green, or bloody vaginal discharge
  • Strong vaginal odour
  • Itchy labia, vulva, or pubic hair
  • Anal discharge
  • Bumps, sores, warts, or blisters on the genitals or anus area
  • Abdominal pain

In men, the most common symptoms are:

  • Pain when you urinate
  • Pain when you have sex
  • Discharge from your penis or from your anus
  • Bumps, sores, warts, or blisters in the genital or anus area
  • Pain in one or both testicles

If you have symptoms or think you may have an STD DO NOT IGNORE IT! Make an appointment with the doctor or go to an STD clinic.

Most STDs are easy to cure, especially if you get treated early. If left untreated, some STDs can cause infertility (Chlamydia) or can be fatal (HIV).

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