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Protecting Yourself and Your Partner from STI's

Welcome to our STI page. The picture above is tender, romantic and passionate. Consummate sexual love - the kind of erotic connection we all want. But sex doesn't just occur in a romantic dream. We need to learn the practical nuts and bolts of STI prevention and management in order to be free to pursue ecstasy without potentially serious health consequences.

So many people have STI's -over half the adult population get an STI at least once in their lifetime and well over 25% of the population has the chronic Herpes virus - yet we treat this commonplace phenomena like a dirty secret. There is nothing dirty, immoral, or sleazy about having an STI, anymore than there is in having any other medical condition. It has a negative connotation because our society is prurient and sex-negative, and that needs to stop. So relax, pull up a chair, open your mind, and learn with a receptive heart.

STI's, or sexually transmitted infections, are also called STD’s (sexually transmitted diseases), or VD (venereal disease). The majority of STI's are infectious viruses or bacteria. These infections tend to thrive in moisture. The moist mucosal tissue of the genitals, rectum, mouth, throat and eyes, as well as the skin and tears in the skin, bodily fluids such as semen, vaginal discharge, tears, and blood, including menstrual blood, are the ideal transmission mediums for STI’s. 

Once transmitted, some STI's remained localized, while others spread throughout the system. 

Select sexually transmitted infections can be cured; others are currently incurable. Those that can't be cured can often be mitigated by medicines, which suppress or lesson their symptoms.  

All STI's are contagious.

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img9B.jpgWhy do we call it "safer", not "safe", sex?
Because no matter how many precautions you take, there is never a 100% guarantee of transmission prevention. Just as a woman who uses every possible form of birth control properly and conscientiously still runs a small risk of pregnancy, no amount of protection can completely assure safety from STI transmission. That being said, the diligent and intelligent use of prophylactics and the avoidance of risky behavior will generally provide low - risk protection from STI's.

We urgently need to learn about safer sex and make it part of our social conversation; with friends, family and lovers. Avoiding and coping  with Sexually Transmitted Infections is essential to a realistic women's health agenda. Talk to your children, your family members, your friends, and your lovers openly and comfortably about prevention. Read this page by yourself and with loved ones, and study our STI chart to become familiar with prevention tactics, symptoms, and treatment. Knowledge is safety.

Women are more susceptible than men to STI's. Why?
1. The tissue lining the vagina is thinner and more delicate than the skin on a penis, so it’s easier for bacteria and viruses to penetrate, and the moist vagina is a good environment for bacteria to grow in. Also, during unprotected heterosexual intercourse the volume of potentially infected male ejaculate deposited in a woman’s vagina during intercourse is larger than the potentially infected cervical and vaginal secretions to which men are exposed.

2. The columnar epithelial cells of the cervix appear to be particularly vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections (STIs); chlamydial and gonococcal infections are most commonly seen in the cells of the cervix. The transformation zone is the region most vulnerable to dysplasia (precancerous changes), and new research seems to indicate that receptors for HIV are concentrated there as well. In fact, researchers believe the cervix may be the primary site of HIV infection in women.

Prophylactics that help prevent pregnancy do not necessarily help prevent STI's.
Be careful not to assume that these two forms of protection are interchangeable. For example, while a female or male condom used with a spermicide/microbicide jelly can help prevent both STI's and pregnancy because of the amount of tissue covered by these barriers plus the prophylactic effects of the jelly, a diaphragm with a spermicide jelly will only help prevent pregnancy, as most of the vaginal and penile tissue remains exposed during sex.

So you have a chronic STI. Can you have a sex life, or is it all over?
The Herpes Simplex, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis A, B and C, and some of the Human Papilloma Viruses are incurable. If you've got them, you've got them for life, and they will always be contagious. Does that mean you should give up sex?

In all honesty you cannot eliminate the potential for viral contagion entirely from a sexual situation. What you can do is decide with your partner the degree of risk you are comfortable with. I was born with an STI and with precautions I have had a rich sex life for many a year. None of my partners has ever contracted my infection. But I have always avoided unprotected sex, and taken care to minimalize any risk to my lover. I assure you, this has not prevented me from having wonderful and varied sex. You can be responsible and careful and still get as hot and wild as you want, as long as you remain mindful of your partner's safety.

Be informed. Know your tools. Read on.

Warning: some lubricants can seriously damage condoms and other forms of latex barriers

If it wasn’t specially made for lubrication during sex, it isn’t safe to use with a condom.

Not safe to use:

  • Baby oil
  • Vaseline
  • Sun-cream
  • Cocoa butter
  • Lipstick/gloss
  • And any oil based preparation

Safe to use:

  • Pasante lube
  • Replens
  • Durex Play
  • Body Silk
  • KY gel
  • Sutherland gel
  • And other water-based preparations

Let's Work Together To Debunk Dangerous Misconceptions 

 Misconceptions about your sexual safety can kill. Take the following truths to heart and spread the word: 

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img102.gifIf you have an STI, you can still contract other STI's if you don't protect yourself appropriately. 

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img102.gifIf you are one of the millions of people with a chronic STI - the herpes simplex, hepatitis B, HIV/AIDS, or one of the human papilloma viruses - it's crucial to realize that you can contract another strain of the STI that you already have. This may create a super strain that is much more difficult to treat with medicine. For example, if you have the AIDS virus, an additional strain of AIDS can be extremely detrimental to your condition. So please be very careful to take all protective measures during sex.

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img102.gifSTI transmission is not limited to genital sex; oral and anal sex also effectively transmit STI's. Some STI's can be transmitted through touch and skin contact.

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img102.gifSafer sex protective aides such as barriers and topical microbicides only help prevent STI's precisely where they are placed on the body. Uncovered areas of the body remain vulnerable to infection.  

Don't depend on the presence of symptoms to alert you to an STI. Many people have STI's for years without ever manifesting symptoms.
Practice safer sex and have regular STI tests and pelvic exams. 

There are four main ways to help prevent the transmission of STI's: 

STI Testing       Barriers       Topical Microbicides      Avoiding Risky Behaviors


Testing is crucial. If you are sexually active you should get tested for STI's at least once every six months, or any time you’ve been exposed to an STI, or if you detect a potential STI symptom.  

Testing Positive
If you or your partner test positive for an STI, get treatment right away. Some STI's that can be effectively cured or mitigated in their early stages can do serious permanent harm if left untreated. Disabling illness, irreparable physical damage, and in certain cases fatalities can occur when STI's are neglected.

If either party tests positive for a curable STI, wait until the infection is cured before having sex. If testing shows an incurable STI, find out what your best course of treatment is. It’s then your option to explore intelligent sexual risk reduction strategies so that you can be sexually active with as little risk as possible. 

Always inform your partner if you have an STI, so that you can discuss risk reduction together. That’s an key part of the trust and respect that goes into sharing a sexual relationship. 

When taking medication for an STI, make sure that you finish the prescribed course of treatment and take all of your medicine, even if you feel better before you’ve finished it. 

Go to all follow through tests and checkups. 

If you are using a penicillin or antibiotic-based medicine, don't drink alcohol for at least 48 hours afterwards taking it, because alcohol will lessen the medicines’ effectiveness. 

Fear of Stigma


1950's Sex-negative poster (Wikipedia Commons)

Frequently people fear that they'll be painfully rejected by potential partner if they disclose having an STI, especially an incurable infection. But it’s a fear we have to overcome with common sense, self-love, and dignity; after all, it is only fair to inform potential partners of your infection and allow them to choose whether they want to engage in sexual risk reduction strategies with you. Often other people are sympathetic; give them accurate information about your infection's nature and possible transmission prevention methods, and give them a chance to think it over.

It is true that an element of our society, including some health professionals, make having and dealing with STI’s difficult by attaching undesirable moral overtones to sexually transmitted infections. This reflects negative social beliefs about natural human sexuality and pleasure, and causes tremendous unnecessary suffering. In reality, it’s foolish to assign negative values to infections that are simply natural biological phenomenon. We all get colds, the flu, and various contagious conditions. STI's are simply among the category of contagious illnesses that all human beings are susceptible to. 

We need to deal with STI infection practically and sensibly from a treatment stand point, just as we would with a cold or flu, and eliminate the counterproductive psychological distress that comes from social attitudes which make people feel ashamed or stigmatized. 


The next important risk reduction technique is the use of barriers. These include male and female condoms, hand gloves, finger condoms (or finger cots), dams, and partial barriers like diaphragms and contraceptive sponges. It's important to know how to use these aids both accurately and pleasurably. For example:

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img102.gifWhen using a male condom, make sure it is the right size - one size does not fit all. The condom shouldn't be so large that it will slip off, or so small that it is overly constrictive. The two main ways condoms don't fit are that they ate too tight or too loose at the base, or too tight or too loose in the sheath. Your partner needs to try different sizes and styles to see what works.

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img102.gifThere should be some space at the condom's tip - about half an inch - to accommodate ejaculate, and a little extra lubricant if desired. 

Whether using a male or female condom, it is important to use lubricant inside and outside the condom sheath, as well as on your partner skin and any additional barriers that you’re using, to reduce friction. Friction not only reduces pleasure but it can create abrasions and tears in your skin – a primary means of STI transmission. 

Never use a latex condom or any other latex barrier with oil based lubricant. Oil disintegrates latex, rendering it totally ineffective. If you use a latex barrier, make sure that your accompanying lubrication is water based, or latex safe.  

What if you’re allergic to latex? Rubber or silicone barriers are available alternatives. 


Female condoms are the inverse of male condoms, fitting inside the vaginal canal. They can also be used for anal sex. Make certain that the edges of the condom remain outside of the vagina or anus so that the entire canal is protected and the condom can be removed easily. Be very careful to remove the condom without spilling any infected body fluids into the vagina, anus or on any other vulnerable area of the body. 

The same goes for a male condom. While the penis is still hard, hold the base of the condom and withdraw from the vagina, mouth, or anus. Remove the condom away from your partner’s body so that no infected body fluid spills on them. 

Dams are thin sheets of latex, rubber or silicone which come in clear sheaths or in lovely colors.  They can be placed anywhere on the body as a protective  barrier and are often used for this purpose during oral genital or anal sex. Use them with a touch of lubrication on both sides. Flavored dams, condoms, and lubrications may contain sugars that can cause yeast infections.  To avoid this problem, only use  flavored male condoms for fellatio, not for cunnilingus.

Saran Wrap works, too, and provides more surface cover. (Avoid micro-wave Saran Wrap, which is perforated with small holes!) 

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/glove.jpgHand gloves and finger cots, or finger condoms, reduce the risk of infection when touching and caressing. Many people find that gloves and cots improve the feel of manual stimulation because their texture is silky smooth, and the big bonus is that the gloves’ material protects the delicate tissues of the vagina and the anus from tearing or scratching by ragged fingernails. Adding a tad of lubrication increases their sensuous feel.



http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img102.gifNever use a condom twice.

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img102.gifUse a new barrier each time you change to a different mode of sex – vaginal, oral, or anal – to avoid spreading STI's and fresh bacteria to other parts of the body.

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img102.gifNever use a barrier after its expiration date. All barriers have a natural product life after which they are simply too old to provide effective protection. Make sure that you know what the expiration date on any STD prevention product is. Avoid any product which does not provide you with this information. 

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img102.gifTreat barriers with care – breakage often occurs because people tear them on jagged fingernails or damage them with rough handling. Also, avoid allowing them to become degraded through exposure to heat, bright light, or other drying elements.


Topical Microbicides

Topical microbicides are medicinal creams, suppositories and gels which help protect against STIs by killing or inhibiting the infection. Some of them also help prevent pregnancy, but not all microbicides that fight STI's are effective contraceptives.  

Microbicides are most effective when used in combination with a barrier.  

BelowThe chemical structure of Nonoxynol-9, a powerful microbicide and spermicide that irritates some users. Never use a microbicide that causes irritation and tissue micro-tearing, because this increases the risk of STI transmission.



When using a topical microbicide, make sure that it is non-irritating to both yourself and your partner. The most familiar microbicide is a spermicide called N-9, or Nonoxynol-9. It has been documented to kill or inhibit STI's under laboratory conditions and there is considerable evidence that it helps to do so in practice. Unfortunately researchers discovered that frequent or high doses of pure Nonoxynol-9, which is a detergent, may damage the cell lining of the genital tract by causing irritation  or tearing, thus dramatically increasing the risk of STI infection . In response to this research, there are new versions of microbicides that use much more diluted amounts of N-9, in some cases with buffering agents added. For many who were irritated byN-9, this accommodation is sufficient.

 For those who skin type has zero tolerance for any amount of N-9, there are other alternatives including gels derived from seaweed, anti-viral compounds, poly acrylic acids, and other anti-microbial agents such as Contragel. Talk to your doctor and pharmacist about finding a microbicide that you are comfortable with.

About Douching: Don't!


After using a microbicide, do not douche for at least five hours.
You don't want to wash out the substance that's fighting off STI infection!  Douching in
general acts as an irritant, creating tears in genital mucosal tissue while removing the vaginas natural cleansing secretions and dramatically increasing the risk of STI infection. 

Generally, douching does more harm than good and should not be done unless a doctor
specifies a medical reason for it.


Avoiding Risky Sexual Behaviors

Protective aids give us a much greater ability to relax and enjoy safer sex, but it's equally important to avoid behaviors that put us at risk: http://www.informedaboutsex.com/imgB0.jpg 

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img102.gifDon't have sex when your judgment is impaired – if you are under emotional stress, intoxicated, or using drugs. We are less prone to protect ourselves and others responsibly when influenced by these factors. Statistically, you are far more likely to get or transmit an STI when high, drunk, or under duress. 

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img102.gifAvoid any exchange of infected body fluids or blood – including menstrual blood.  Make sure that all piercing instruments you’re exposed to – needles, syringes, razors, earrings, surgical, tattooing or body piercing instruments, and so forth – are sterile.  

Blood can also be transferred through cookers, cottons, and other equipment used to inject drugs. It can be present on toothbrushes, menstrual pads and tampons, bandages, and other personal items.  

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img102.gifAvoid exposure to cuts, broken or chapped skin, or lesions, including inside the mouth. 

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img102.gifBe careful to clip and smooth ragged fingernails before sex, because they can tear skin or puncture safer sex aides, increasing the risk of infection. 

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img102.gifBe aware that if you are unwell, or have a weakened immune system, you are more susceptible to STI infection. Maintaining good nutrition, diet, exercise and stress management are important tools in helping to prevent STI transmission, and in managing chronic STI's.

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img102.gifBe aware that some birth control pills cause the vagina to become more alkaline, increasing the possibility of successful STI bacterial infection.

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img102.gifNever use the same condom, gloves, finger cots or oral dam twice. 

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img102.gifAlways use a new condom when switching from oral, anal, or vaginal sex. 

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img102.gifUse barrier protection and appropriate lubrication for anal intercourse, and be gentle. You need to use a thicker lubrication for anal sex than with vaginal sex, because of the rectal tissues extra sensitivity, thinness, and lack of natural elasticity or lubrication. Rectal tissue is delicate and tears easily, greatly increasing the risk of STI infection.  

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img102.gifUse lubrication whenever the vagina feels dry. 

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img102.gifBe certain that the barriers and microbicides you use are not way damaged or compromised. Handle them carefully, inspect them to make sure that they are undamaged (but don’t stretch condoms, inspect them on the penis), check that their expiration date has not passed, and don’t expose them to adverse conditions such as heat, cold, drying elements, or sunlight. Store them in their packages. 

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img102.gifPractice safer sex every single time you have sexual contact. 

Know Your body: Eyes and Hands On

 Be an active participant in maintaining your own sexual health.

Create a comfortable, warm, well-lit space where you will not be disturbed. Get a good hand-mirror or a small mirror you can prop up. Study your genitals: take your time becoming thoroughly acquainted with the unique look, textures and smells of your external sexual organs. Make a habit of checking regularly for any atypical discharges, sores, bumps, blisters, lesions, pain, burning, itching, bleeding, or swelling. Watch for abnormal changes of color, smell or texture. These can be symptoms of sexually transmitted infections.

Have your gynecologist show you how to use a speculum so that you can become familiar with the look of your vaginal canal and cervix, including how they alter during different hormonal phases.   

Attention, Seniors!
Senior citizens, you are at special risk from STI's because doctors may assume that you have stopped being sexually active, and become less attentive to your sexual health. STI's may be misdiagnosed because their symptoms can mimic other health issues associated with age. Advocate for your sexual health, and that of your friends and relatives! If you know a senior who is embarrassed to talk about STI concerns, help them by making informative literature available, offering nonjudgmental conversation and knowledge, and making yourself available to accompany them to medical examinations and STI testing. 

If You're In A Long Term Relationship

Be wise; don't assume that you’re safe from contracting an STI because you are in a long term or committed relationship. In our culture, many partners in long term relationships have sexual contact with outside party at some point, and often they don't disclose this immediately - or ever -  to their long term partner. Since about one half of the adult population has or will get an STI in their lifetime and infidelity is sadly common, even committed couples are at risk for STI’s. So please, get tested regularly, even if you're in a relationship.

Communication is essential to STI prevention. Talk about reducing risk with your partner before you have sex together. An intelligent and equal exchange about safer sex strategies is one of the treasures of a good sexual partnership! Be honest with each other about your concerns, and become informed together. Invent arousing ideas for incorporating safer practices into your sexual relationship. Go to an erotic adult store together, and explore fun protective aids such as flavored condoms and silky lubricants that you both love the feel and smell of. 

When You’re with the Wrong Partner

If your partner tells you that it is on “uncool”, “inconvenient” or “unromantic” to practice safer sex, or “if you really love me you'll want to forgo the unspontaneous or artificial distraction of risk reduction practices”, then you're with someone who is not ready to have a sexual relationship with you. Tell them to go solo until they've grown up enough to share intimacy with another person.

What To Say To Someone Who Doesn't Want to Have Safer Sex


B.S: If you love me, you’ll want to be close, and safer sex gets in the way.
If you love me, you’ll honor my safety and peace of mind, and want to earn my regard by acting intelligently about practicing safer sex. I show my love for you by seeking to protect you from the dire consequences of selfish and irresponsible sexual behavior, and I show that I want to be close to you by seeking to have a truly viable relationship, based on the principles of intelligent safer sex, caring and respect - a relationship that really has a chance at happiness.

B.S: Safer sex interferes with the mood.
A. I can’t get in the mood when I’m afraid of getting pregnant/ you getting pregnant, or getting an STI.

: Safer sex products - condoms, cots, gloves, dams, and other forms of birth control and STI prevention - aren’t comfortable

With practice, they can become very comfortable and actually pleasure enhancing. Let’s practice.

B.S: Safer sex isn’t romantic.
No, dying of AIDS is unromantic. Having an unwanted baby is unromantic. Being with someone who is smart and caring about my safety and theirs is my idea of romantic.

Seek Support If You Have An STI

If you have an STI, especially if it is incurable, it's a good idea to seek a support group or get counseling. Many people suffer dire psychological stress that could be alleviated with communication and help. Don't suffer needlessly. Connect with other people who know what you're experiencing. It really can help.


Remember, just because you're being smart and careful by practicing sexual risk reduction techniques doesn't mean you need to lose your sense of fun and playfulness. Envelope the experience of safer sex practices with creative attention. 

For example, putting on a cold condom can be an inhibition of pleasure. Instead, warm the condom in its sealed package in warm (not hot) water. At the same time, take a lubricant that you and your partner like the feel, taste and smell of. Heated it up to body temperature by placing it in warm water, then place a little of the warm lubrication in and on the condom, and slowly pull it on like a satin stocking. Then we go from “don't tell me I have to put on one of these chilly things again” to “hmmm, now how can I put this luscious feeling condom on this time”? 

This goes for all reduced risk sex practices and it is the secret of their success: they enhance sexual intimacy and pleasure! Read the section below for more tips on making it all come together.

How to Use Safer Sex Aides Accurately AND Pleasurably

Using safer sex aides decreases the risk of STI transmission. They’re invaluable tools in the fight against STI’s - but they only work if used accurately, every time you engage in sexual activity. Fortunately, using them can be fun, pleasure enhancing, and increase intimacy and trust between you and your partner.  

Female Condoms


Female condoms are thin, flexible polyurethane tubes that fit inside the vaginal canal. They have an inner ring at the top of the condom which fits behind the pubic bone over the cervix, and an open ring at the bottom of the condom that remains outside the vaginal canal. 

Like male condoms, they can take a little getting used to. I suggest buying a bunch of female condoms and making time to practice. Calmly and mindfully learning to how to properly use them, by yourself, or with your partner, is easier than trying to insert them for the first time during hot and heavy sex. 

It may be helpful to watch what you're doing in a mirror.

 Don't cause yourself discomfort by inserting a cold condom. Although condoms should be stored in a cool and dry place, they are more enjoyable to use if you let them soak in their packaging in warm – not hot – water prior to use, so that they feel acclimated to your body temperature.

It also helps to avoid uncomfortable friction and enhances pleasure by adding some lubrication to both sides of the condom. Try adding a drop or two and see how it feels. Experiment until you find the right amount. 

To increases the comfort and sensuousness of your experience, warm the lubricant as well. Let the bottle soak in warm, not hot, water, until its body temperature. 

Don't use a flavored lubricant on the side of the condom which touches the vagina. Flavored condoms contain sugars that can cause yeast infections or irritation. 

Before inserting a condom, the vagina should be relaxed. Massaging, touching and caressing the vulva, having an orgasm, relaxation techniques, and breathing deeply are ways to help loosen the genital muscles. 

Squeeze the condom’s inner ring between thumb and forefinger. Insert the condom as far into the vagina as you can, making sure that it’s completely covering the cervix, and anchored behind the pubic bone. The outer ring should remain outside of the vagina. 

Take your time, and learn how to make inserting the condom into a delicious, delightful part of your love play with yourself and /or your partner.  

Once you've placed the condom inside, it's helpful to practice using it during vaginal penetration. Whether inserting a finger, a dildo, or a partner's penis, begin any penetration gently and carefully. If necessary, hold the condom at the base so that it is not pulled into the vaginal entrance during penetration.   http://www.informedaboutsex.com/imgA19.jpg

←When removing the condom, gently close and twist the open ring at the base to keep fluids inside it.

Carefully withdraw the condom so that no fluids spill into the vagina, or the surrounding area. this is easiest done when standing up. 

Using a topical microbicide with the condom will increase protection against STI’s. 

Female condoms provide the most thorough STI barrier protection available for women. They can be purchased in most pharmacies and adult erotica stores, and through some medical supply outlets. 

How to Use a Female Condom for Anal Sex
To use a female condom for anal sex, take out the inner ring. Lubricated with a topical microbicide and a good anal lubricant, use your fingers to press it gently into the rectum. A dildo or penis can insert it farther.

 Video: How to Use a Female Condom     By NAFAmeriCorps Team DC  

Male Condoms

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img98.gifWritten For The Guys In Your Life: How To Choose A Condom And Put it On

Male condoms play an important role in preventing the spread of STI's, but they can take a little getting used to. It's very helpful to give yourself plenty of opportunity to practice with them when you are not intensely involved in sexual activity with a partner. Schedule practice sessions specifically to develop your http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img1B.gif knowledge and comfort level. During masturbation is ideal. As you get used to them, you may find that they can be quite pleasure enhancing, and may extend your ability to maintain an erection.

  http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img1D.gifhttp://www.informedaboutsex.com/img99.gifThere are a large diversity of condom brands and styles which feel differently on your penis, and during sex. It can take some exploration to find the one or ones that suite you. Get a whole bunch of different kinds of condoms and try them on! 

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img99.gifCondom sizes vary in both the size of sheath and of the ring at the base. Experiment until you find one with a base that is not too tight or too loose for you, and a sheath that is snug, but not overly constrictive. 

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img99.gifA condom should have about a half inch of room at the tip to accommodate lubricant and ejaculate.  

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img99.gifGive yourself a treat by placing the whole packaged condom in warm – not hot – water, bringing it to body temperature so that it will feel natural on your penis. 

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img99.gifDo the same with a lubricant that you love; place the bottle in warm – not hot - water until it becomes body temperature, or slightly warmer. 

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img99.gifOpen the condoms package very carefully. Condoms sometimes become damaged when their packages are opened too forcefully. They can also be torn by jagged or long fingernails. 

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img99.gifDon't test the condom by inflating or stretching it – this may cause it to tear. You can study the condom once it has been unrolled on your penis to make sure that it has no rips or holes in it. Although it is uncommon for a new condom to be damaged, double - checking is a good habit to develop for your safety and peace of mind. 

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img99.gifGently put pressure on the condom to room remove any air from the tip. 

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img99.gifMake sure that the condom is not inside out. Most condoms have a little bump or nipple at their tip which should be placed over the tip of the penis. This will guide you as you unroll the condom. 

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img99.gifUnroll the condom down the penis to the very base. Practice making this unfolding a pleasurable, affirming caress.  

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img99.gifIf you are uncircumcised, pull your foreskin back before covering your penis with the condom. This will enhance your pleasure by increasing sensation. 

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img99.gifIf you have bushy pubic hair, it's a good idea to push it back before placing the condom. 

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img99.gifMost condoms come with lubrication inside the sheath, but it may help to add a touch more to increase sensation and pleasure. It can take some practice to figure out how much to add is just right.  

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img99.gifThe condom should be large enough to cover your entire penis down to the base of the shaft when erect.  

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img99.gifIf your penis is not erect and you want to insert it anyway, hold the condom on at the base with your hand so that it stays on. 

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img99.gifIf the penis becomes soft during sex or after ejaculation, the condom may slip off. It should be held on by hand to prevent this. Certain sexual positions make slippage easier as well, as does rigorous thrusting.  

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img99.gifPay attention to the condoms position on the penis and hold it on at the base whenever necessary.  

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img99.gifAfter ejaculation, hold onto the base of the condom while withdrawing the penis so that you don't spill any ejaculate fluid into or onto your partners’ body. Withdraw your penis carefully. Don’t remove the condom until you’ve entirely withdrawn your penis and have moved your body well away from your partners. 

http://www.informedaboutsex.com/img99.gifAlways throw away condom once you've used it – never reuse a condom. 

Always use a new condom for a new opening – vaginal, anal or oral. Never go from one opening to another. For example, use one condom for vaginal sex, then throw it away and use a new one for oral sex, and the same for anal sex.  

It’s a good idea to use a topical microbicide with the condom to increase your line of defense against STI transmission. Some condoms come with Nonoxynol-9 or other microbicides already added. If Nonoxynol-9 irritates your skin, don't despair: your doctor can recommend several other possibilities. This is important: irritation can cause tears in the skin that increase the probability of STI transmission. If your microbicide causes any irritation, change it! 

Condoms can be a lot of fun to use. They come in different shapes, textures, colors, and flavors. Play with them to find which ones you enjoy. Take your time and concentrate on what pleasures you. 

Flavored condoms should only be used for fellatio, because they contain sugars which can cause vaginal yeast infections. The same goes for flavored lubricants. 

Condoms should be stored in a cool, dark, dry place, protected from sun and heat. Before using one always make sure the expiration date hasn’t expired; old condoms aren’t reliable.    

Video: How to use a Male Condom        By NAFAmeriCorps Team DC


Dental Dams
Originally used by dentists during oral surgery, dams are thin sheets made of latex, rubber, or silicon that also work as excellent STI barriers for oral sex. Place them over any area that you wish to engage in oral play with – the vulva, anus, etc.

Dams can be found in most adult stores. You can also cut open a female or male condom to use as an improvised dam. They're more pleasurable to use when they are not cold; prior to use place them, as well as any lubricant you wish to use, in warm, not hot, water. Bring them to body temperature, or slightly warmer.  

Put a touch of unflavored lubricant on the vulva, anus, or chosen body area, sensually place the dam, and then add another bit of lube on the side the tongue will touch.  

Be careful not to use dams that are flavored on both sides, because the sugars in flavored dams can cause yeast infections. You can put some flavored lubricant on the side of the dam touched by the tongue, but do not put it on the side touching the vulva or anus.

Saran wrap is another option. It can make a very useful dam, and can even be wrapped around the legs or attached to a garter belt so that you don't have to hold it with your hands. Please be careful NOT to use Saran wrap intended for microwaving, because it has little holes in it and will not be effective as a barrier.  

Video: How to Use a Dam         By NAFAmeriCorps Team DC 

  http://www.informedaboutsex.com/finger%20cot.jpg Finger Condoms (or Finger Cots)

Finger condoms, called finger cots for short, resemble the snipped-off fingers of plastic gloves. They act as condoms worn on your fingers, to protect the hands from getting or giving STI infections through small cuts, lesions or tears in the skin. They are also fabulous hygienic aides to prevent the transmission of bacteria during anal finger play.  

Video: How to Use a Finger Cot       By NAFAmeriCorps Team DC 



Silky latex and plastic gloves are available at most pharmacies, medical outlet supply stores, and adult erotica stores. Fitting over your entire hand to the wrist, they contribute to safer sex significantly. Be sure to purchase gloves with extra-tactile sensitivity. 

You can warm them in in their packages in warm, not hot, water, along with your favorite unflavored lubrication. Draw them on your hands like satin! With use, you will discover tremendous tactile sensitivity is possible through the thin material of the gloves, and the texture is sensuous and lovely. 

Make sure that your fingernails are not jagged or overly long and sharp, because these may tear the gloves' thin material.

Topical Microbicides
Topical microbicides are creams, suppositories or gels that help inhibit or kill STI's. Their added use will significantly increase all safer sex aides’ effectiveness in preventing STI transmission. Some, but not all, microbicides are also spermicides. 

Some people find certain microbicides irritating: always discontinue a microbicides use at any sign of irritation, and speak to your doctor about an alternative microbicide. Irritation may be indicative of small tears in your skin which actually increase the risk of STI transmission. Alternative products are available. 

About Sex Toys
Sex toys can add great inventiveness and pleasure to lovemaking, but unless properly cleaned after use, they can transmit STI's.  A common sense approach to hygiene is essential. Toys should be thoroughly cleaned after each usage. 

Never use toys on one area and then switch to another without washing them in between. For example, don't use a dildo for vaginal penetration and then switch to anal penetration before thoroughly cleaning the dildo. A smart practice to use a condom on the dildo and change the condom between uses, but the sex toy should also be cleaned. This goes for all sex toys. 

Practice and Play
If you use safer sex methods regularly, they become second nature. Practice, play, and then practice and play some more. Becoming adept with the accurate and erotic use of safer sex aides will make you much more at ease and confident about sex in general. 


STI Testing and Treatment Resources:

A public health clinic

The health department

An STI testing center

A family planning clinic

The outpatient department of a hospital


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) (English)

1-800-344-8922 (Spanish)

1-800-232-6348 (TTY)



American Social Health Association

National Herpes Hotline 1-919-361-8488

National HPV and Genital Warts Hotline 1-9194848

National STD Hotline 1-800-277-8922

National AIDS Hotline 1-800-342-AIDS



I Wanna Know


Where to find your nearest STI testing provider


It’s Your Sex Life


Where to find your nearest STI testing provider


Safer Sex Page



Hepatitis B Foundation



HBV Advocate



Merck Vaccine Patient Assistance Program


Provides free HPV Gardasil vaccine for uninsured people over 19 years old


The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United Stated (SEICUS)


Multimedia AIDS and HIV resource


The Kaiser Foundation


HIV/AIDS research


Center for Substance Abuse Treatments Referral Service Practices
(for assistance in stopping substance abuse, including the dangerous use of STI infected needles)

1-800-662-HELP (4357)


National Association of People with AIDS



Drug and Alcohol Abuse Hotline




Herpes Resource Center Hotline



Have a resource to share? Please do!

Photo of condoms gloves and dental dams are from Wikipedia.  Other photos: www.kozzi.com 

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