How can I protect myself from sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?

Here are some basic steps you can take to help protect yourself from STIs:

  • Consider that not having sex is the only sure way to prevent STIs.
  • Use a latex condom every time you have sex. (If you use a lubricant, make sure it is water-based.)
  • Limit your number of sexual partners. The more partners you have, the more likely you are to catch an STI.
  • Practice monogamy. This means having sex with only one person. That person must also have sex with only you to reduce your risk.
  • Choose your sex partners with care. Don't have sex with someone whom you suspect may have an STI.
  • Request that your sex partner get tested before having sex with them for the first time.
  • Get checked for STIs. Don't risk giving the infection to someone else.
  • If you have more than one sex partner, always use a condom.
  • Don't use alcohol or drugs before you have sex. You may be less likely to practice safe sex if you are drunk or high.
  • Know the signs and symptoms of STIs. Look for them in yourself and your sex partners.
  • Learn about STIs. The more you know about STIs, the better you can protect yourself.

How can I prevent spreading a STI?

  • Stop having sex until you see a healthcare provider and are treated.
  • Follow your health care provider's instructions for treatment.
  • Use condoms whenever you have sex, especially with new partners.
  • Do not resume having sex unless your healthcare provider says it's okay.
  • Return to your health care provider to get rechecked.
  • Be sure your sex partner or partners also are treated.

The Centers for Diseases Control (CDC) recommends that a screening test for HIV infection be performed routinely in all individuals age 13 to 64. Some national guidelines actually have extended this recommendation up to age 75 due to the increased rates of HIV infection in the elderly. Additionally, if you visit your doctor for treatment of STIs, the CDC recommends routine screening for HIV during each visit for a new complaint, regardless if you do or do not practice behaviors that put you at risk for HIV infection.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/14/2015.


  • Marrazzo JM, Holmes KK. Sexually Transmitted Infections: Overview and Clinical Approach. In: Kasper D, Fauci A, Hauser S, Longo D, Jameson J, Loscalzo J. eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19e. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2015. Accessed 5/8/2015.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs): Diseases & Related Conditions Accessed 5/8/2015.
  • Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc. STDs Accessed 5/8/2015.
  • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Accessed 5/8/2015.

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