Safer Sex 101
IN MEN'S HEALTH
Educate yourself about the male reproductive system and what you can do to stay healthy.
Anyone who has sexual contact can get a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Although talking about STIs may be uncomfortable, the truth is one in four Americans between the ages of 15 and 55 will have at least one STI in his or her lifetime. Younger people are at a higher risk of getting an STI.
The good news is that STIs can be treated. If you notice symptoms, talk to your healthcare provider right away. When left untreated, many STIs have serious complications.
Unfortunately, some STIs have no symptoms until the infection is severe. This is why STI prevention and screening are so important.
Any time you have vaginal, oral or anal sex, you are at risk for an STI. Although no form of sex is entirely risk-free, you can take these steps to drastically reduce your risk of STIs:
Use condoms correctly. Male latex condoms protect against most types of STIs. Avoid lambskin condoms as they are not as effective. Dental damns and female condoms may also offer some protection. Check the expiration date of your condoms, and avoid using oil-based lubricants when using a condom.
Talk about STIs with your partner. Set expectations for how often both of you get tested and whether you both plan to be sexually active with only each other. Having only one sexual partner who is also monogamous will greatly reduce your risk of getting an STI.
Know birth control and STI protection are not the same thing. The birth control pill, the morning-after pill, diaphragms and intrauterine devices (IUDs) are all effective at preventing pregnancy, but none of those contraceptives protect against STIs.
Get tested. One of the most important things you can do to protect your health and the health of your sexual partners is to get tested. How often you need to get tested, as well as which tests you need, depend on your age and health history—but if you are sexually active, you will need some kind of regular screening.
Male Birth Control?
The male condom is very effective at preventing sexually transmitted diseases, and it is one of the few options available that places the responsibility for pregnancy prevention with the male.
Recently, researchers have been exploring options for male birth control. One of the most promising is Vasalgel. Vaselgel is placed in the vas deferens (the tube that transports sperm) to block sperm. Vasalgel is designed to be completely reversible. However, trials are still ongoing and still in the animal-testing phase. The developers hope human trials will begin within the next two years.
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