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What does 'safer sex' mean?

Safer sex means caring for both your own health, and the health of your partner.

Safer sex protects you from getting, or passing on, sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Safer sex reduces the risk of an unplanned pregnancy.

If you choose to have sex, using a condom every time is the best way to protect yourself from getting or passing on an STI.

How you can stay safe?

  • Always use condoms if you have vaginal, oral or anal sex. Get just the facts about condoms. 
  • Condoms are the only method of contraception that protect against both STIs and pregnancy. Even if you’re using other methods of contraception (like the pill), always use condoms as well.
  • If you are having unprotected sex, talk to your partner about the state of your sexual health—when was the last time each of you were tested for STIs? Discuss the risks involved in having unprotected sex. Remember, your decision is important, as some STIs can be cured but some can’t, including HIV and herpes.
  • Before having sex, discuss the use of condoms with your partner and come to an agreement about using condoms. Remember, you have the right to say NO if your partner does not agree to use condoms.
  • Never have sex (even with a condom) if your partner has a visible sore, ulcer or lump on their genitals or anal area. Suggest they see their doctor, Family Planning clinic or sexual health clinic. Find a local clinic now.
  • Some STIs can be spread by oral sex. If you put your mouth in contact with your partner’s penis, you need to use a condom to avoid STIs. If you put your mouth in contact with your partner’s anus or vulva (outside of vagina) while having sex, you need to use a dental dam (whether you are a guy or girl). This is especially important if you’ve got a cut or sore around your mouth or lips or bleeding gums.
  • Some STIs can also be transmitted by using sex toys. Use condoms and change the condom for each person. Wash the toys carefully after use and wash your hands after removing the condom.
  • Other aspects of having safe sex include washing your hands with soap and water before sexual play, and not brushing your teeth within 30 minutes or so of sexual play because it can irritate your gums and create small cuts that increase your chances of getting an infection (use mouthwash or sugar-free gum if you want to freshen your breath).