How We Help You Stay Healthy

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Sex happens. Let’s be honest, sex happens a lot. But keeping it sexy also means keeping it 100!!! At Heart to Hand, we’re here to make sure you have the right information – not something you heard, but information you know for yourself.

Here’s what you need to know.

What is an STI?
Sexually-transmitted infections (STI), also known as STDs, are infections that pass from one person to another through sexual contact: oral, anal, and vaginal sex.
What are the different kinds of STIs?
STIs can be caused by viruses or bacteria. STIs caused by viruses include hepatitis B, herpes, HIV, and the human papilloma virus (HPV). STIs caused by bacteria include chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis.
When are STIs passed more easily?
Individuals pass on STIs more easily when they do not use contraceptive devices such as condoms and dams, or they do not sanitize a sex toy.
How do I know if my partner has a STI?
Ask. Ask your partner. Do not assume. Although it may be uncomfortable, talk to your partner before having any kind of sexual contact. Ask your partner if they are at risk of having an STI.
What puts a person at risk for a STI?
Some STI risk factors include:
  • Anal, oral or vaginal sex without protection
  • Sex with several partners
  • Injecting drugs
  • Having had a STI in the past
How can I know if I have a STI? What are the symptoms?
Some STIs do not have symptoms. But many do. Here are common symptoms:
  • Itching around the vagina and/or discharge from the vagina for women.
  • Discharge from the penis for men.
  • Pain during sex or when urinating.
  • Pain in the pelvic area.
  • Sore throats in people who have oral sex.
  • Pain in or around the anus for people who have anal sex.
  • Chancre sores (painless red sores) on the genital area, anus, tongue, and/or throat.
  • A scaly rash on the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet.
  • Dark urine, loose, light-colored stools, and yellow eyes and skin.
  • Small blisters that turn into scabs on the genital area.
  • Swollen glands, fever, and body aches.
  • Unusual infections, unexplained fatigue, night sweats, and weight loss.
  • Soft, flesh-colored warts around the genital area.
What causes STIs?
Having sexual contact can lead to a STI. The genital areas are generally moist and warm environments, ideal for the growth of yeasts, viruses, and bacteria. People can transmit microorganisms that inhabit the skin or mucous membranes of the genitals. Infectious organisms can also move between people in semen, vaginal secretions, or blood during sexual intercourse.
How are STIs diagnosed?
Testing. Most STIs can be diagnosed after getting an exam by a medical doctor. Tests can be taken using a culture of the secretions from your vagina or penis, or through a blood test.
What is PrEP and how can it prevent me from getting HIV?
According to the CDC, Pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP) is when people at risk for HIV take daily medicine to prevent HIV. PrEP can stop HIV from taking hold and spreading throughout your body. When taken daily, PrEP is highly effective for preventing HIV from sex or injection drug use. PrEP is much less effective when it is not taken consistently.

Studies have shown that PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99% when taken daily. Among people who inject drugs, PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV by at least 74% when taken daily.

Is there any way I can avoid getting a STI?
Yes. Do not have sex! Not having sex is the only way to avoid or prevent a STI. But sex happens. If you have sex, you can lower your risk by only having sex with someone who:
  1. Is only having sex with you
  2. Does not have a STI
  3. Uses PrEP since if you or your partner is on the PrEP pill, taking it can keep you from getting HIV
  4. Always uses condoms when having anal, oral and vaginal sex
Do condoms prevent STIs?
Not always. Abstinence is the only way to prevent a STI. Male latex condoms can reduce your risk of getting a STI, but ONLY if used correctly. Use a condom every time you have sex – anal, oral or vaginal. Female condoms aren’t as effective as male condoms. But use a female condom when a man will not use a male condom.
Why can’t condoms prevent STIs 100% of the time?
Remember, though, that condoms aren’t 100% safe. They can’t protect you from coming into contact with some sores (such as those that can occur with herpes) or warts (which can be caused by HPV infection).
What is the correct way to use a male condom?
A male condom should be used for anyone who has a penis.
  • Put the condom on before any contact is made.
  • Unroll the condom over an erect penis to the base of the penis.
    • (Uncircumcised men should pull back their foreskin before unrolling.)
  • The unrolled ring should be on the outside.
  • Leave about 1/2 inch of space in the tip so semen can collect there. Squeeze the tip to get the air out.
  • Pull out after ejaculating and before the penis gets soft.
  • To pull out, hold the rim of the condom at the base of the penis to make sure it doesn’t slip off.
  • Don’t reuse condoms. Again, do no reuse a condom under any circumstance
What is the correct way to use a female condom?
A female condom should be used by anyone who has a vagina.
  • Follow the directions on the condom package for correct placement.
  • Be sure the inner ring goes as far into the vagina as it can. The outer ring stays outside the vagina.
  • Guide the penis into the condom.
  • After sex, remove the condom before standing up by gently pulling it out.
  • Don’t reuse condoms.
  • Again, do no reuse a condom under any circumstance.
What else can I do to prevent STIs?
  1. Limit the number of sex partners you have.

    Ask your partner if they have ever had a STI. Be honest. Tell your partner if you have had a STI. Talk about whether either of you have ever been tested for STIs and whether you should be tested.

  2. Look for signs of a STI in your sex partner.

    There are outward symptoms that could indicate your sex partner has a STI. But remember that STIs don’t always cause symptoms.

  3. Don’t have sex if you or your partner is being treated for a STI.

    If you or your partner are being treated for a STI, do not have sex until your treatment has been completed. Your doctor will let you know when it is OK to have sexual contact.

  4. Wash your genitals with soap and water and urinate soon after you have sex.

    This may help clean away some germs before they have a chance to infect you.