Teens: Reduce Your Risk for STIs

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are also called sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The only sure way to prevent STIs is not having any kind of sex (abstinence). But if you do have sex, take steps to protect yourself:

  • Get to know your partner. Ask them if they’ve ever had an STI or been tested. Ask each other how many partners you've had in the past. And ask how many you have now. Stay free of disease by having sex only with each other (monogamy).

  • Get vaccinated against HPV (human papillomavirus). This virus causes genital warts, abnormal Pap smears, and cancer.

  • Always use latex condoms during sex.

  • Take medicines to prevent HIV if you're at risk. You can take these within 72 hours after risky sex (PEP: post-exposure prophylaxis). Or you can take them daily if you're having many risky encounters over time (PrEP: pre-exposure prophylaxis). PrEP can also sometimes be taken on demand. This is the case if you have encounters less often, but you know about them in advance. The typical on-demand treatment starts with 2 pills, taken 2 to 24 hours before sex.

  • Find out more. If you're concerned about your risk for STIs, talk with your healthcare provider, school nurse, campus clinic, or local health department.

Is this the right time?

Having sex is a personal choice. It’s not about what your friends or partner think. It’s about what you feel is right. So it’s OK to say now’s not the time. Choosing abstinence gives you more time to learn about your partner. No matter what you decide, don’t let alcohol or drugs cloud the issue. They can lead you to make decisions about sex that you later regret.

Always use a latex condom

If you have sex, always use a latex condom. It’s the best way to prevent STIs. Males and females of any age can buy them. Most condoms are made for men. But there are also condoms for women. Be sure to get condoms that say they protect against STIs. And use a new condom each time you have sex.

The right way to use condoms for a male

Man putting condom over tip of erect penis.
1. Squeeze the end of the condom to remove air as you place it on the head of the penis. That way there will be space to collect the semen.
Man rolling condom over erect penis.
2. Keep holding the tip with one hand. Use your other hand to roll the condom down over the penis.

Man putting water-based lubricant on condom on erect penis.
3. If needed, use water-based lubricants. Oily stuff like petroleum jelly can break condoms.
Man holding condom at base of penis.
4. After sex, hold the condom at the base of the penis. Then carefully remove the penis from your partner.

Online Medical Reviewer: Barry Zingman MD
Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed: 7/1/2022
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.