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How to Prevent STDs/STIs

Every year, there are an estimated 20 million 

new STD infections in the United States.

The good news: STDs are preventable. These are some options you have to avoid getting or giving an STD.

Use Condoms

Using a condom correctly every time you have sex can help you avoid STDs. Condoms lessen the risk of infection for all STDs. You still can get certain STDs, like herpes or HPV, from contact with your partner’s skin even when using a condom.


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. 


PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) means taking antiretroviral medicines (ART) after being potentially exposed to HIV to prevent becoming infected. PEP should be used only in emergency situations and must be started within 72 hours after a recent possible exposure to HIV. If you think you’ve recently been exposed to HIV during sex, through sharing needles, or if you’ve been sexually assaulted, talk to your healthcare provider or an emergency room doctor about PEP right away. 

Talk With Your Partner

Talk with your sex partner(s) about STDs and staying safe before having sex. It might be uncomfortable to start the conversation, but protecting your health is your responsibility.

Get Tested

Many STDs don’t have symptoms, but they can still cause health problems.

The only way to know for sure if you have an STD is to get tested.

Have Fewer Partners

Agree to only have sex with one person who agrees to only have sex with you. Make sure you both get tested to know for sure that neither of you has an STD. This is one of the most reliable ways to avoid STDs.

Get Vaccinated

The most common STD can be prevented by a vaccine. The HPV vaccine is safe, effective, and can help you avoid HPV-related health problems like genital warts and some cancers.

Who should get the HPV vaccine?

  • All boys and girls ages 11 to 12, but the vaccine can start at age 9.

  • Everyone through age 45 years, if not vaccinated already.

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