Take Charge of Your Sexual Health

What you need to know about preventive services

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Contraception

If you and your partner want to avoid pregnancy, learn about birth control methods both of you can use. The most effective options for people with a penis are using condoms correctly and consistently, abstinence (not having sex), engaging in lower-risk sexual activities (kissing, touching, massages), and vasectomy (permanent contraception). If you have sex with people with vaginas/vulvas, they have many more options to choose from. By learning about their preferred method, you can support their choice, and even offer to help pay for it if there’s a cost involved.

Also learn about emergency contraception (EC), or the “morning after pill,” that can be used to prevent pregnancy if you had unprotected sex and your partner is able to become pregnant but does not want to. EC can prevent pregnancy if taken within five days of having unprotected sex, and it’s best to take it as soon as possible. EC can be available without a prescription at family planning clinics, emergency rooms, and some pharmacies. You can also ask your health care provider if they have it at their office. If you can’t find it in stores, you can buy a generic version at https://afterpill.com/.

Additionally, the Paragard copper IUD can be used as EC if inserted within 5 days of unprotected sex. Like other IUD’s, the Paragard copper IUD also provides continued protection against unwanted pregnancies for 10 years after insertion. The copper IUD is a non-hormonal option for a long-acting reversible contraceptive. You can learn more at https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/morning-after-pill-emergency-contraception/how-does-copper-iud-work-emergency-contraception.

STI Prevention

Using an external (“male”) or internal (“female”) condom every time you have sex is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of getting many STIs, including HIV. Other effective ways to protect yourself include abstinence (not having sex), choosing lower risk sexual activities (kissing, touching, massages), or only having one partner who you know does not have an STI.

If you have sex without a condom, have an STI or recently had one, or have a new partner and are unsure of their health status, talk to your provider or a health educator. They can counsel you on ways to protect yourself and your partner from STIs, including whether medicines to prevent HIV infection are right for you. People who do not have HIV but are at high risk of becoming infected can stay healthy by taking a daily medication called PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis). PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) might be prescribed if you think you’ve been exposed to HIV during sex. Also, you can consult the resources at the end of this guide for more information about preventing STIs.

 

It’s Your Body!

You know your body better than anyone. Always tell your health care provider about any changes in your health. Speak to them about any concerns you may have about conditions, diseases, or issues related to sexual pleasure, functioning, or performance.