It is important to know that the most common symptom of a sexually transmitted infection or sexually transmitted disease (STI/STD) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is having no symptom at all.
Many people who have a STD or HIV have no idea that they have the disease. Therefore, just taking someone’s word that they are not infected is not the safest thing. As many as one quarter of the people living with HIV in this country have no idea that they have it. People with gonorrhea, chlamydia, HPV, herpes or syphilis may not have or recognize symptoms. And not getting an STD treated or finding out early that you have HIV can have significant impacts on your health. The best way to avoid these situations is to protect yourself from STDs and HIV. So to keep yourself safe, here are some things you can do:
Wait. If currently the best thing for you is to postpone sexual involvement, then by all means wait. Don’t let other people pressure you into doing something you are not ready for.
Some Alternatives. Don’t forget that there are a lot of things you can do with another person that don’t involve high risk of getting an STD or HIV – like making out, cuddling, or mutual masturbation.
Limit Partners. If you are or are going to become sexually active, limit your number of sex partners. That does not mean just one at a time. It means limiting the total number over time.
Avoid Drugs or Alcohol. Don’t use drugs or alcohol in situations that could lead to sex. Contrary to popular belief, drugs and alcohol do not make sex better. They often lessen sexual response and can affect your memory afterwards. More importantly, they often reduce our inhibitions and subject us to doing things we may later regret. Don’t wake up the next morning and be the person that is thinking to themselves, “Why did I do that?”
Avoid Injecting Drugs. If you are injecting drugs or are thinking about it, never share your injection equipment. This includes anything you use in the process of injecting drugs (cookers, syringes, points, cotton, or tie-offs).
Get Tested. Get tested on a regular basis if you are having sex. This is the only way to know with confidence that you do not have a STD or HIV. If you test positive for a STD or HIV, you can get treatment, and reduce the possible harm to your body as well as lower the chance of you giving it to someone else.
One of the most important things you can do is to love and respect yourself. No matter what your sexual orientation or gender identity, you are someone who has value. If you are struggling with your sexual identity you can find help.
Special Thanks: Tommy Chesboro, Tony Aaron Fuller, Hannabah Blue