1. People & Relationships

Safe Sex 101

The basics of safer sex for teens

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What is safe sex? If you're thinking about having sex, learning to protect yourself and your partner is a top priority. Here's a crash course in safe sex (also known as "safer sex"): what it is, how to do it and why it matters.

What Is Safe Sex, What Is Safer Sex?

Safe sex, also known as "safer sex," involves protecting yourself and your partner from sexually transmitted diseases and infections (STDs). STDs include Chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, trichomoniasis, genital herpes, genital warts, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV.

Safe sex also involves getting tested for STDs each time you have a new sex partner. If you discover that you have an STD or HIV, it's important to get treated by a doctor and tell your partner so he or she can get tested and treated, too.

What's The Best Way To Protect Myself?

Cover up! Use a barrier on any part of your body that might come into contact with your partner's bodily fluids. First and foremost, this means using a latex condom whenever you have vaginal, oral or anal intercourse.

Condoms are the best way to avoid contracting and spreading most STDs. Condoms prevent bacteria and viruses found in semen, vaginal fluids and blood from coming into contact with your body.

It's important to always use a condom and to use it correctly each time. Don't use the same condom twice--ever.

Latex gloves may be used to protect your hands during digital penetration. Plastic wrap creates a protective barrier during mouth-to-genital contact with a girl or mouth-to-anus contact with a guy or a girl.

What About Using Lube With a Condom?

Lubrication, or "lube," can make sex more comfortable and enjoyable. However, beware: Oil and latex don't mix. Using lotion, Vaseline or any other oil-based substance with a condom breaks down the latex and prevents it from protecting you.

If you use lube with a condom, be sure it's water-based. KY Jelly, Wet and Astroglide are a few types of water-based lube available at your local drugstore or supermarket.

Where Can I Get Condoms and Lube?

Condoms, lube, latex gloves and more are available at your local pharmacy, Planned Parenthood and teen health centers.

What If My Partner's On The Pill?

Birth control pills and contraceptive injections prevent pregnancy, but don't protect you or your partner from STDs. In other words, it's still important to use condoms.

Why Is Safe Sex So Important?

In addition to preventing the spread of disease, having safe sex puts your mind--and your partner's--at ease. When you're calm and content, sex is much more fun.

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