How can you prevent STIs?
You can prevent STIs by practicing safe sex with the help of protection, such as: condoms, dental dams, or female condoms. This prevents contact between the mucous membranes, body fluids, or blood.
Using a dental dam
You can use a dental dam during oral-vaginal sex (“eating out” or “going down”) or oral-anal sex (“rimming”). Dental dams are latex or polyurethane sheets used between the mouth and vagina or anus during oral sex, protecting direct contact between the mouth and genitals. Dental dams can be purchased or made by cutting a condom along the sides to make a rectangle shape out of the latex.
Using a condom
You can use a condom to prevent STI transmission during oral-penile sex or during vaginal or anal penetration. There are even condoms with added flavours designed specifically for oral sex.
Using a condom during vaginal and anal intercourse is the most effective way to prevent STI transmission. Using a condom also helps prevent pregnancy (just like other contraception methods). The condom must be worn correctly and must not tear or come off during sex to ensure protection. To ensure condoms are used effectively, always look up the best way to put on a condom, pay attention to the expiration date, use water-based lubricants, and replace the condom with a new one if it is being used for more than 15 minutes.
What to do if the condom breaks or slips off
Condoms that break or fall off increase the risk of pregnancy and STIs.
If a condom breaks during vaginal sex, it is recommended to urinate immediately after and walk around so that any semen can drain out of the vagina. It is strongly advised not to rinse the vagina internally (douching) due to an increased risk of bacterial infections and STIs!
After anal sex, it is recommended to carefully rinse the anus on the outside with lukewarm water. Here too, it is strongly discouraged to rinse the anus internally due to an increased risk of damaging the rectal lining and contracting STIs!
The risk of STIs and HIV is greater if the condom has broken. If you are concerned that you may have been exposed to HIV, you can contact your GP, an emergency clinic or hospital, or a sexual health clinic within 72 hours of having sex. They can assess whether you are eligible for post-exposure-prophylaxis (PEP), a treatment that can prevent the transmission of HIV after being exposed.
A broken condom also carries the risk of pregnancy if no other contraceptive methods are used, such as the birth control pill or an intrauterine device (IUD). You can also get pregnant if the contraceptive pill is not taken properly and you have sex without a condom. If you are concerned about pregnancy after unprotected sex or sex in which the condom broke/came off, get a morning-after pill at the drugstore or pharmacy and take it within 72 hours of sex.
Vaccination against STIs
HPV is a very common STI that can cause genital warts and certain cancers. Nearly everyone who is sexually active gets HPV at some point, and it can be transmitted even with condom use. There is a vaccine available that protects against the most high-risk forms of HPV, as well as the most common types that cause genital warts. Many countries offer the HPV vaccine to girls and boys free of charge. Since the vaccine is most effective if you have had no or little sex, the younger you are when vaccinated, the better you are protected against HPV. In the Netherlands, HPV vaccination is available for people aged 9 to 26. If you are outside this age group, speak to your doctor about whether vaccination is right for you.
Hepatitis B is an STI that can cause serious liver complications. The vaccine is free in the Netherlands for specific groups:
- Men who have sex with men (MSM)
- Sex workers
- Children born after January 1, 2011
It is also possible to get vaccinated against Hepatitis B if your job carries a risk of exposure (e.g., healthcare, police) or if you require the vaccine to travel to a certain country. In this situation, you may have to pay for the vaccine.