If you’re sexually active, you should make it safe by getting your STI protection and contraception sorted.
Condoms are the only type of birth control that help prevent unplanned pregnancies and STIs at the same time.
STIs mess with your health, especially if they go undiagnosed and untreated. Sometimes they fly under the radar and don’t show any symptoms. That means people can be having sex and not realise they’re infected. That’s why condoms are the way to go even if you and your partner think you’re free from STIs.
Be prepared and take condoms/dams and lube with you. That way you can relax knowing you won’t risk it with unsafe sex.
When should I use a condom?
If you are having any kind of sex, using a condom/dam together with lube is a great way to protect yourself and your partner. Whether it’s vaginal, anal or oral, a condom and/or dam is essential if you want protection from STIs. Make sure you use condoms/dams from a reputable brand, check the use-by date, and avoid ‘novelty’ condoms.
Likewise, if you are using and sharing sex toys, play it safe and place condoms and lube on them, as STIs can still be transmitted between partners via the toys.
A condom/dam should only be used once, so make sure you always carry extras, along with lube.
How do condoms work?
Condoms work by stopping the transfer of semen and vaginal fluids to a partner and are best used together with water-based lube. A condom must be put on before contact occurs between a penis and a partner’s vagina, mouth or anus,
This is essential for a condom’s effectiveness as pre-cum (fluid released when a penis is erect) can contain sperm and transmit infection. Additionally, condoms can only work to prevent infection if they provide a barrier/cover up the infected area.
Why do I have to use a condom/dam for oral sex?
You can still catch an STI from oral sex. Using a condom/dam when you are giving or receiving oral sex prevents bodily fluids (semen, blood, vaginal fluids) passing from one person to another.
It’s also important to note that some STIs can be transmitted from the mouth to the genitals or anus area by skin to skin contact.
How do I put on a condom?
Putting on a condom is fairly straightforward, and it only gets easier the more times you do it (don’t forget, you can always practice!). To make sure you are doing it the right way, follow the step-by-step guide below:
Check the condom packet for the use-by date and make sure the packet is still sealed.
You don’t want to use an expired condom, as it may break.
Open the packet carefully so you don’t tear or puncture the condom.
Hold the tip of the condom to remove any air. Place the condom on the head of the fully erect penis and roll it down to the base of the shaft. If the condom doesn’t roll down easily it may be inside out. If this is the case, it’s best to throw it away and try a new one, as it’s possible it has already made contact with sexual fluids.
Apply lube on the outside of the condom. Avoid using oil-based lubricants as these can sometimes weaken the latex and cause a condom to break. Using water-based lubricant lessens the risk of breakage and increases the pleasure.
If the condom rolls up during sex, stop what you are doing and roll it back down to the base of the penis.
If the condom comes off or breaks during sex, replace it immediately with a new one before continuing.
After ejaculation, withdraw the penis while it is still erect. Be sure to hold onto the base of the condom as you pull out, to stop it slipping off.
Carefully dispose of the used condom; making sure it does not come in contact with you or your partner’s genital area.
For more information on using condoms, watch the video below.
What I should I do if a condom breaks during sex?
If a condom breaks during sexual activity, you should follow these steps:
- Stop what you are doing
- Take the broken condom off
- Put on a new condom
In the event of a broken condom it’s highly likely that you and your partner have been exposed to each other’s body fluids. That’s why it’s important that you both go and get tested for STIs as soon as you can after exposure, to ensure you are free of infection.
If you are concerned about an unplanned pregnancy, the Emergency Contraceptive Pill or ‘morning after pill’ is available over the counter at pharmacies. For more info, check out the Queensland Health resources on contraception, or view the emergency contraception video below.
If you believe you may have been exposed to HIV, you may still be able to prevent the infection by using post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) treatment. It is vital to take PEP immediately after being exposed to HIV, preferably within two hours, but it may still be effective within 72 hours. Find out where to get PEP here.
What is consent?
Understanding consent is essential to living a healthy, enjoyable sex life where everyone is respected.
In a broad sense, consent means to agree to do something or to give your support for something in order for it to happen. Before being sexual with someone, you need to know if they want to be sexual with you too. When it comes to sex, enthusiastic consent is the ‘golden rule’.
Why is consent important?
Every person has the right to choose when, where, how and with whom they’ll have sex.
Sex should not be forced on anyone.
Consent is an important first step to making sex a safe, mutual and enjoyable experience where the boundaries, feelings and choices of everyone are respected.
A person cannot have sex with, or perform a sex act with someone who has not given his or her consent. To put it simply, it is illegal to have sex, or to continue to have sex with a person who changes their mind and no longer gives consent.
Consent cannot be coerced or forced. To find out more on consent and the law, visit the Lawstuff website.
Go here for more advice about sexual violence and assault.
Consent and the right to say 'No'
You have the right to say ‘no’ to any form of sex with any person at any time, no matter the reason why.
It is a common misunderstanding that because someone does not actually say ‘no’ that consent is implied. Check in with your partner regularly during sexual activity and stop if they seem unresponsive, uncomfortable, quiet, etc. They might not be able to tell you to stop or that they are no longer comfortable in the situation.
I've consented – can I change my mind?
Yes, you can. Even if you’re naked or engaging in a sex act it’s your right to change your mind and withdraw your consent.
Consent, condoms and STIs
Condoms are the best way to prevent the spread of STIs. They’re a necessary part of a healthy sex life. If you’re practising safe sex, chances are you’ve had a conversation with your partner about using them.
If your partner does not agree to use condoms and you want to, you have the right to say ‘no’ to sex.
If your partner has a visible sore, ulcer or lump on their genitals, anal area or mouth you also have the right to say ‘no’ to sex. It is also your right to ask a sexual partner to wear a condom before you have sex with them. Asking someone to use protection shows you know how to take care of and respect yourself and others.
Consent is not…
If a person needs convincing or coercing to have sex, they’re not consenting.
‘Umming’ and ‘ahhing’ does not equal a ‘yes’. While consent might be expressed differently among different people one thing is clear – if it’s not enthusiastic and certain, you can’t call it consent.
Who can't give consent?
- People affected by drugs and alcohol may be unable to give consent. If in doubt, put off having sex until they’re sober.
- People who are sleeping or unconscious cannot give consent.
- People under the age of consent (16 in all states, except South Australia and Tasmania where it is 17) are unable to legally consent. Age of consent laws are put in place to protect young people.
- Find out more about the age of consent here.
If you don’t have symptoms, do you need an STI test?
Yes. Regular testing is a good way to keep your health in check. Most STIs are symptomless so you might not know you have one until it’s spread or led to side effects. The only way to know for sure is through testing.
If you’re having sex then you should talk with a GP or healthcare professional about getting tested.
Do you need to get tested if you only have one partner?
Yes. Everyone should be tested regularly, regardless if they have more than one partner or not.
STIs such as chlamydia are very common. You only have to sleep with one person with chlamydia to contract it yourself. It is usually symptomless so the only way to know you have it is through testing.
Does the pill prevent STIs?
No. The pill can be an effective way to prevent unplanned pregnancy but it will not protect you from STIs. Using condoms every time you have oral, anal, or vaginal sex is the best way to reduce chances of getting or spreading STIs.
Isn’t STI testing just for adults?
If you’re having sex then you should be having at least one sexual health check per year. STIs are often symptomless so testing is the only way to know for sure if you are infected. Getting tested is a good way to stay healthy and avoid passing on STIs.
Is vaginal sex the only way to get an STI?
No, you can get an STI through any form of unprotected sex.
This includes vaginal, anal and oral sex, and using sex toys.
STIs are transmitted through contact with infected semen, blood and other bodily fluids. They can also be passed through contact with infected skin and mucous membranes like sores in the mouth.
Does pulling out prevent STIs?
No, many STIs do not rely on ejaculation for transmission. Pulling out or withdrawing will not prevent STIs.
Using a condom every time you have oral, anal, or vaginal sex is the best way to reduce your chances of getting or spreading STIs.
Will wearing two condoms give you twice the protection?
No, using two condoms at the same time is not recommended. Wearing two condoms can cause friction during sex and make them more likely to tear. Single condoms with water-based lube are highly reliable in preventing pregnancies and STIs.
Do condoms protect against all STIs?
While condoms are 98% effective, they can’t fully protect you from all STIs. Herpes, genital warts and syphilis can be spread from skin-to-skin contact with any infected area on the body.
It is important that a person has regular STI tests if they are having sex, especially if it is with a new partner or if it was unprotected sex.
Can you get an STI from oral sex?
Yes. Some of the most common STIs can be passed through oral sex. While the risk of contracting STIs from oral sex is lower than for vaginal or anal sex, there is still a risk. Chlamydia, herpes, gonorrhoea, syphilis and HPV (genital warts) can all be transmitted orally.
If you are going to have oral sex, use a condom or dam, or you can cut open a condom to cover the vulva or anus to reduce the risk of infection.
Who is responsible for contraception?
It is both partners’ responsibility to ensure you have safe sex and use contraception to prevent unplanned pregnancy.
You should always be prepared for safe sex, which means having and using condoms/dams and water-based lubricant. Girls can take oral contraceptive pills to avoid unplanned pregnancy but condoms are the only form of contraception that prevents both STIs and unplanned pregnancy.
Can you tell if someone has an STI?
It’s hard to tell whether someone has an STI by looking at or talking with them. Most STIs have mild or no symptoms at all—in fact a person can have an STI and not even know it.
Girls can experience symptoms like burning or pain when peeing and unusual discharge from the vagina. Guys may experience whitish or yellow discharge from the penis and burning or pain when peeing.
Even if you don’t have any visible symptoms, STIs cause you damage on the inside. Depending on which STI you have, it can lead to you or your partner becoming infertile. The only way to protect yourself from STIs is by using condoms and water-based lubricant. Most STIs can be found by simple tests.
Are STIs curable?
Some STIs are curable. Other STIs and blood-borne viruses, such as herpes and HIV, can’t be cured but can be treated effectively. There are also vaccines available for hepatitis B and HPV (which can cause genital warts).
Although condoms together with water-based lubricant can reduce the risk of getting infected, some STIs like herpes and genital warts can be spread through skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. It is important that you have an STI test if you have had unprotected sex (sex without a condom).
Can women get HIV?
Yes. HIV can be spread by vaginal sex and sharing infected injecting equipment. While anal sex between men is the main way HIV is transmitted in Australia, there are also cases in women caused by penetrative vaginal or anal sex.