If you're having sex, make sure you stay safe by getting your protection and contraception sorted. Condoms are the only type of contraception that helps prevent both pregnancy and STIs. Most of the time STIs don't show symptoms, which means that people can be having sex without knowing they're infected.
Being prepared and carrying condoms, dams and lube with you means you'll never be caught in the moment without one. Then you can relax knowing you're both protected and just focus on having fun.
how to talk about it
Unsure how to ask the question?
It can be awkward when bringing up 'down there' with someone, so we've developed some STIcebreakers to help start the conversation.
Did you know
The pill doesn't prevent STIs
The pill can be an effective way to prevent unplanned pregnancy, but it will not protect you from STIs.
What is consent and how do you know if you've got it?
It’s important to get consent. See examples of what consent is and what it is not.
What does getting tested involve?
An STI test is part of a regular sexual health check-up. It's confidential and can involve peeing in a cup, providing a blood test or a swab.
When should I use a condom?
If you’re having any kind of sex, using a condom/dam with lube is a great way to protect you and your partner. Make sure you use condoms/dams from good brands, 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. STIs can still be transmitted between partners via the toys.
A condom/dam should only be used once, so always carry extras, along with lube.
How do condoms work?
A condom stops semen and vaginal fluids transferring between partners. They are best used together with water-based lube. A condom must be put on before contact between a penis and a partner’s vagina, mouth or anus.
This is essential for the condom’s effectiveness as pre-cum (fluid released when a penis is erect) can contain sperm and transmit infection. Additionally, condoms will only work if they cover up the infected area.
For more information on how to use a condom, watch the video below.
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.
Also, 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 straightforward, and it 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 this step-by-step guide:
Step 1: Check the packet for the use-by date and make sure the packet is still sealed. Don’t use expired condoms as they can break easily.
Step 2: Open the packet carefully so you don’t tear or puncture it.
Step 3: Hold the tip of the condom to remove any air. Put the condom on the head of the fully erect penis and roll it down to the base. If the condom doesn’t roll down easily it may be inside out. If that happens, it’s best to throw it away and get a new one. It’s possible it has already made contact with sexual fluids.
Step 4: Put lube on the outside of the condom. Don’t use oil-based lubricants as these can weaken the latex and cause condoms to break. Using water-based lubricant reduces the risk of breakage and increases the pleasure. If the condom rolls up during sex, stop and roll it back down.
Step 5: If the condom comes off or breaks during sex, replace it straight away with a new one before continuing. After ejaculation, pull the penis out while it’s still erect. Hold onto the base of the condom as you pull out to stop it slipping off.
Step 6: Carefully dispose of the used condom; making sure it does not touch your or your partner’s genital area. For more information on using condoms, watch the video below.
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
If your condom breaks, it’s likely that you and your partner have been exposed to each other’s body fluids. It’s important for the both of you to get tested for STIs as soon as you can after exposure. Then you can ensure if you are free from 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 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 be able to prevent the infection by using post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) treatment. PEP must be taken 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 full support for something 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.
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 sex 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 having sex, it’s your right to change your mind and withdraw your consent.
Consent, condoms and STIs
Condoms are the best way to prevent 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 doesn’t 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’. 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 yourself and others.
Consent is not…
If a person needs convincing or coercing to have sex, they’re not consenting. ‘Umming’ and ‘ahhing’ doesn’t equal a ‘yes’. While consent can 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 stay healthy. Most STIs are symptomless so you might not know you have one until it has spread. 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 testing.
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 sexual partner or not.
STIs such as chlamydia are very common. You only have to have sex with one person with chlamydia to contract it. It’s not always possible to know the sexual history of your sexual partners, and they may not know they have an STI. Many STIs are symptomless so the only way to know you have one is through regular testing.
Does the pill prevent STIs?
No. The pill is 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 an STI.
Isn’t STI testing just for adults?
STI testing is for anyone who is having sex.
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 have an infection. Testing 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. 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 oral, anal or vaginal sex, especially if it is with a new sexual partner or if they've had unprotected sex.
Can you get an STI from oral sex?
Yes. Some of the most common STIs can be passed on through oral sex. While the risk is lower, 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 access to contraception to prevent unplanned pregnancy and STIs.
Don't rely on other people to look after your sexual health for you. You should always be prepared for safe sex, which means having and using condoms/dams and water-based lubricant. Females can take oral contraceptive pills to avoid unplanned pregnancy, but condoms are the only form of contraception that can also prevent most STIs.
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.
Can only gay men get HIV?
No. Anyone of any gender can get HIV. It can be spread by vaginal sex, anal sex and sharing infected injecting equipment. While anal sex between men who have sex with men is the main way HIV is transmitted in Australia, there are also cases caused by penetrative vaginal or anal sex in general.
What does COVID-19 mean for sex?
Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads through infected droplets from the mouth by coughing, sneezing, laughing, singing, or talking. You can also get the virus on your hands by touching contaminated surfaces and then transferring it to your mouth, nose or eyes when you touch your face or eat. COVID-19 thrives on close contact and as sex is the very definition of close contact, the virus can be transmitted during sex through kissing, licking, stroking or just being close in an enclosed space. Even though COVID-19 is not an STI, it is something to think about before getting frisky as sex now carries additional risk.
First things first, casual sex is not advisable at this time.
To minimise your risk while still getting it on try:
- Solo sexuality: masturbation and self-pleasure can be safely enjoyed during periods of physical distancing.
- Get techy: connect with a sexual partner using video calling or webchats, and don’t forget about good old-fashioned phone sex*.
- If you’re social-distancing at home together (and if you’re both in good health), sex can be a great way to pass the time. Don't forget the condoms and water-based lube to protect against STIs. With physical contact during sex carrying the risk of COVID-19 as well as STIs, if you do get an infection you need to let your partner know to get tested, self-quarantine or self-isolate in accordance with COVID-19 advice.
Visit the Queensland Health website for more information and latest updates on Coronavirus (COVID-19).