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What are the three ways to prevent getting an STI?

When it comes to STIs, there are four modes of transmission:

  • Blood

  • Semen

  • Vaginal fluids

  • Skin to skin contact (genital to genital or mouth to genital)

In order for someone to develop an STI, they would need to engage in sexual activity with a person who already has an STI. Although STIs are common, remember that they are also preventable!

The only 100% effective way to prevent STIs and pregnancy is to practice abstinence: refraining from oral, anal, and vaginal sex. But for someone who is choosing not to practice abstinence, condoms, dental dams, and getting tested regularly will drastically reduce the risk of STI transmission. You can pick up free condoms and dental dams at Teen Clinic!


I used to masturbate once a day but now want to practice complete abstinence. I mean forever. It’s been three weeks since I last masturbated…

Is there any harm in going on forever? I do plan to have a sexual life when mature.

Masturbation can be a safe way to explore your body and learn more about your sexual desires. Masturbation can't lead to STI transmission or pregnancy, and it doesn’t require the same communication skills as being sexually active with someone else. Masturbation also won’t damage or harm your body in any way.

However, the most important part of your sexuality is you! If you feel uncomfortable masturbating during this point in your life, abstinence is a healthy solution. Choosing not to masturbate won’t damage your body either!

Can you still get an STI even if you're practicing abstinence?

In general, if you are not engaging in sexual activity, you are not at risk for STIs.

However, there are a few infections considered STIs that can spread non-sexually.  For instance, pubic lice (also known as crabs) can be spread through wet towels, loofahs, bed sheets, and wet clothing. Pubic lice can live outside the body for up to 24 hours in locations that are warm, dark, and moist, which makes it easier for them to spread without sexual activity. 

STIs that are transmitted through blood—like HIV, Syphilis, and Hepatitis B & C—can also be spread non-sexually. This can happen if someone is an IV drug user and shares their needle with someone else. In very rare cases it can happen with blood transfusions that did not receive proper screening.

Lastly, it’s important to be specific about what we mean by “sex.” If you are engaging in genital to genital contact—even if you are not engaging in penetrative oral, anal, or vaginal sex—you are at risk for some STIs. In particular, HPV, herpes, syphilis (when a sore is present), and pubic lice can all spread through skin to skin contact.

If you are experiencing symptoms of an STI but haven’t been sexually active, you may want to read a bit about yeast infections and bacterial vaginitis. These are organic infections—they can occur without being transmitted from anyone—but they can be just as uncomfortable as some STIs. If you are experiencing pain, bleeding, itching, or discharge, make an appointment to see a medical provider soon.

I'm having symptoms of an STI but haven't had sex. Is this possible?

Some people experience infections that are unrelated to sexual activity.  Yeast infections and bacterial vaginitis (BV) often share the same symptoms as bacterial STIs: itching, burning, unusual discharge, and/or change in genital odor. They are curable, common, and affect women of all ages.  While males can acquire bacterial and yeast infections, it is less common. Males often expel bacteria or yeast during ejaculation or urination.

Is it ok to have sex with someone without loving them?

This is a really, really important question—and there’s not just one answer. Each of us expresses our sexuality differently and desires different types of relationships. At the end of the day, it’s your body, and you have the right to make decisions that work for you.

Making decisions is always tricky, but making good decisions is about knowing what will improve your well-being. What is important to you? What makes you happy? What support do you have? What information do you need? What risks are you willing to take?  What experiences tend to impact you negatively? These questions can help guide you in decisions of all kinds, but they’re especially important in sexuality.

From watching people around you, you probably know that what’s good for one person isn’t necessarily what’s best for another.

What does this all mean? Simply put, some people find that having sex without necessarily loving their partner feels good to them. Other people don’t.

There are many places we can turn for guidance. Some people practice a religion that tells them when it’s okay to have sex. Other people may have ongoing discussions with their parents (or other trusted adults) to explore their readiness for different types of sexual activity.  If you’re not sure who to talk to, consider making an appointment at Teen Clinic. Our practitioners can help you explore what you’re okay with and what's still uncomfortable.

At Teen Clinic, we believe the most important aspect of healthy relationships is consent. If you’re thinking about being sexually active, make sure you feel safe and healthy in the relationship. Know that you have the right to change your mind about having sex at any moment.

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