New Syphilis, Gonorrhea, and Chlamydia infections are at record highs, and are continuing to rise, in King, Pierce, and Snohomish County, especially among gay and bi men. And new HIV infections are still occurring in all three counties.

However, there are several ways you can protect yourself from these sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), while still having a pleasurable and healthy sex life.

Condoms 

Condoms are one of the most effective ways to prevent HIV and most STDs. Use them regularly and correctly during oral, anal, or vaginal sex. Condoms are not all the same. They come in different sizes, shapes, textures, and materials. Finding and using a condom (or other barrier methods such as dental dams) that’s right for you, could increase sexual pleasure and keep you safe at the same time. 

PrEP

PrEP, or Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, is a pill you take every day if you are HIV negative to reduce your risk of becoming infected. PrEP will NOT protect against any other STD. It works best in combination with other HIV prevention methods, like condoms.

Look for Symptoms 

Often, HIV and other STD infections either don’t show any signs or symptoms, or they have unclear flu-like symptoms. This is why it’s important to get tested on a regular basis. When symptoms do occur, they often present as bumps or rashes on the genitals, discharge, discomfort, itching, or pain while urinating. Even an infection that doesn’t have symptoms can have long-lasting or irreversible effects if left untreated. If you notice something, don’t just ignore it or hope it goes away. Most STDs can be easily treated or cured.

Testing & Treatment 

Testing is the only sure way to know if you have HIV or another STD.

In most cases the process is quick and easy, and may just involve a swab, or providing a blood or urine sample. It's best to get tested every three months or or any time you think you have symptoms of an STD, or if a sex partner has said you were exposed. 

Treatment is also important. The longer you leave an STD untreated, the more damage it can do – not only to your own health, but to the health of your partners. Bacterial STDs such as Syphilis, Gonorrhea, and Chlamydia can be cured. STDs caused by viruses, such as HIV, can be effectively treated.