Hesperian Health Guides
Working for Change
In this chapter:
Preventing STIs can protect you and your partner from serious illness and infertility.
How to Prevent STIs
- Practice safer sex (see the chapter on “Sexual Health”).
- Use condoms every time you have sex. To learn how to encourage your partner to use condoms, see 'Talking about safer sex'.
condom for men
condom for women
|Use one of these condoms when you have sex — not both together.|
- If your partner will not use a condom, a diaphragm gives some protection against some STIs, especially gonorrhea and chlamydia.
- Wash the outside of your genitals after sex.
- Pass urine after having sex.
- Do not douche, or use herbs or powders to dry out the vagina. Douching (and washing out the vagina with soap) works against the natural wetness the vagina makes to stay healthy. When the vagina is dry, it can become irritated during sex, making it more likely to be infected with HIV and other STIs.
- You and your partner can have oral sex or other sexual touch instead of intercourse.
Working for safer sex in the community
Sexually transmitted infections are a health problem for the whole community. To help prevent STIs in your community you can:
More Informationtalking about safer sex
- teach men and women about the risks to their health and the health of their families from STIs. Find opportunities when women are together in groups, such as at the market or waiting at health centers, to explain how STIs are passed, and how to prevent them.
- work with others to find ways to convince men to wear condoms. Practice in a group what to say to your partner to get him to use a condom.
If he says it will not feel as good with a condom...
I'll say, you can last even longer and we will both feel good.
- make female and male condoms available in your community. Work to make sure that free or cheap condoms are available at local shops, bars, and cafes as well as from health workers and at health centers.
- train men to teach other men in the community about using condoms.
- organize a community group to talk about health problems and include STIs, HIV, and AIDS. Explain how preventing STIs will also prevent the spread of HIV infection and AIDS.
- support education about sex in your local schools. Help parents understand that teaching children about STIs, including HIV, helps the children make safe choices later on when they start having sex.
- encourage teenagers to teach their friends about STIs, including HIV.
After a health worker came to speak with a group of women in our community about STIs and AIDS, we began talking about our lives. Some of the women began by saying they did not have anything to worry about. But the more we talked the more we realized that every woman and every man should worry about STIs and AIDS.
We thought about how to get men to use condoms and decided that we needed to educate the entire community about the dangers of STIs and AIDS and how to prevent them. We organized a play and got people from the community to act in it. We created a special character called “Commander Condom” to come to the rescue with condoms. Everyone came to watch the play. People enjoyed it and they also learned. Now the men make jokes about “Commander Condom,” but they are also more willing to use them.
— Oaxaca, Mexico
To the health worker:
- Find out from your local health center, hospital, or Ministry of Health what medicines work best to treat STIs in your community.
- Try to start a community pharmacy so that it will be easier for people to get medicines, both female and male condoms, and spermicides.
- Talk to the people you see who have an STI. Give them good information on how to cure their STI, how to keep from infecting others, and how to keep from getting an STI again. Make sure their partners also get treatment.
- Include information about preventing STIs and HIV in family planning programs.
- Do not judge or blame those who come to you for help with an STI.
- Respect the privacy of those with STIs or other health problems. Never talk about their problems with others.