Tag Archives: barrier methods

STI Awareness: “Can I Get an STD from Oral Sex?”

As tools to reduce risk for STI transmission, dental dams are not to be ignored.

As tools to reduce risk for STI transmission, dental dams are not to be ignored.

Many consider oral sex to be a safer form of sexual activity compared to vaginal or anal intercourse. For this reason, they might put less emphasis on the use of latex barriers, such as dental dams and condoms, during oral sex. Unfortunately, this idea is misguided and can lead to the transmission of preventable infections.

It is generally true that oral sex presents less of a risk for contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) – but this risk is not trivial, especially when people are under the impression that they don’t need to use barrier methods during oral sex. Most sexually transmitted infections can be passed along by oral sex, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, hepatitis B, herpes (which can be transmitted back and forth from the mouth, as cold sores, to the genital region, as genital herpes), human papillomavirus (HPV), and HIV. Even pubic lice can be transferred from the genital region to eyelashes and eyebrows! Additionally, intestinal parasites are more likely to be transmitted via oral sex than through vaginal sex. A microscopic amount of fecal matter containing parasites can be infectious, and can be unknowingly ingested when present on genitals.


Seventy percent of adolescents who reported engaging in oral sex had never used a barrier to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections during oral sex.


Some bacterial STIs, such as gonorrhea and syphilis, can do permanent damage if not treated in time. Furthermore, gonorrhea of the throat is much more difficult to treat than gonorrhea in the genital or rectal areas. And some viral STIs can’t be cured (such as herpes and HIV), while others can cause chronic infections that have been linked to cancer (such as hepatitis, which is associated with liver cancer, and HPV, which is associated with throat cancer as well as cervical cancer and anal cancer). Continue reading

STI Awareness: Hepatitis B Virus and the HBV Vaccine

Hepatitis B virions are pictured in this transmission electron micrograph. Image taken from the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention.

July 28 is World Hepatitis Day. This month’s installment of our STI Awareness series will shine the spotlight on the hepatitis B virus (HBV), which can be transmitted sexually as well as nonsexually.

Hepatitis viruses infect the liver. Hepatitis A, B, and C can be transmitted sexually, and hepatitis B is the most likely to be spread this way. HBV is present in vaginal fluids, semen, and blood. It is highly contagious and can be transmitted by most sexual activities, such as vaginal or anal intercourse, as well as oral sex. HBV can also be spread by exposure to infected blood, and an HBV-infected mother can pass the virus onto her infant during birth.

To protect yourself from HBV, make sure to use latex barriers, such as condoms and dental dams, if you are sexually active. Also, don’t use unsterilized needles; don’t share hygiene items that could have infected blood on them, such as razors and toothbrushes; and consider being vaccinated against hepatitis B. Continue reading

STI Awareness: Scabies and Pubic Lice

Latex barriers, such as condoms and dental dams, offer fantastic protection against most sexually transmitted infections (STIs). They are not 100 percent effective, however, and there are even some STIs for which latex poses no obstacle. Because barriers only cover a portion of the genital area, they do not offer sufficient protection against scabies or pubic lice, both of which are caused by infestations of tiny arthropods.

Both scabies and pubic lice are treated with topical medications. A Planned Parenthood health center, as well as other health care providers, clinics, and health departments, can provide testing and treatment. Follow treatment instructions to the letter to ensure success. During this time, you can take actions to prevent reinfection, including vacuuming floors and cleaning rooms, and thoroughly washing all clothing, towels, and bedding in hot water. Your sexual partner(s) might also need to receive treatment.

Now let’s learn more about both specific STIs.

Scabies

Sarcoptes scabiei, the mite that causes scabies. Image from the Public Health Image Library.

Three-hundred million people carry the eight-legged mite that causes scabies, Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis. While it’s so small that you need a microscope to see it, it causes an itchy condition that you can definitely feel. The female mite burrows under the skin, usually starting between the fingers and then spreading to the rest of the body, digging until she dies and laying eggs along the way. When the eggs hatch, the nymphs travel to the surface of the skin, where they may transfer to another host or reinfect the original host. Continue reading

Condoms, Caps and Dams . . . Barrier Methods for Everyone!

February is a time full of candy kisses, love, and romance. It’s a time for couples to express their love for each other with chocolate, flowers, diamonds, and yes . . . lots of sex. It’s no wonder then that February is also National Condom Month.

Barrier methods are great forms of birth control because they don’t have the same side effects as hormonal birth control. They function by keeping the sperm from ever coming in contact with the egg, preventing fertilization of the egg. Some also protect against sexually transmitted infections (STI’s).

Male Condoms
Condoms are one of the most common and widely used of all the birth control methods and the only one that can protect against STI’s. They are generally made from latex or animal membranes, such as sheep skin. The material is shaped like a penis, with an opening on one end in which the penis can be inserted. This should be done prior to any intercourse, oral or anal sex, to prevent pregnancy. The condom will then collect any semen from the penis, thus avoiding pregnancy. Latex condoms also provide a barrier between body fluids to prevent contact with STIs.

Aside from a lack of side effects, condoms are a great form of birth control for several reasons. They are cheap and easily accessible, come in a variety of options to enhance pleasure (flavored, shaped, texture, etc.), may delay premature ejaculation, and can be used with virtually any other birth control to enhance the effectiveness of pregnancy prevention. Condoms are available at almost any pharmacy, most grocery stores, and at Planned Parenthood and other health/family clinics. Planned Parenthood also services condom vending machines in the Tucson area, which has condoms available for $0.50 at various locations. The cost can vary, but generally runs about $1 per condom; at some clinics and educational programs, condoms may be available at little or no cost. Continue reading