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National Women's Health Week

May 12-18, 2024

Day 2 - May 13: Safe Sexual Health

Day 2 - May 13: Safe Sexual Health

Safe Sexual Health

Sexual health not only includes physical well-being but also emotional, mental, and social well-being related to our bodies and our sexuality. It’s not just about avoiding sexually transmitted diseases or preventing pregnancy when you’re not ready. Sexual health also includes making sure that your relationships and sexual experiences feel safe, respectful, pleasurable, and positive.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), formerly called sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), are infections you can get from sexual activity and can be spread through contact with skin, genitals, mouth, rectum, or body fluids. Rates of many STIs have drastically increased in recent years, especially syphilis. Protecting yourself and your partner(s) during sexual activity is important to reducing the spread of STIs.

How to Prevent STIs

Here are some common ways to lower your risk of getting or spreading STIs:

  • Use Protection: Male condoms and female dental dams are proven to be effective at stopping STIs from spreading. 
  • Get Tested: If you are sexually active, getting tested for STIs is important to maintain your health and stop the spread of infections. Screening recommendations vary by age, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Talk to your healthcare provider and learn more about screening options and recommendations.
  • Get Vaccinated: Vaccines are safe and effective and protect you from certain STIs, including Hepatitis B and HPV. Ask your health care provider about vaccine options that might work for you.
  • Talk It Out: Be open with your partner(s) about practicing safe sex. Discuss options to find what works and is most comfortable for you. If you are uncomfortable with no protection or a certain form of protection, you have the right to say no to sexual activity.

The Rise in Syphilis Rates

Syphilis infections are on the rise but can prevented. As of 2022, syphilis infections have increased by 80% since 2018, and newborns have been diagnosed with congenital syphilis more than ten times the number of diagnoses in 2012. Learn more about ways to protect against and prevent syphilis and congenital syphilis by accessing our fact sheet.

Being Safe Means More Than Just Using Protection 

Being safe with your partner(s) isn’t just about avoiding STIs; it also means making sure everyone involved feels comfortable and safe and gives consent. Consent is an ongoing agreement between partners about what they do or do not want to engage in and is the foundation for a safe sexual experience. You always have the right to say no to any activity you don’t want to engage in. Learn more about consent and safety and access resources.

The Rise in Syphilis Rates

Resources to Learn More

Your sexual health is just as important as all the other areas of your health. For more information about sexual health, STI prevention, and consent, explore the resources below.

For Women, Girls, and Families

For Health Care Providers