Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the Harvard Medical School



You can help to prevent STDs by:

  • Not having sex

  • Having sex only with one uninfected person

  • Consistently using male latex condoms during sexual activity

Remember, although condoms can help reduce your exposure to STDs, they are not foolproof.

People who are diagnosed with an STD may be contacted by their local health department so that their sex partners can be evaluated and treated.

Most physicians urge patients to tell their sex partners if they have an STD so that their partners can seek medical attention.

This is done for two reasons. First, some STDs are fairly silent infections and can be passed unnoticed between sex partners. For example, chlamydia may not cause symptoms in all those infected; however, the scarring effect of the bacteria can lead to infertility, especially in women. Second, STDs are seen as threats to public health. With proper identification and treatment, the rates of infection can be reduced.

If you develop frequent outbreaks of genital ulcers from herpes, you can take a low dose of antiviral medication each day to decrease your risk of developing repeat episodes. This will also decrease the risk of transmitting the infection to your partner. However, you can still pass on the infection, so condoms and safe sexual practices remain the best way to avoid potential herpes infection.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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