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How do I prevent STIs?

Most STIs are passed between sexual partners through unprotected oral, anal or vaginal sex.

Some STIs are passed by skin-to-skin contact.

Using condoms correctly and every time you have sex will reduce your risk of getting an STI.

If you or your partner has any sign of an infection, cuts or sores in the genital area, do not have any form of sex, including oral sex, until you have been tested and treated.

Have an STI test

If you have a new partner, it is a good idea for both of you to have an STI test before having any sex without a condom. You may not have any symptoms, or know you have an STI.

Even when you don't notice any symptoms, you can still pass an STI to a sexual partner, so it is important to be tested. Your partner should also be tested.

If you do test positive for an STI, it is really important that you don’t have sex with your partner before they are tested and treated as you could become infected again.

Use a condom

Condoms offer protection against most sexually transmitted infections and HIV if used correctly.

A male condom covers the penis and can be used for oral (mouth to penis), vaginal and anal sex.

A female condom lines the vagina and can be used for vaginal sex.

Use a dental dam

A dental dam is a square of latex which is placed over the vagina or anus during oral sex (mouth to vagina or mouth to anus). You can also make a dental dam by cutting up a condom.

Do not share sex toys

You can reduce the risk of an infection being passed on, by not sharing sex toys.

If you choose to share sex toys, you can reduce the risk of an infection being passed on by:

  • washing the sex toy properly between each persons' use
  • applying a new condom for each use

Get vaccinated

Vaccinations are available for some infections that can be contracted through sexual transmission. In particular, men who have sex with men (MSM) should be vaccinated against both hepatitis A and B. For more information, see the Vaccinations section of this website.

Use PEP if you may have been exposed to HIV

HIV post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is a course of HIV medication that aims to prevent HIV infection following a recent exposure to HIV, for example following a sexual contact or a needle-stick injury.

A full course of PEP is for 28 days (4 weeks).

PEP must be taken within 72 hours (3 days) after the possible exposure to HIV, and sooner if possible.

The best place to access PEP is through your STI clinic. Where it is not possible to get PEP from your STI clinic within 72 hours, PEP can be accessed in a number of emergency departments.

Here you will be given a few days of treatment and referred to an STI or infectious (ID) clinic for continuation of the treatment and follow-up.

Click here for a list of locations where PEP is available in Ireland.

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)

PrEP is the newest HIV prevention tool available. HIV PrEP is taken before sex to prevent HIV infection. PrEP is best used in combination with other HIV prevention measures.

For more information on HIV PrEP, see the patient information leaflet HIV PrEP in Ireland, available in English and Portuguese.

Men who have sex with men (MSM)

MSM are more at risk for some viral and enteric infections. For more specific information for MSM on preventing STIs, see the Man2Man website.