Straight Talk about STIs

Dear Jamie,

I’ve never had sex without a condom but some friends told me STIs are so common that “everyone” has one or more! I did a Google search, and it seems true that there is an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases. And there are a lot more than the ones I’ve heard of!

I wanted to spend a year or two exploring all kinds of hot hookups with different women before finding my one and only for the future and family- and now I’m worried about casual sex since condoms don’t seem to protect as well as I thought. How can I be sure I don’t get an STI? – Ian


Hi Ian! Good for you for asking questions that so many people have on their mind.

First of all—yes, STIs are widespread. There are at least thirty sexually transmitted infections, and many of these, like HPV, have multiple strains. Yes, it is possible that most sexually active people have or have had an STI. Different HPV strains are so common that a majority of sexually active people have or have had at least one. No, condoms don’t prevent all STIs.

It sounds terrifying, doesn’t it? However, almost everyone has also had a cold or flu, haven’t they? We don’t stop living to enter a germ-free bubble. We take logical precautions and continue to enjoy work, play, whether at the club or the library or riding the bus. Even in the age of COVID, we find best practices to navigate essential affairs.

Sex is essential—an important part of being human, and a key to psychological and physical health.

How to Best Protect Yourself Against STIs


There are STIs you’ve never heard of, beyond the big names like syphilis, herpes, and HIV that you try your best to avoid. Get familiar with them, and with how they’re spread.

Some STIs present in fluid exchanges, some are skin to skin, and many are oral to anal. Assess which ones are most applicable to you, so you can be aware and modify those practices.

You can get info on STIs from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Smart Sex Resource has a handy chart with what, how, when, and treatment is needed.


There are lots of ways to prevent getting sick or minimize the risk, but condoms are key. Hygiene is also important—clean hands, clean towels, clean sheets, clean clothes, clean bodies. Before and after all sex. Fresh air, exercise, Vitamin D, cod liver oil, and sleep are a few of the many indirect ways to cut risk of any illness.


Have a plan for what to do if it happens to you. If you’re having lots of casual hookups, seeing a doctor for a check-up or visiting an STI clinic routinely is a good idea. If you test positive for anything, you’ll want to stop having sex temporarily and inform your partners.


Don’t be afraid to talk about risk, testing, and safe-sex practices with potential lovers or partners—women are relieved when guys take safety seriously.


Don’t delay available treatments. Follow your doctor’s instructions and take the full course of any medication or ointments. And you don’t have to feel embarrassed—we’ve all been there and done that.

Wellness Protocol

Don’t focus just on acute treatment wherein you get something, and you pop the pills. That’s important, but so is prevention, aftercare, and mental health. Some things that might work for your wellness plan are exercise, getting outside, night classes, talk therapy, vitamins, yoga, stress reduction, hygiene, time management, and more. It’s all about living a healthy lifestyle—before, during, and after sex.

Don’t become a monk! Take charge, respect yourself and your partners, use common sense, have safer sex, and take care of problems without delay.

Do you have any stories or advice to share on this subject? Please leave a comment!

Hookup Help is a Q&A series. If you want advice or a female’s perspective on hooking up, online dating, relationships, or sex, we want to hear from you. SUBMIT YOUR QUESTION, and who knows, you may appear in the next Hookup Land newsletter.

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