Medically reviewed by Sophia Yen, MD, MPH – Written by Pandia Health Editorial Team

September is Sexual Health Awareness Month! I mean, we celebrate this all the time at Pandia Health but now we have an official annual announcement about it! But, what exactly is sexual health? Basically, it’s learning how to avoid diseases and unplanned pregnancies, and how to experience pleasure and intimacy in respectful and desired ways.

Sounds wonderful, right? The thing is, before you can get to the juicy stuff, there are some serious topics we must discuss like STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections) and birth control. Preventing STIs and taking birth control are key components to ensuring a sexually healthy lifestyle. Guaranteeing that young people (that’s you!) have access to the information and services they need is essential to your sexual and reproductive health, rights and well-being.

So, what do you need to know about STIs/STDS? STIs are sexually transmitted diseases or infections that are passed on during unprotected sex with an infected partner. This includes vaginal, anal, or oral sex, and some can even be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact.

You’ve probably heard of ones like HIV/AIDS, gonorrhea, and herpes — not super pleasant sounding, huh? Luckily, it’s not too hard to prevent getting them!

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1. Use a Condom!

Condoms are amazing because they protect against pregnancy AND STIs! You should always use one for penis-involved-sex— check to make sure it is not expired and be sure to put on a new one each act of sex (including switching between oral and penetrative).

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2. Get Tested for STIs

Get tested! Check to see if your university offers free or discounted STI testing. Most insurance will cover STI testing for free! You can also head to your local Planned Parenthood for cheap testing or perform a DIY test. Also, encourage your sexual partner(s), friends, family members, classmates to get tested!

The USPTF recommends that any woman under the age of 25 get tested(screened) for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea at least once a year.

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3. Medicine

Take drugs — no, not the kind that destroys your body and mind. For HIV prevention, know about PEP and PrEP! PrEP is an HIV prevention tool in which an HIV-negative person takes antiretroviral medication every day to reduce the risk of contracting HIV. PreP costs $21,000 a year but many insurances will cover the cost. PEP, a combination of HIV drugs, can be used after sexual activity if you’ve put yourself at risk of HIV transmission. However it must be used ASAP, ideally within 72 hrs, and ONLY works 80% of the time. That is, 1 in 5 people will get HIV even using PEP. Better to use a condom if you can. 

4. Ask partners about STI testing

Be smart about with whom you engage in sexual activities. Practicing STI awareness can save you from a lot of trouble later on. If you’re at a party or a club and see someone cute, don’t be afraid to ask about their STI status! Just make sure you are comfortable if things begin to escalate and ask the person if he/she/they have been tested — disrupting the mood won’t matter at all if it turns out the person has an STI! Don’t accept “I tested all negative.” Ask to see what tests and when. Also, just because they have a negative test, doesn’t mean they don’t have an STI. The test only tells you what they were at the time of the test. They might have caught something since then. Our founder Dr. Sophia Yen suggests, “Assume everyone has an STI and always use a condom for penis-involved sex.”

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5. Wellness

Part of sexual health includes taking care of your mind and body. Set annual reminders to schedule family planning and wellness visits, such as a breast exam or pap test. Do activities that bring you joy – even if that means bringing your favorite reality T.V. show for a couple of hours and vegging out. Whatever it may be, finding ways that bring you happiness, and ultimately helps you love yourself matters in your overall sexual health.  

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6. Birth Control

Now, on to birth control! If you’ve hung around the Pandia blog awhile, you’ll know that birth control can do SO many other things besides prevent pregnancy! It can help reduce acne, decrease menstruation pain, and regulate hormones as well as help you to skip your period. 

So, how do you get this magical tool at an affordable price? Just sign up for Pandia Health and use our expert doctors to figure out which contraceptive method is best for you – we provide FREE delivery of the pill, patch, and ring to you! Eliminate the anxiety of having to go to the pharmacy to pick up your prescription and having to remember to order it with the help of Pandia!

Now, let’s go raise awareness about sexual health! ✊

Takeaways

We promote sexual health all year round because we’re on a mission to get rid of the stigma surrounding sex. People deserve to experience sexual pleasure without feeling ashamed, and when sex is a taboo topic, safe sex is too.

We can’t stress it enough; pregnancy is not the only risk you face when having unprotected sex. STDs/STIs are more common than you might think and often, people don’t even know they’re carriers. Yes, that’s right. You can get an asymptomatic STD and still pass it on to your partner without even knowing. 70% of women and 50% of men with chlamydia don’t know they have it. That STD can then leave them (and you) with serious health issues later on, especially if you don’t get tested regularly and get treatment for it.

Promote the importance of sexual health and help end the spread of sexually transmitted infections.

Disclaimer: The above information is for general informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor/primary care provider before starting or changing treatment.

FAQs

What is sexual health awareness month?

Sexual health awareness month (September) is when people make it a point to promote responsible sexual behavior. This includes the responsibility to disclose your STD/STI test results and past history to those with whom you have sexual relationships, the responsibility to respect and protect each person’s sexual rights, and also, the responsibility (wink, wink) to experience sexual pleasure in healthy ways.

When is sexual health awareness month?

September is sexual health awareness month, which was established to encourage safer sex education and the betterment of people’s overall health.

When is STI awareness month?

STI awareness month is in April, when people discuss the importance of using condoms and dental dams during sex and how to prevent STIs.

Disclaimer: The above information is for general informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor/primary care provider before starting or changing treatment.