Healthy living

Safer sex

Safer sex is all about protecting yourself and your partners from STIs and unintended pregnancy.

Sexually transmissible infections (STIs) are passed on through vaginal, oral and anal sex. Most STIs are passed on by sharing certain body fluids (semen, blood, vaginal fluid) or by skin-to-skin contact.

Safer sex helps you stay healthy and can make having sex more pleasurable. 

How can I have safer sex?

There are lots of things you can do to make having sex safer:

Use condoms and/ or dams with water-based lubricants

Condoms and dams are the best way of protecting you and your sexual partners against STI’s. These provide barriers from the body fluids and some skin-to-skin contact that can spread STIs.

Condoms are the only form of contraception that protect against both pregnancy and STIs.

It is important to use condoms correctly for them to be effective. (Find out more about condoms and dams)

Have regular STI check-ups

If you have ever been sexually active, an STI check-up is the only way to be sure you don’t have and STI.

You can get STI test from your GP, local healthcare clinic or online at the Healthysexual website (external site).

Get treated if you have an STI

Most STIs are easily treated and managed.

It is important to get treated as soon as possible because the sooner you start, the more effective the treatment is. Even if the symptoms are minimal or disappear, it is always important to finish your course of medication. For common STIs, like chlamydia, it's a simple course of antibiotics.

Tell all your sexual partners if you get an STI

It is important to let any partners you have had sex with recently know if you have an STI so that they can get tested and treated too.

This is called contact tracing and is an important part of controlling the spread of STIs (and can help stop you getting and STI back again).

Most people prefer to find out by having a conversation; this could be face to face, by telephone or video-chat.. You can also send someone a personal or anonymous message via Let them know (external site)

Talk honestly with your partner/s

Conversations with your partner might include agreeing to only have sex with one another and getting tested and treated (if needed) before you stop using condoms or dams.

Sexual activities that are lower risk

Some kinds of sex are safer than others when it comes to reducing the risk of STIs.

Lower risk activities include kissing, masturbating, touching your partner's genitals (as long as you don't get any of their sexual fluids on or in your mouth or genitals), touching over clothes and oral sex.

Lower risk doesn't mean no risk and it is still possible to get certain STIs from these things, so using a condom/dam to avoid contact with skin and fluids is the most effective way to prevent STIs. 

Get vaccinated 

Some STIs (Hepatitis B and HPV - the virus that can cause genital warts and genital cancers) can be vaccinated against.

Vaccinations help you to develop immunity so that if you are exposed to these viruses your body is able to protect you. Vaccinations for each virus are different and some require more than one dose to be most effective. Hepatitis B and HPV vaccines are routinely offered to Australian children for free through the National Immunisation Program. Adults who did not receive these vaccines as a child should talk to their GP if they are interested in getting vaccinated.

Learn more about immunisation. 


If you are having penis-in-vagina sex and you would like to prevent pregnancy, there are many different contraception methods.

Condoms are the only contraception method that also prevents STIs. It is important to find the contraception method that works best for you and your partner. Your doctor or places like Sexual Health Quarters (external site) can help you explore your contraception options. 

More information about all the contraception methods.


PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis. This is a medication that can be taken to help prevent HIV infection. If you think you may be at risk of HIV, talk to your doctor to see if PrEP would be suitable for you.

Further information about PrEP (external link)  

Where to get help

  • See your doctor
  • call healthdrect on 1800 022 222
  • Call the Sexual Health Helpline
    • metropolitan callers: (08) 9227 6178
    • country callers: 1800 198 205
  • Visit Healthysexual (external site) for information and free online chlamydia and gonorrhoea testing (external site)
  • Contact your local sexual health clinic (external site)

Sexual Health and Blood-borne Virus Program, Public Health

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

Anyone can be a HealthySexual: talk, test, protect