“What’s an STI and how do you get one?” asks your twelve-year-old son after seeing some magazine at dentist’s waiting room.

A sexually transmitted infection (STI) is an infection that both men and women can get, and pass on, from sexual activity. That includes HIV, gonorrhoea, chlamydia, syphilis, genital herpes and genital warts. Using condoms can reduce the risk of getting these. It is important for all teenagers to know that STIs exist and that many may not have any symptoms so you don’t know if you have been infected or not.

Condoms are used not just as a contraceptive method, but also to protect against infections, including HIV. Having sex without taking precautions not only puts you at risk of having an unintended pregnancy, but can also have longer-term health implications, such as infertility, which you might not find out about for many years.

“STI means sexually transmitted infection. It means that it’s an infection that you can get or pass on by having sex. There are lots of different types of STIs, most of which can be cured; some cannot be cured. People can reduce the risk of getting most STIs by having safer sex, which means always using a condom.”

“STI is a sexually transmitted infection – an infection that can be passed between sexual partners (boy/girl, girl/boy, girl/girl or boy/boy). Some STIs have symptoms, but others don’t. STIs are preventable, so it’s important to avoid them in the first place by using a condom. Condoms can help you avoid STIs. Apart from abstinence (no sexual contact at all), no other type of contraception can prevent a STI.”