Safe sex

Quick facts:

  • Part of maintaining good sexual health is having safe sex.
  • Every time you have sex, it's important to have your partner's enthusiastic consent, and that you give yours too.
  • Safe sex can be exciting and pleasurable.
  • Practicing safe sex involves being aware of what sexual activities are risky, how to reduce those risks and what bodily fluids can spread sexually transmissible infections (STIs).

Key elements of safe sex include:

  • reducing the spread of STIs
  • avoiding unplanned pregnancy
  • staying emotionally healthy.

Sexually transmissible infections

STIs can be passed to sexual partners through:

  • vaginal sex
  • oral sex
  • anal sex
  • sex toys
  • close sexual contact.

Some STIs can be passed from a mother to her child during pregnancy or childbirth. Some STIs such as HIV and hepatitis B can also be spread between injecting drug users when sharing needles and/or other injecting drug equipment.

Many people with STIs do not have symptoms, may not be aware they have an STI and can infect others during unprotected sex. The only way to know that you do not have an infection is to get a sexual health check and STI tests.

Common STIs found in Australia include chlamydia, genital herpes, genital warts and HPV, trichomoniasis, gonorrhoea, syphilis and HIV and AIDS.

Safe sex methods

  • Use condoms when engaging in sex.
  • Using a condom reduces your risk of STIs and an unplanned pregnancy.
  • If your sexual partner has a visible sore, ulcer or lumps on their genital or anal area, do not engage in sex (even with a condom).
  • Some STIs can be passed to the lips, mouth and throat during oral sex. The use of condoms and dental dams during oral sex and when using sex toys is recommended.

    Help and assistance

    If you have been impacted by sexual assault and would like help, there are a range of services available to help you.

    Get qualified health advice 24/7 for the cost of a local call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84).

    This factsheet provides general information and is not intended to replace the need to see a health professional or have a sexual health check. For more information on any sexual health concerns please talk to a healthcare provider. A doctor, nurse or health worker can assist with:

    • providing appropriate tests, treatment and information about how to prevent STIs
    • helping people to ensure that their sexual partners get tested and treated.

      Other resources

      • For short animations about common STIs and how to use a condom, see Queensland Health's YouTube channel Your Sexual Health.
      • For comprehensive safe sex, STIs, testing and treatment information for young adults see Stop the Rise of STIs.
      • For videos and resources developed with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities see Young Deadly Free.
      • For information on safe sex in Arabic, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Thai, or Vietnamese go to the StaySTIFree website. Other translated resources about STIs are available from the Ethnic Communities Council of Queensland.