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POPSUGAR / sponsored by / Queensland Health

How to Protect Yourself From Chlamydia STI

POPSUGAR Australia has partnered with Queensland Health to make sure you're getting STI tests regularly.

You read the headline. You know what you're here for. It's time to talk about chlamydia and exactly how to protect yourself (and your sexual partners) from catching and spreading it.

Most of us would remember our first sex talk. Maybe from an older sibling, an article online, or perhaps it was delivered by an awkward but well-meaning teacher in high school. Whichever way, you were probably told that chlamydia is on the rise and the way it's being transmitted is through sexual contact.

But what you may not know is that chlamydia transmission doesn't only happen during sex and no matter your gender, you can catch chlamydia. In fact, it can actually affect more than just your genitals. Because while chlamydia most commonly affects the penis, vagina, and anus, it can also be found in your eyes or throat. What that means for you, is that it's absolutely possible to transfer chlamydia from genitals or anus to mouth, or from mouth to genitals or anus during oral sex. Even if someone with chlamydia ejaculates and it ends up in your mouth, eyes (or really any other orifice) you can also catch it there — so what we're trying to say is, don't go rubbing your eyes before doing a proper clean up.

The important thing to remember is that chlamydia is incredibly common (in fact, it's the most commonly reported STI among young Australians), which means we need to talk about it more often — and ditch the stigma around it. It's super easy to catch, but it's also super easy to avoid catching.

How to Avoid Catching Chlamydia

We all know that some people with penises have an aversion to wearing condoms at the best of times, right? Well, safe sex is important no matter what you're getting up to. So, it's important that you get your partner to wear a condom not just during penetrative sex, but also for oral sex, too. Why? Because condoms are your best protection against catching chlamydia (though they aren't 100% effective, so still be careful). They're also your best defence against catching other sexually transmissible infections (STIs) and protecting you against unwanted pregnancy — we're seeing an awful lot of wins here.

But people with penises aren't the only people who need protection. If you're performing oral sex, you can also use dental dams. These are "latex or polyurethane sheets used between the mouth and vagina or anus during oral sex," explains to the Centre for Disease Control. Essentially, it's a condom for your mouth and tongue, so you can see how it would be effective.

It's also a good idea to refrain from brushing your teeth or eating sharp foods after giving oral sex. "It is possible to transmit (catch or pass on) many sexually transmissible infections through oral sex without a condom," says sex education website Open Doors. "Do not clean your teeth, floss, use mouthwash, eat food such as toast or crisps just before, or just after, having oral sex. This is because all these can cause small cuts in your mouth, making it easier for infection to pass from one person to another."

Get STI Tested Regularly

We'll say it again: Get. Yourself. Tested. Regularly.

We're not kidding — there are so many people who are in the dark about whether they do or don't have chlamydia because they don't get checked as often as they should. Pop into your GP or local sexual health clinic regularly and make sure you're informed about what's going on.

You should make sure that you go see a doctor and get yourself tested (for all sexually transmissible infections) every few months and after each new sexual partner — it's always better to know than be in the dark about your sexual health. It's not something to be ashamed about, and it sure as heck isn't something you should put off. Stigma around sexually transmissible infections is way overblown (pardon the pun) and we should be normalising testing.

Be good to your fellow humans and don't insist on getting down and dirty if you're unchecked or untreated. It's not hard.

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