Stay protected when having sex | Western Cape Government

Stay protected when having sex

(The Government of South Africa)

Using a condom may seem easy, but the incorrect use of a condom can lead to a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Between 10 and 16 February, the national Department of Health aims to create awareness in reducing the spread of STI infections through its STI/Condom week campaign.

While condoms aren't 100% safe, there are many things you can do to protect yourself against STIs.     

What is an STI?

The difference between an STI and a sexually transmitted disease (STD), is that an STI is an infection that could turn into a disease. If you have a STI, it does not mean that you will get an STD, however STIs could lead to serious health issues and needs to be treated immediately.

female condom
An open female condom
An open female condom.

How is it passed on?

A STI is passed on from one person to another during sexual contact, through bodily fluids  as well as through the following ways:

  • If you touch the infected area of another person, and then touch yourself.
  • From mother to child during birth.
  • Through unsafe blood transfusions.
  • By sharing needles.

Signs and symptoms of an infection

Here are some of the signs and symptoms of an STI:

  • Unusual fluids from your penis or vagina.
  • Swollen glands, body aches and fever.
  • Warts or sores on and around your penis or vagina.
  • Pains or burning when urinating.
  • Pain while having sex.
  • A rash or itching in and around your pubic area.
  • Small blisters on and around your penis or vagina.
  • Weight loss.
  • Fatigue.
Max condoms
New fruit flavoured condoms that are freely available.

How you can protect yourself

Using a condom properly can reduce the risk of getting infected. You should:

  • Check the expiry date on your package before you use the condom.
  • Use condoms that are made of latex, as it is more effective.
  • Open the condom packet carefully so that you do not break the condom. Don't use your teeth.
  • Get tested for an STI or STD before having sex with your partner for the first time.
  • Avoid having sex when you're receiving treatment for an STI or STD.
  • Never reuse a condom.
  • Always put the condom on before you make any sexual contact.
  • See a doctor for emergency contraception if the condom breaks or slips off.

Getting treatment

Never leave an STI untreated, it won’t go away on its own. If you think that you may have an STI, you can visit your doctor, a health care centre , a reproductive health facility or Marie Stopes, a non-profit organisation that provides reproductive and healthcare services.  


You can prevent STIs by practicing safe sex. It is important to educate yourself about using condoms and safe sex practices.

Let's talk about STI/Condom Week

We spoke to people on the street and got their opinion on safe sex and the use of condoms during sex.

The content on this page was last updated on 14 February 2017