Resources for Heterosexual Women
Sexually active women are more susceptible to STDs and their complications as compared to men. This is due to the location and makeup of a woman’s reproductive tract. The vagina’s warm, moist environment is an ideal place for viruses and bacteria to grow. The vagina is also lined with a thin mucous membrane compared to the tough skin that covers the penis, which provides a better barrier against STDs. Finally, because the vagina is located inside the body, a woman is less likely to notice symptoms if she is infected. For these reasons, it is very important for all women to get the facts about STDs. Here are a few key tips to help you stay healthy and reduce your chances of getting infected:
Use a male or female lubricated condom each time you have vaginal or anal sex. Don’t use condoms with nonoxynol-9 spermicide because they may irritate your vagina and make it easier to become infected with STDs. For oral sex on a man, use either a flavored or unlubricated male condom. If you want to perform oral-anal sex on your partner (also called “rimming”) or he wants to do it to you, use a latex barrier (also called a dental dam). Alternatives to dental dams include plastic wrap (e.g., Saran wrap) or a square made from a non-lubricated condom (cut off the tip of condom and then cut the condom lengthwise). Any of these can be placed against the vagina or anus during mouth-to-vagina or mouth-to-anus sex.
Use only water-based lubricants. Any lubricant made with oil (e.g., baby oil, lotion, cream, Vaseline, etc.) can cause condom breakage.
Get tested for STDs regularly. It is possible to have an STD and not have any symptoms. Testing is the only reliable way to find out if you are infected.
Talk to your partners about safer sex and getting tested, ideally before you are intimate with them. This Web site has tips for talking with your partners about STDs, too.
Get a Pap test regularly to check for cervical cancer.
Don’t douche! Douching can make you more susceptible to STDs. It can also spread an STD infection like chlamydia further into your uterus and fallopian tubes, causing Pelvic Inflammatory Disease or PID. PID can make you infertile (not able to have children).
Don’t self-diagnose when you have vaginal symptoms. Many women go to their local drugstore at the first signs of vaginal itching or unusual discharge. While anti-fungal creams like Monistat cure yeast infections, they do not cure other infections like STDs. Be sure to go to a doctor or clinic to get checked.
Pregnancy and STDs
- STDs and Pregnancy (Español)
- Emergency Contraception Information
- Planned Parenthood Los Angeles: Low cost or free services including emergency contraception.
Links and Resources
General STD Information
- American Social Health Association: General STD information and resources, with an emphasis on herpes and HPV), also has lots of condom information
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: General STD information
- Los Angeles County Office of Women’s Health (cervical cancer information and referrals to free & low-cost Pap tests in LA County)
- Los Angeles County STD Hotline: 1-800-758-0880 (toll free):
Offers STD information and eferrals to free and low-cost testing in LA County. Free condoms by mail (LA County residents only).
Note: The STD Hotline is available 24 hours/day, 7 days a week via an automated system for clinics and to leave a message for condoms. If you want to speak to a health educator, please call Monday-Friday 9am-5pm.
- California AIDS Hotline: 800-367-AIDS. Mon – Fri, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (until 9 p.m. Tuesdays). TDD: 888-225-AIDS.
- CDC INFO: 800-232-4636. STD and HIV information (listen to prompts) - 24 hrs.
- AIDS/HIV Nightline: 800-273-AIDS (2437). Mon - Sun / 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. Provides emotional support, information and referrals to people with concerns about HIV during the night when other agencies are closed.
- Drug Treatment and recovery resources in L.A. County: contact 1-800-564-6600 to be referred to resources near you.
- Abuse or sexual assault hotline: If you are experiencing sexual or relationship abuse or violence, or if you are afraid of your partner, call (213) 626-3393 or (310) 854-4621. 24 hours a day.
- Reproductive Health: Emergency Contraception: call 1-888-NOT-2-LATE or visit www.not-2-Late.com
STD Testing Resources
- InSPOTLA: Tell your sex partners about an STD or HIV through Internet ecards (anonymously if desired): Also has STD testing locator and additional resource links.
- Hepatitis B Foundation: Provides educational information about hepatitis B transmission, symptoms, diagnosis, prevention, management, new treatments, and clinical trials.
- Hepatitis Foundation International: Provides educational information about hepatitis including transmission, symptoms, vaccination, treatment, and management of chronic infections.
- Free and low cost hepatitis A and B vaccination in LA County
- CDC fact sheet on the HIV-STD connection.
- HIV L.A. Resource Directory: HIVLA.org is a quick, easy way to locate services available in Los Angeles County for people with HIV/AIDS. HIV L.A. is organized by category of service and by geographic region and contains over 1,300 listings.
For information on free and low cost STD testing and treatment services in Los Angeles County, call the STD Hotline at 1-800-758-0880 or visit our STD Testing & Services section.