STI Prevention & Vaccinations

STI Prevention | Vaccinate Before You Graduate

The surest way to protect yourself against STIs is to not have sex. That means not having any vaginal, anal, or oral sex (“abstinence”). There are many things to consider before having sex. It’s okay to say “no” if you don’t want to have sex.

If you do decide to have sex, you and your partner should get tested for STIs beforehand. Make sure that you and your partner use a condom from start to finish every time you have oral, anal, or vaginal sex.

Know where to get condoms (purchase at a retail location or get them for free) and how to use them correctly. Remember that women who have sex with other women can also pass on or get STIs.  Women can catch STIs such as chlamydia when exchanging bodily fluids. Herpes and genital warts can be passed on through skin-to-skin contact.

It is not safe to stop using condoms unless you’ve both been tested for STIs, know your results, and are in a mutually monogamous relationship, which means that you and your partner both agree to only have sexual contact with each other. This can help protect against STIs, as long as you’ve both been tested and know you’re STI-free.

Avoid mixing alcohol and/or recreational drugs with sex. If you use alcohol and drugs, you are more likely to take risks, like not using a condom or having sex with someone you normally wouldn’t have sex with.

Source: CDC
Vaccinations for STIs

There are currently vaccinations for three STIs:

  • Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B – infants should get their first dose of hepatitis B vaccine at birth and will usually complete the series at 6–18 months of age; children routinely get the hepatitis A vaccine between 12-23 months; most people get the hepatitis A & B vaccines as babies, but it’s a good idea to ask whether you’ve already gotten yours
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV) – 2-3 doses; may be given beginning at age 9 years and vaccination is recommended for everyone through 26 years of age; Rhode Island regulation requires students entering 7th grade to have received the first dose of the HPV vaccine series, with all three doses completed by 9th grade
HIV Prevention Medications

If you think you may be exposed to HIV either before OR after having sex with an infected person, there are highly effective medicines that a healthcare professional can prescribe to greatly lower your chances of contracting HIV yourself, if taken as prescribed. Both medications are covered by health insurance. If you don’t have health insurance for prescription drugs, you may be eligible to get your costs covered by the Ready Set PrEP program of the federal government.

HIV prevention medications for before or after sexual contact:

  • PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) – a medicine that can prevent HIV infection up to 90% in those who are at risk but who are HIV negative. While on PrEP, you will need to be tested for HIV every 3 months to make sure you remain HIV negative.
  • PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) – a series of pills taken over 28 days after a possible HIV exposure to prevent HIV. The sooner you start PEP, the better it will work. Every hour counts! It is most effective when taken within 24 hours but can work up to 72 hours after exposure. If taken within 72 hours, it can reduce the risk of HIV infection by up to 80%.
Vaccinate Before You Graduate

Vaccinate Before You Graduate (VBYG) is an immunization (vaccination) program sponsored by the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) that makes 12 important vaccinations available to all students at public middle and high schools in Rhode Island , along with students at private high schools in Rhode Island. These vaccines are given during the school day at clinics throughout the year. VBYG can bring teens up-to-date on their shots to protect from serious diseases.

There is no out-of-pocket cost for any student for any vaccine. Students are not required to have health insurance. The insurance of those students who have insurance, however, will be collected to offset the cost of vaccine administration.

In accordance with Rhode Island law, students age 16 or older may consent to vaccinations for themselves. Students under age 16 will need a parent or guardian’s consent. A minor parent may consent to treatment of their child.

How it works

School nurses work with The Wellness Company to host clinics throughout the school year, where licensed nurses administer the vaccines. Check out the current VBYG clinic schedule to see when a vaccination clinic is coming to your school, or check with your school nurse.

There are 12 vaccines recommended and available to teens (most are REQUIRED to attend school). Many are routine vaccinations given at doctor’s visits starting at birth, but some teens may have missed one or more, and this program is an excellent way to catch up and make sure everything is up to date before you graduate from high school.

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