Last updated: May 10, 2008
couple-bed-condom-intercourse
Important part of a guy's skill set: proper condom deployment.
(MIKE WATSON/FOTOLIA)
The risks: HIV, herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, HPV (warts), syphilis, trichomoniasis, hepatitis B, hepatitis C


Vaginal intercourse is unlike other forms of sexual activity because it includes the risk of unwanted pregnancy, on top of all the STD risks.

Although the chance of contracting or transmitting HIV during vaginal intercourse is lower than during receptive anal intercourse, it is still very much a risk, and unprotected vaginal sex is especially risky for women.

Also, if your vagina is dry because of hormonal changes due to menopause or birth-control pills, it can get tiny abrasions that make HIV transmission easier. Broken skin of any kind invites HIV infection during unprotected vaginal intercourse, including herpes lesions.

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The male partner is at risk for HIV as well, especially if he has sores or broken skin on his penis.

Having unprotected vaginal sex can also transmit chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and trichomoniasis. All those STDs can be contained by using a condom—but syphilis, HPV, and herpes can reside on the skin outside of the vagina or penis where a condom might not offer protection.

How to reduce risk
Using a latex or polyurethane condom during vaginal intercourse is the best defense against STDs and when used correctly, is almost 100% effective against HIV and pregnancy.

No other form of birth control protects women against STDs. So Anne Foster-Rosales, MD, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood Golden Gate, recommends that women insist on using a condom even if they're on the Pill or some other method. "We recommend that it takes two methods to really have effective protection," she says. "A condom is a great addition to any female method. It maximizes the pregnancy protection and also protects against STDs."