Safe Sex

Be prepared, stay safe

Young men with their arms around each other look back at the camera smiling

Not everyone chooses to have sex in their teens or young adulthood, but if you do, it’s important to know how to do it safely.

Sex can be a sensitive subject, but the City offers lots of services so you can approach it with maturity. Whether you’re dealing with a sexual health issue or just want to know more about how to stay well, check out the resources below.

Using Protection

If you’re having sex, it’s important to understand how to protect yourself. Learn more about using one (or several) options to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy.

Birth control
With sex comes the risk of pregnancy, but there are many steps you can take to help prevent it. Birth control methods include condoms, an IUD, and the birth control pill, patch, or shot. But only condoms can protect you from STIs—including HIV. Learn more about how to use condoms and where to access free condoms close to you.

STI prevention
STIs are passed from one person to another through sexual contact. The best way to protect yourself is by using a male or female condom since many people with an STI have no signs or symptoms. You may feel healthy and not even know that you have an STI. The only way to know for sure is to get tested at a clinic near you.

One of the most common STIs among 15- to 24-year-olds is HPV. If you decide to have sex, the best way to prevent HPV is by getting vaccinated in advance. And remember, when you use condoms correctly, they can help prevent STIs like HPV. Learn more about HPV and the vaccine.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a daily medication that greatly reduces your risk of HIV, which can be transmitted through sexual contact. Learn more about PrEP.

The only method that is 100% effective for preventing pregnancy and STIs is not having sex at all. This practice is called abstinence.

Find free or low-cost protection

NYC offers a number of places where young adults over the age of 12 can receive confidential sexual health services, including birth control and condoms. These services are free or very low cost, and you don’t need permission from your parent or guardian.

Find a clinic or hospital near you

Sexual Health Services

From free condoms to physical exams, the City makes it easy to take control of your sexual health. Anyone over 12 years of age has the right to confidential sexual health services without getting permission from a parent or guardian. The City has many places where you can get these services for free or very low cost—whatever your sexual orientation and whether or not you have insurance.

Find sexual health services

Sexual Health Clinics
NYC Sexual Health Clinics provide low- to no-cost confidential services for STIs, including HIV. Regardless of your immigration status, anyone 12 years of age or older will be seen on a first come, first served basis. No appointment is necessary, and you don’t need consent from a parent or guardian.
Learn more about Sexual Health Clinics

NYC YouthHealth Centers
NYC YouthHealth Centers provide health care for young adults ages 12 and up, regardless of whether or not you can pay. Sexual health services include testing and treatment for STIs (including HIV), plus birth control, pregnancy testing, and emergency contraception.
Find a Center near you

School-Based Health Centers (SBHCs)
Students can easily access health care at a School-Based Health Center. If you’re in high school, some SBHCs also offer reproductive care.

Learn more about sexual health services

Emotional Safety

Before having sex, it’s important to think about how you feel and make sure you’re ready. After considering what you really want, it’s OK to decide to have sex and it’s also OK to decide not to.

Sex should always include consent and communication between you and your partner. Talk to each other to make sure you’re on the same page. Both of you must make it clear that you agree to whatever you do, every time.

Healthy relationships
In a healthy relationship, both partners respect and support each other. But not every relationship is healthy, and domestic violence can take many forms. These can include:

  • physical violence
  • verbal abuse
  • forced sex
  • threats against you or loved ones

If you or someone close to you is experiencing these things with a partner, help is available. Call the Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-621-HOPE to speak with someone now.