Dual protection refers to simultaneous protection from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and prevention of unwanted pregnancies. Both can be protected against by the same means or may be taken care of separately, depending on the needs of the individual or couple. Common strategies include contraceptive barriers or medications and behavioral modifications.
One of the most common devices used for dual protection is the male condom. Female condoms are similarly effective barriers. When used correctly, these barriers protect against the transmission of disease, including the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and also reduce the risk of an unwanted pregnancy. In order to use a condom effectively, a new one must be used every time a person engages in sexual intercourse or play.
Abstaining from sexual intercourse can also be used as dual protection because it offers complete protection from both STDs and pregnancy. Sexual play, however, can lead to the transmission of STDs even if the couple does not engage in intercourse. Oral sex and contact with semen or vaginal fluids can allow certain infections to spread, and barriers should be used to prevent the spread of disease when using abstinence as a method of protection.
There are a number of contraceptive devices that can effectively prevent unwanted pregnancy, often with more reliability than barrier methods. Birth control pills, implants, and sterilization as well as partial barriers, such as diaphragms, can be used to prevent pregnancy. None of these methods can be used for dual protection, however, because they do not offer protection from STDs. In order to be used as dual protection, these birth control methods must be combined with a method that protects against STDs.
Male or female condoms can be used along with contraceptives to provide dual protection for the partners. Though these barriers can be used alone, many people feel that the risk of unwanted pregnancy is too high when only using one of these devices. Adding a contraceptive, makes it highly likely that the dual protection will be effective.
Another way to use contraceptives as dual protection is to remain in a monogamous relationship and have both partners tested for STDs. Couples who have entered into a monogamous relationship and who have determined that neither of them carry any diseases can usually safely engage in intercourse without risk of transmitting STDs, using a contraceptive device to prevent pregnancy. For this method to work, both partners must be honest about their sexual practices, be recently tested, and not have engaged in risky sexual behavior recently.