An STI (sexually transmitted infection) is everyone's worst nightmare. Unfortunately, there are many wrong ideas about how you can get an STI.
We’re discussing what causes STIs, and how you catch them. We will also debunk some infamous myths about them. Keep reading to learn more to have fun and stay safe.
Bacteria, parasites or viruses generally cause STIs. The infection is then spread from person to person via bodily fluids (e.g. semen or blood) or physical contact.
How an STI is spread is based on the type.
Bacterial STIs include:
The bacteria lives in the mucous membranes of the vagina, penis, rectum or mouth. This means they are most commonly spread through bodily fluids.
Viral STIs include:
Unlike bacterial infections, a virus can exist outside the body which means it can spread in numerous ways.
Parasitic STIs include:
Like viruses, the parasites can exist outside the body and therefore can spread in different ways.
While sex is the main way to catch an STI, there are other ways of catching them that don’t involve penetrative or oral sex. This is because STIs can be spread through any kind of bodily fluid or physical contact, which isn’t always through sex.
We will discuss many other ways to catch an STI that doesn’t involve sex.
There are 4 main ways to catch an STI.
The first is unprotected sexual intercourse. This can be intravaginal sex, anal sex or oral sex. The STI can be passed on through bodily fluids (e.g. semen or vaginal fluids) or from skin-to-skin contact.
An STI can also be spread through sexual contact, where your hands or genitals touch the genitals of someone with an STI. Certain STIs, such as oral herpes (cold sores), can also be transmitted through kissing.
You can also pass an infection onto your baby through pregnancy and childbirth. This happens in 3 main ways:
These are certainly the most common ways to catch an STI. However, some STIs can be spread in specific ways.
There are some more uncommon ways to catch an STI. Depending on the type, several factors can increase the risk of transmission.
|Sharing needles or razors - Both instruments can cut or pierce the skin, which means there is a chance for people to mix blood. This puts you at a higher risk of HIV and Hepatitis A, B or C.|
|Sharing unwashed sex toys - Any blood, pus from sores, parasites or fluid on an unwashed sex toy can transmit HIV, Hepatitis and Syphilis.|
|Contaminated surfaces - Dirty sheets, towels, surfaces and clothes can give you a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Pubic lice and trichomoniasis are two kinds of STIs that are spread this way.|
|Blood transfusion - It is rare but possible to get HIV from a blood transfusion. Hospitals and blood donation centres have ways to make sure this does not happen.|
|Contaminated food - Hepatitis can be spread through food that has been touched by an infected person.|
These causes are much less common. However, you should still be careful to prevent the risk of any infection.
Generally, you cannot catch an STI from sharing cutlery or drinkware. However, there is an extremely low risk of catching oral herpes (cold sores) through saliva on these items. That being said, you are more likely to catch herpes from kissing or sex than from cutlery or drinkware.
It is unlikely you will catch an STI from a toilet seat. It is impossible for bacterial STIs as the bacteria cannot live outside the body.
While some viruses, like human papillomavirus (HPV), can live for some time outside the body, contracting them from a toilet seat is not possible.
You can get parasitic STIs from a toilet seat but it is very unlikely. It is much more likely to catch them from having unprotected sex.
Condoms prevent infection 95-98% of the time. However, some STIs cause symptoms that cannot be covered by a condom.
Genital warts, genital herpes, syphilis, and parasitic STIs cause symptoms all over the genitalia. Men can get symptoms in the groin, testicles and perineum. Women can get symptoms in and around the labia.
This means that physical contact with the genital area can spread the infection.
The best way to prevent an infection is to wear a condom correctly.
If you’re using a male condom, make sure that:
If you’re using a female condom, make sure that:
Do not use male and female condoms together as this can cause tearing.
You should also prevent transmission through regular testing. If you are sexually active and have multiple sexual partners, you should get routinely checked at a sexual health clinic. Many have remote testing options if you don’t want to go in person.
You should also be open with your partner about your sexual history.
The clinic will advise you on your next best steps. Usually, you will need to get treatment.
You can order your treatment online at HealthExpress. You don’t need to wait for a doctor’s appointment or in pharmacy queues.
Simply choose the prescription treatment you need, complete a consultation, and we send you the treatment once approved by a doctor.
The bottom line is that you can catch STIs in several ways. Anywhere between sexual intercourse and physical touch can spread infections.
The best way to prevent infection is to use a condom and get regularly screened, even if you have no worrying symptoms.