16 Sep But STIs are only spread through sex, right?
Infections and diseases can be spread in a variety of ways, so this sub-post will make clear how you can get an STI and how to be safe overall.
STIs can be spread with something as innocent as a kiss, as well as with more “advanced” sexual activity including sexual intercourse. Let’s break this down.
How STIs are spread:
- Exposure to contaminated blood: Anytime infected blood finds its way to a mucus membrane (think inner nose, inside the mouth, vaginal walls and anal walls), that opens the possibility of infection/disease transfer. So for example, when people have vaginal sex, it can often cause small tears in the vaginal walls and this will transfer the infection.
DID YOU KNOW? According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “There’s no chance of getting HIV from closed-mouth or “social” kissing, and you can’t get HIV through saliva. In some very rare cases, people have gotten HIV from deep, open-mouth “French” kissing because they and their partners had blood in their mouths from bleeding gums or sores (like canker sores). But, the chance of getting HIV from deep, open-mouth kissing is much lower than with most other sexual activities.”
- Vaginal fluids and semen. These fluids are specific to the female and male sex organs and can contain diseases. When fluids are exchanged between partners, this can spread the disease.
- Contact with open infected skin. “According to dermatologist Mark Kaufmann, MD, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, each time we touch our cold sore, we can spread the virus. That’s because of how contagious it is—once it gets on your hands then you can spread it to something new like your phone or another body part. Wash your hands to prevent spreading the virus. ‘That’s why you should use a hand sanitizer a lot when you have cold sores,’ Dr. Kaufman suggests.”
- Contact with infected skin. Some infections don’t need to be open or oozing to spread. For example, warts can be transferred from one part of your body to another by something that touched the wart or the wart itself. For example, you could have a wart on your finger and touch your penis and then you could have have a wart there. Yes there. You could hold your friend’s hand, which has warts, and you could get warts. If you have warts on your fingers or hands be careful not to pick at them (as that increases the chances of them spreading) or leave them exposed so that they can spread easily. You can see a doctor to have them removed or try over the counter medications.
- Using needles from another person. Needles that are not sterile (that have been used before) can transfer blood infections from one person to another.
If I am in a committed relationship and my partner and I have never had sex, can my partner or I still have an STI?
Yes. You see? This is why you read about this stuff because it can be scary until you learn more.
The answer is yes because you could have warts on your finger (totally common) and you could pick on one and then touch your private parts and give yourself a form of genital warts. Unlikely? Yes. Possible. Yes.
Also, you could have a cold sore on your mouth and spread that to your partner by kissing. Cold sores are life long viruses and they can spread to private parts (you’ll read more about that later).
If I fool around with my boyfriend but we don’t have sex, how can we transmit a sexual disease?
Great question! Read the list again and you can likely come up with a few scenarios where you can transmit an infection. Touching private parts, placing your mouth on private parts, and even rubbing private parts near other private parts without any form of penetration can all spread infections.
If I am infection-free, can I give my used needles to someone else?
No, do not share needles with anyone. Only use needles for reasons prescribed by a doctor with needles from the doctor.
Am I really in danger of HIV—isn’t it a disease that affects gay people?
HIV is definitely a concern for ALL people engaged in any type of sexual activity, no matter what their sexual orientation. Many “straight” people have contracted HIV.
DID YOU KNOW? “About 1 in 4 (26%) of all new HIV infections is among youth ages 13 to 24 years. About 4 in 5 of these infections occur in males.”
I’m still confused. Am I in danger of an STI even if I am just kissing and petting my girlfriend?
Yes. Sorry to say, but you can still transfer or get an infection from very mild forms of sexual activity, and of course, through more intense and intimate forms of sexual activity as well. To be clear, as your sexual intimacy becomes more advanced, the risks of getting an STI advance as well. Kissing is a low level risk BUT you still are at risk for getting a cold sore or, in very, very rare cases where the person you are kissing has an infection AND is bleeding in his/her mouth, you could get a more dangerous STI (see the first Did You Know? of this post). That however is very uncommon and the vast majority of teens kiss (a lot) and don’t contract a dangerous STI.
Wow, I’m feeling a little freaked out now, like I should wrap myself in cellophane and never touch or kiss anyone. Should I become a hermit?
We get it. Reading about some of this stuff can be very scary and worrisome. BUT, that’s why you read about it, so you know the dangers and you can make healthy informed choices. STIs are easily avoidable if you practice safe intimacy habits. That means: never kissing someone with a cold sore, NOT having unprotected sex, knowing your partner’s sexual history and health, and being honest with your partner about yours. With good communication and precautionary measures, you can GREATLY reduce your chances of getting an STI. So, no need to find a cave.
DID YOU KNOW? “You can easily pass on your cold sores by sharing food, eating utensils, drinking straws, cups, and glasses. That goes for lip balm or lipstick, toothbrushes, and razors as well. Even towels you use to dry your face can be harbingers of the virus when you have a cold sore.”
If you are prone to cold sores, please be careful not to share these things. And if you don’t have cold sores, be mindful that these are the ways you can get them!
How did reading this sub post make you feel about fooling around? Will you do anything differently now?
What's being said