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Can You Get an STD Without Having Sex? Types and Methods

The “S” in STD stands for “sexually,” so you might think that you can only contract an STD after having sex. However, if you’ve noticed symptoms and Googled, “Can you get an STD without having sex?” you may be in for an unwelcome surprise.

You can contract an STD from unprotected sex, but you can also contract an STI without having sexual intercourse. The infections can spread through oral sex, kissing your partner, or eating contaminated foods.

Our staff at Rapid STD Testing created this guide to answer the common question, “Can you get STD without sex?” and empower you with the information you need to protect your sexual health.

Ways You Can Get an STD Without Intercourse

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and infections (STIs) commonly spread through unprotected, penetrative sexual intercourse, including vaginal, anal, and oral sex.

More than likely, you already know that you need to:

  •         Use protection
  •         Get tested before engaging in intercourse with a new partner
  •         Avoid sharing needles.

If you get an STD without having sex, though, you may find yourself wondering, “Can I have an STD as a virgin?” or “Was I born with an STD?” While you cannot get an STD from yourself because STDs do not naturally develop, there are ways other than intercourse to contract an STD.

1. Kissing

While some may disagree about whether or not it’s “real” sex, you likely know that you can get an STD from oral sex. But did you know that you can contract an STD through kissing?

For most couples, kissing is a way to show affection. Still, there’s no way to avoid swapping saliva while kissing, and STDs can spread through contact with bodily fluids like saliva. Even if you only share a peck on the lips with a loved one, you still risk catching an STI.

Mononucleosis (also known as “the kissing disease”) is the most frequently transmitted disease. While mono isn’t technically considered an STI, it still spreads through saliva or other bodily fluids. Kissing your partner can also spread oral herpes, a viral infection that causes cold sores.

2. Sharing Items

Sharing certain items can increase your risk of coming down with an STI. Shared sheets, towels, or clothes can hide single-cell parasites called Trichomonas vaginalis, the protozoan organism responsible for the STI trichomoniasis.

The parasite thrives in damp fabrics and can survive for up to an hour outside of the body. Pubic lice — commonly known as crabs — and scabies can also make a home in shared bedding, towels, or clothing. The mites are invisible to the naked eye but can cause itching, blisters, and genital sores.

Further, personal care items like razors and toothbrushes can spread STDs as well. To reduce the risk of contracting a bloodborne disease like HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C, avoid using your partner’s razor or toothbrush and never use a shared needle.

Finally, never share sex toys with an untested partner. Even if you use protection, you can still contract an STD from unwashed sex toys, including vibrators and other devices.

3. Oral Sex

Oral sex may seem like a safer alternative to penetrative sex. In reality, you can easily contract or spread STDs through unprotected oral sex.

Broken skin, sores, genital warts, or secretions are often exposed during oral sex, allowing STDs to enter your body. At the same time, infected genitals — including the penis, vagina, or anus — can transmit diseases during oral sex.

As mentioned above, the herpes simplex virus is most often transmitted orally. You could also risk catching HPV or chlamydia.

4. Blood Transfusion

In the event of a catastrophe, a blood transfusion can save your life. However, if you received a blood transfusion that contains HIV, you have an extremely high risk of contracting the infection.

Fortunately, the likelihood of receiving a blood transfusion that contains HIV is low. Blood banks screen blood for HIV-1 and HIV-2 antibodies, reducing the risk of contracting the infection after a transfusion.

That said, if you received a blood transfusion before the early 1990s, you could have been exposed to HIV or Hepatitis. Fortunately, a rapid STD test can determine if you have the virus, allowing you to seek appropriate treatment and minimize the damage to your body.

5. Contaminated Food

You probably don’t expect your meals to be a potential source of an STD. Even so, Hepatitis A can pass through contaminated foods and drinks. You can get this STD without having sex. If you ingest infected fecal matter, you can contract the virus.

While fecal matter may seem easy to avoid, someone could use the restroom without washing their hands, then begin prepping your food. You then run the risk of contracting an STD from your favorite meal, though the virus usually clears up on its own and has few symptoms or side effects.

6. Skin-to-Skin Contact

Similar to kissing, skin-to-skin contact often seems like a safer alternative to sex. However, viral infections like herpes or HPV can spread through hand-to-genital or genital-to-genital contact.

The risk of contracting STDs like genital herpes, trichomoniasis, and HPV through skin-to-skin contact varies based on several factors, such as the viral load, the condition of your skin, and your personal grooming habits.

7. Tattoos and Piercings

Adding a new tattoo or piercing your ears are fun ways to express your personality and put your taste on full display. Before you pop into the first tattoo or piercing parlor you find, though, you should do your homework.

If the parlor doesn’t sterilize their piercing or tattooing needles between clients, you could potentially contract HIV or another bloodborne disease, such as Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C. Ask the staff what kind of precautions they take before booking your appointment to help minimize your risk and increase your peace of mind.

8. Childbirth

Whether you’re expecting a baby or have recently discovered that you have an STD that was transmitted non-sexually, you may be asking yourself a common question: “Can you be born with an STD?

In short, yes. STDs can impact both pregnant mothers and their babies if left untreated. Babies can contract STDs such as syphilis, chlamydia, or HIV during delivery. Fortunately, you can detect and treat STDs during pregnancy with same-day STD testing, reducing the baby’s risk of contracting an infection.

Common STDs You Can Get Without Intercourse

Herpes

The viral infection herpes results in painful blisters. Doctors can treat the ulcers with antiviral medication that helps minimize the outbreaks, reduce pain, and shorten flared periods. However, the infection itself is incurable.

In most cases, people don’t know that they have the herpes infection. Even so, the disease transmits between sexual partners or to babies during delivery.

HPV

Also known as human papillomavirus, HPV is a viral infection that creates warts on your skin or in mucus membranes. Some strains of HPV can lead to cancer in the cervix, other areas of the genitals, or the throat. Most people contract HPV through sexual intercourse or skin-to-skin contact.

HIV

HIV, or Human Immunodeficiency Virus, is a viral infection that can develop into Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). HIV is currently incurable and transmits through shared items, like needles or razors, and bodily fluids, such as:

  •         Blood
  •         Semen
  •         Vaginal discharge
  •         Breast milk

Like many STD patients, most people who have contracted HIV don’t know that they have it. The virus progresses slowly and may not show symptoms for ten years. Early detection and ongoing treatment are critical to prevent severe illness or death. 

Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis, or trich, is one of the most common STDs. A one-celled parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis causes the virus, which passes through genital contact. More than 70% of patients suffering from trich don’t have any symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they may not appear for weeks after you contract the infection.

Hepatitis A

Unlike Hepatitis B and C, Hep A is a short-term virus that typically goes away on its own. You can contract the virus easily through intercourse, contact with Hep A-infected fecal matter, or contaminated food. The virus creates inflammation in the liver and can lead to liver failure in rare cases, though most patients fully recover from liver failure caused by Hep A.

Chlamydia

Chlamydia is a bacterial sexually transmitted infection transferred through unprotected sex, genital contact, oral sex, or birth. The infection can be recurring, which means that you can contract chlamydia again after treating and recovering from it.

Chlamydia rarely shows any symptoms but, left untreated, can cause significant health conditions.

Gonorrhea

Like chlamydia, gonorrhea is a bacterial STI caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhea. The bacteria targets warm, wet areas of the body, such as the vagina, anus, eyes, and throat.

The bacteria pass easily through unprotected intercourse or nonsexual contact with an infected person. Most people develop symptoms within two weeks, though some people never experience them at all. Still, you can pass an asymptomatic infection along to sexual partners.

Syphilis

Syphilis is a bacterial infection that develops in phases and spreads through contact with painless sores on the genitals or in your mouth. The bacteria can remain dormant for years following the initial infection. When left untreated, syphilis can damage vital organs, including your heart and brain.

Safe Practices to Avoid Getting STD without Sex or with Sex

With more than 20 million new STD cases in the United States each year, it pays to be safe. Some people may hesitate to have sex for fear of contracting an STI, especially since you can get an STD without having sex.

You can still safely engage in sex and enjoy your life — as long as you take certain precautions.

Before having sex with a new partner, make sure you get tested. At Rapid STD Testing, we offer a comprehensive 10-panel STD test that checks for common infections and viruses, including:

  •       HIV Type 1 and 2
  •       Herpes 1 and 2
  •       Hepatitis A, B, and C
  •       Syphilis
  •       Chlamydia
  •       Gonorrhea
  •       HIV RNA Early Detection

Talk with your partner before having sex to ensure that you’re on the same page. Discuss boundaries and guidelines involving protection, monogamy, and regular testing.

Use a condom with water-based lubricant throughout the entire process of intercourse. Condoms are highly effective at preventing both pregnancy and infections. If you or your partner uses hormonal birth control or has an implant, you may want to add a barrier method to prevent STD transmission.

Avoid having sex while drunk or under the influence of drugs. Intoxication can lower your inhibitions and reduce your commitment to having safe, protected sex. You may also choose to get vaccinated against common STDs, such as HPV or Hepatitis B. Vaccines can minimize your risk of contracting STDs through sexual or nonsexual contact.

Vaccines won’t prevent every type of STD, so ensure that you use protection before engaging in vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

Finally, get tested regularly, especially if you engage in high-risk activities or have multiple sexual partners. Rapid STD Testing clinics empower you with confidential testing, same-day results, and all the support you need to take control of your sexual health.

Can You Get an STD without Sex? Tips to Stay Safe

Can you get an STD without having sex? The short answer is yes.

If you think you may have been exposed to an STD, order tests today at a convenient Rapid STD Testing clinic. Our team will support you throughout the testing and treatment process.