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Practices That Can Increase Your Risk of STIs

By Dr Sylvia Kama-Kieghe

This article considers ‘Practices That Can Increase Your Risk of STIs’ or sexually transmitted infections by looking at some common questions/

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People ask a lot of questions about picking up sexual infections and whether they are more likely to get an infection if they behave one way or another.

How can you avoid sexual infections? What practices are you engaging in – without realising you may be exposing your self to them?

So we know that sexual infections are infections that are picked up most commonly via sexual intercourse (though some, like Hepatitis B or HIV, can be contracted by blood transfusions – for example).

The most common sexual activities that transmit sexual infections are vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

Engaging in sexual intercourse without protection is a sure way of increasing your risk of sexual infection.

So let’s talk about how you protect your self.

With a new or relatively new partner, we encourage the use of condoms.

Condoms are protective sheaths placed within the vagina (female condoms), or over the penis (male condoms) mainly to create a barrier.

They also prevent the exchange of fluids that happens during intercourse i.e. vaginal fluid or the semen/and blood.

So the first question – Can I still get STI if I use a condom?

Yes! But before you throw away the method – it is good to know that even though condoms are not 100% effective against preventing STIs, they are still the best solution we presently have and definitely better than using nothing.

One of the reasons a condom may not work is if it is not used correctly.

If a condom falls off or gets torn during sex, it will not prevent sexual infections.

Another reason condoms may not work is the nature of the infections.

Remember condoms are barriers for preventing fluids from being transmitted?

Well, some STIs do not need fluid for this purpose.

As a result, transmission of STIs such as herpes, HPV,  syphilis, pubic lice, or scabies can occur even if a condom is used.

The germs can exist on surface skin of the infected person or on sores/lesions on the skin.

Therefore they can be passed to the partner from the contact during sex – genital rubbing or during intercourse with the condom on.

Ok – next: so what if you don’t engage in penetrative vaginal or anal sex – can you still catch an STI?


Take oral sex for example.

Body fluids can be exchanged between the mouth and genitals unless a condom is used over the penis.

Someone with an open wound in the mouth, for example from a gum problem or ulcer, can receive an infection if they perform oral sex on another who is infected.

Additionally, if someone has Herpes and they have a sore in the mouth, they could transmit the infection by performing oral sex on their partner.

Apart from Herpes, other infections that can be transmitted through oral sex include Syphilis, Gonorrhoea, and HPV.

Another question addresses issues around kissing or sharing personal items.

Kissing has a low risk of spreading most of these STI’s.

However, having an open sore or a cut on the lip/in the mouth can lead to getting an infection.

This is a common way of catching the Herpes virus infection.

Most of the viral and bacterial infections cannot be transmitted by sharing clothing/towels or other items like utensils, toilets because these germs need a living host to survive and multiply.

The germs you are more likely to pick up from these items are scabies or pubic lice.

These are less harmful than other viral or bacterial infections and treated fairly easily.

Some people wonder – can they have STIs even in long term relationships?

The answer is – yes; it could happen in the circumstance where your partner has sex with other people outside of your relationship.

But sometimes, this is not the case.

For instance, if your partner has had Herpes infection before then from time to time, they may become contagious and shed the virus.

If you have sexual intercourse with them at that time, you could get infected from that encounter.

Unfortunately, this is the nature of Herpes – we can control the viral load and reduce the symptoms, but there is no cure and occasionally the viral load goes up and can lead to partner infection.

So hopefully, we’ve covered some areas around sexual practice that can help you in keeping safe and well.

Key points to emphasise include using condoms correctly and having regular screening.

Do you have any questions or need to learn more about this topic?

Read More:

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

AskAwayHealth’s Top 10 Tips for a Healthy SEX Life

Sexual Infections – Chlamydia

Editing by AskAwayHealth Team


All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising  Medical Practitioners on a wide range of health care conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality health care. The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified health care practitioner.
To discuss your condition, please contact a health practitioner or reach us directly through

Please seek urgent medical care if you have severe or life threatening symptoms.

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