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  • Writer's pictureGrace Health

Can You Contract an STD Without Having Sex

Updated: May 18, 2023

Think of it this way, the ‘S’ in STD stands for sexually, so it must be impossible to get STDs without sex, right? But surprise, surprise! Although sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are typically associated with sexual activity, it's possible to contract some STDs without having sex. This blog post will explore the other non-sexual ways this can happen and how to reduce your risk of contracting an STD, whether or not you are sexually active.

In this article:

How are STDs Transmitted?

It’s a fact, that the most common way to transmit an STD is through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. However, various bodily fluids, such as vaginal secretions, semen, saliva, and blood, may contain bacteria or viruses. In some cases, a person can contract an STI by coming into direct contact with a fluid that contains the bacteria or virus of an STD. Mothers can also pass some STDs to their babies during pregnancy, labour, and breastfeeding.

Some common ways STDs spread without having sex:


There is a type of herpes virus known as oral herpes also called the “kissing disease” which can be transmitted through non-sexual contact because it is passed through kissing and saliva. While it is not considered an STD, you can transmit it through kissing and later transfer it to the genital areas through oral-genital contact. It can also be transmitted by sharing utensils, drinks, and other types of close bodily fluid contact.

Oral sex

This one seems obvious because it has the word sex in it but let’s break it down. During oral sex, your lips, mouth, and throat come into contact with bodily fluids. Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea are amongst the STIs most commonly passed through oral sex to the throat. Syphilis and Genital Herpes can also be passed through contact with a blister or sore in the genital area.

Blood transfusion

It is possible to transmit blood-borne STDs, such as HIV or hepatitis, through blood transfusions. However, this is highly unlikely if strict screening and testing requirements for blood and blood donors are followed.

Sharing sex toys

Unwashed sex toys can pass STIs between two or more people. This includes Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, Trichomonas, Herpes, and HPV amongst others. This is why it is essential to clean your sex toys between use to prevent the spread of infection.

Sharing toothbrushes, razors or needles

When you share objects that cut your skin you are increasing your risk of blood-borne infections from someone infected. This includes HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. To minimise the risk, you should avoid using another person’s toothbrush or razor and never share needles.

Skin-to-Skin Contact

Some STDs, such as herpes, syphilis, and HPV, can spread through brief skin-to-skin contact with someone who has the infection. HPV, which can cause genital warts, can be transmitted through physical contact with a wart. Syphilis is usually passed through direct contact with a chancre or sore (the first stage of infection) so you should avoid touching or rubbing against anyone with a suspected sore.

Contaminated food

Hepatitis-A can be spread through contaminated food or water and then passed to others through anal sex (contact with infected faeces). STDs can also be transmitted if you come into contact with someone who does not wash their hands before preparing food or drinks and is infected. This can also happen by sharing food with someone, especially if their blood gets into a sore or cut in your mouth. The blood in their mouth could come from sore or bleeding gums.

How can I prevent STDs

Here are some crucial STD prevention strategies:

  • Limit the number of sexual partners or abstain from sexual activity.

  • Use barrier devices such as condoms, finger cots, and dental dams.

  • Avoid sharing medical equipment or drug injection equipment (needles, syringes, razors, blood glucose monitoring devices).

  • Clean sex toys after every use.

  • Get STD vaccinations (when available).

  • Wash your hands after sexual intimacy.

What about testing?

Undergoing testing for STIs is a good idea for anyone who has:

  • a new sexual partner

  • had sex with multiple partners

  • any symptoms of an STI

What If I’ve never been tested before? Where do I start?

First and foremost, congratulations on deciding to take your sexual health into your own hands! Step one would be finding a testing centre near you, this could be your local clinic. Before you head to the testing spot, make sure they test for all the STIs you’re interested in getting tested for. Some clinics only test for HIV, for example.

Step two, once you are there, ask explicitly for all the STIs you want to get tested for, especially if you want to be tested for oral or anal STIs. Then be sure to listen to any key advice your healthcare provider may offer after getting your results.

The takeaway

Yes! It is possible to contract or transmit an STI without having penetrative sex. The best way to protect yourself and your partner(s) is for everyone to know their current STI status. In many cases, effective treatment can suppress or cure the infection.

Stay informed, stay in control Did you learn something? What other questions might you have about this topic?

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