Anyone who is sexually active is at risk of STI infection. STIs can be present in the blood, semen, vaginal fluids, or on the skin of an infected person.
STIs can be transmitted by:
- Unprotected sexual intercourse – vaginal, anal and oral sex.
- Intimate/close genital contact and skin to skin contact. [Some STIs can be transmitted without full sexual intercourse, and without the exchange of body fluids. Transmission of some infections is possible through direct intimate sin to skin contact during other sexual activity. For example, genital warts and genital herpes are found on the skin – around the genitals – of an infected person, and transmission can occur through close skin to skin contact with these].
- Unprotected riming (mouth to anus contact/licking) – where infected secretions or fluids might be passed from one person to another.
- Sharing sex toys – where infected secretions or fluids might be passed from one person to another.
- Unprotected penetration using fingers (fingering) or hands (fisting). [It is not common for STIs to be transmitted this way, but there are some risks if there are any cuts, sores or broken skin on the hands, and if one person’s infected body fluids get on or into the other partner. Fingering is a safer activity if you are careful about not sharing fluids, for example touching your own genital area after fingering your partner, where infected fluids might be passed on.]
Having any STI can increase the chances of acquiring or transmitting HIV. This is because HIV can enter a body much easier if there are sores or breaks in the skin or genital tract linings, often caused by STIs. In addition, if a person living with HIV has another STI (or other infection) this can increase the viral load making transmission easier.