Can I Have Sex Safely While I Have an STI? + Other FAQ's
Hi loves! Today, we’re going to be talking more about STIs, woohoo! Not quite as fun as our blog post about the g-spot or our guide to the best penis toys – but even more important. If you missed last week’s blog post, A Beginner’s Guide to Safer Sex: Practices, Products, & Tips, we highly recommend going back to read that one first! It’s all about how to have safer sex & why it matters, which is a great precursor to this blog post, in which we’re going to cover more about STIs themselves: what they are, how they’re contracted, whether or not you can have sex if you have an STI, and more.
A quick disclaimer that we at WinkWink are NOT medical professionals or experts by any means – we’re simply a sex shop that’s all about encouraging you to have a healthier, more pleasurable sex life while staying as safe as possible. We hope this basic guide to STIs helps you get a better grasp on what STIs are and why you should put in the effort to protect yourself from them!
STI and STD: Are They the Same Thing?
First off, you might be confused about the abbreviation “STI” if you’ve only ever heard “STD.” So what’s the difference?
Literally, STI stands for sexually transmitted infections while STD stands for sexually transmitted diseases. The only difference between the two is the last word (“infections” versus “diseases), but they’re both referencing the same thing: infections that are passed between partners during sex.
These infections were referred to as STD’s for a long time, but STI has become more common in recent years because “infection” is technically a more accurate term for the virus that’s passed between sexual partners. This change has also become more common simply because the term “infection” is much less stigmatizing than the term “disease.”
We’re all aware of how stigmatized STIs already are in our society, and how scary they’re made out to be, so the term STI typically feels a little less daunting!
Check out this article by Planned Parenthood for more information on the difference between STI and STD.
Let’s move onto the basics you should know about STIs if you’re sexually active, or are planning to become sexually active soon.
Common Types of STIs
Some of the most common types of STIs include:
- Bacterial vaginosis (BV)
There are dozens of STIs out there, which is why it’s so important to protect yourself and your partner(s) every time you have sexual contact!
Take a look at this CDC article for more info about common STIs/STD’s.
Symptoms of STIs
There are many possible symptoms one might experience if they have an STI, including the following:
- Unusual discharge from the vagina, penis or anus
- Pain while peeing
- Lumps or skin growths around the genitals or anus
- Rashes, blisters, or sores around the genitals or anus
- Unusual vaginal bleeding
- Itchy genitals or anus
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s a good idea to go to a sexual health clinic (such as your local Planned Parenthood – find a location close to you here!) to get tested, just to be safe.
Frequently Asked Questions About STIs
How are STIs contracted?
First off, how do you even get an STI?
STIs are infections with bacteria or viruses that are passed between sexually active partners via shared sexual fluids. These fluids can be shared during pretty much any type of sexual activity, including oral sex, vaginal sex, and anal sex – meaning the risk of STIs is unfortunately ever-present. Even genital skin-to-skin contact can lead to STIs if either you or your partner’s genitals have sexual fluids on them that are passed between the two of you.
Can you get an STI from oral sex?
Oral sex is just as risky as penetrative sex when it comes to STIs. Because oral sex involves your mouth coming into contact with a partner’s genitals, chances are high that you’ll be licking, touching, or even ingesting their sexual fluids. No matter what your preferences are when it comes to oral sex, it’s an easy way to pass along sexual fluids through contact with genitals, and therefore should be met with precaution just as penetrative sex is!
Can you get an STI if you use a condom?
Yes, you can still get an STI even if you use a condom: if the condom breaks without you knowing during penetration, or you don’t put it on the penis before ejaculate comes in contact with the other partner, then it’s possible that an STI can spread.
Can STIs be passed via sex toys?
Unfortunately, yes – this is one of the sneakier ways that STIs can be passed. This is one you might not think about immediately when it comes to practicing safer sex, because you’re not directly sharing fluids from one person to another; rather, the fluids left on your sex toys are potentially being passed to any other partners who use the same sex toy. Some STIs do die once the fluid dries, but some can live for weeks or months – meaning they can sometimes live on your sex toys. It’s important to clean your sex toys thoroughly between uses, and especially if you’re using them with different partners, or use different toys with different partners!
Can you have sex with an STI?
If you or your partner knowingly has an STI, it’s important that you communicate with one another and that both of you are aware of how to be safe. First off, you should avoid sexual ocntact if you have any STI symptoms and get tested immediately! If you have a curable STI, your doctor will most likely tell you not to have sex at all until you and your partner finish your treatment (medication), and you should wait until you have the okay from them to be sexually active again.
The bottom line: having sex with an individual with an STI has its risks no matter any form of prevention. It’s best to ask your doctor specifically what to do if you test positive for an STI, as the safest practices and treatment methods differ for every STI!
Getting Tested for STIs
A lot of people think of getting tested for STIs as a scary, daunting task, but we promise – it’s really not! You can either ask your doctor for a test during your regular checkup or gynecologist exam, or go to a health clinic specifically to get testing done. If you’re not sure how to bring up STI testing with a nurse or doctor, this Planned Parenthood article gives you a few different ways you can ask about it!
There are a few different ways you might be tested for STIs, depending on which specific STI(s) your doctor wants to test you for, as each STI has its own test. These may include:
- Peeing in a cup
- Swabbing the inside of your cheek
- A blood test
- A physical exam
- Swabbing your genitals, cervix, anus, or throat
Note that you CAN get tested for STIs even if you don’t have symptoms, so if you think you might have one (or you’re getting tested just to be safe), you can get tested even if you’re not showing any symptoms.
We highly recommend reading this Planned Parenthood article to learn more about how to ask for an STI test, how to know what tests you need, what the testing process looks like, and finally, what to do if you test positive for an STI.
How often should you get tested for STIs?
If you’re not actively experiencing symptoms of an STI, it’s still important to get tested frequently while you’re sexually active! Especially if you’re having sex with multiple partners, getting tested regularly is the best way to stay safe and know that you won’t be passing anything onto your partners.
According to the CDC, here’s how often you should get tested for STIs depending on your age, number of partners, and type of partners you’re having sex with:
If you are in a monogamous, long-term relationship, it’s typically recommended that youg et tested for STI’s at least once a year.
Protecting Yourself and Others from STIs
To learn how to best protect yourself and others from STIs through safer sex practices, head over to our most recent blog post! In this post, we walk you through how to have sex as safely as possible in order to prevent STIs, as well as some products that can help you in the process including external condoms, dental dams, and Lorals.
We hope this blog post helped teach you the basics of what STIs are, how they’re contracted, and how to be as safe as possible in order to avoid them! Now go have some (safe) sex 🔥
Be sure to check out the rest of our blog for more tips, resources, & products that’ll help you have the most fun, empowering, and safe sex life you can!