Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can be agonizing. Some can create visible changes or cause uncomfortable symptoms, and many others can have absolutely no symptoms at all. Some can cause infertility as well. It can also be confusing to try to understand the exact activities that can make you vulnerable to getting an STD in the first place.
When you’re looking for answers to your health questions, it’s helpful to have all the information in one place, like how to get an STD without having sex, so that you can be proactive about your health and stay on top of routine screening, as needed.
Getting an STD through non-intercourse sexual activities
If you’ve been wondering how to get STD without intercourse, you’re not alone. You may have been under the impression that STDs can only be spread through unprotected sexual intercourse. However, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many common STDs are transmitted through the fluids that are involved in sexual activity, such as saliva, the lubricating fluids produced by a female, or the pre-ejaculate and ejaculate produced by a male. Even if you aren’t having unprotected sexual intercourse, you may still come into contact with one of these fluids during the following activities.
It is possible to get an STD through kissing because kissing involves the exchange of saliva. The most common STD that can be passed along through kissing is oral herpes, according to the CDC. However, if a person performs oral sex and comes into contact with a genital fluid before initiating kissing, other STDs — such as gonorrhea or chlamydia — can be passed along, as well. If you have open sores or cuts in your mouth, and your partner does as well, it’s also possible to contract a blood-borne STD, such as HIV, through kissing, though this is rare.
It is definitely possible to get an STD through oral sex. During oral sex, your mouth comes into contact with the sexual fluids of another person (whether vaginal lubricating fluids, or ejaculate), and these fluids can be infected with an STD. If you are performing oral sex on a person who is menstruating, and you come into contact with their blood, experts at the CDC note that it’s also possible to contract a blood-borne STD, such as HIV, if you have cuts in your mouth.
Sharing sex toys
It is possible to get an STD by sharing sex toys, especially if you are passing the sex toys around during an intimate session. According to the CDC, you are less likely to get an STD if you thoroughly clean the sexual fluids off a sex toy between each use.
Touching your eye during sexual activity
If you have a sexual fluid on your fingertips during intimate activity, and then you accidentally touch your eyeball, it’s possible to contract an STD such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, or herpes. However, this type of transmission is more likely to occur from a mother to a baby, during childbirth, according to the CDC.
Getting an STD through non-sexual activities
It’s also important to consider some of the non-sexual activities that can make you at risk for infection. According to the CDC, some infections that are known as STDs can also be passed through the blood. Because of this, it’s possible to get an infection that is technically classified as an STD through a non-sexual activity. Examples of this type of STD include HIV and hepatitis. Other STDs, such as oral herpes, can be easily passed along without sex, too.
According to the CDC, if you’re sharing a toothbrush with a person with oral herpes, it’s possible to contract their herpes infection. You can also get a blood-borne STD like HIV or hepatitis if you have cuts in your mouth or bleeding gums, and the person you’re sharing with does as well.
Sharing a razor
Sharing a razor can also make you vulnerable to contracting herpes if viral particles are on the razor and you shave in your pubic region, according to experts at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF). Sharing a razor with a person infected with a blood-borne STD like HIV or hepatitis can also make you vulnerable to contracting the infection because razors can cause cuts in the skin and the exchange of blood.
If you share needles to inject drugs, it is possible to get a blood-borne STD such as hepatitis or HIV. This is a major public health issue, and it’s one of the main reasons why needle-swap programs have been developed by local governments and other organizations.
Eating contaminated food
According to the CDC, eating contaminated food may cause you to get an STD if you have an exchange of blood (i.e., an HIV-infected person with a cut on their lip bites a sandwich, then you bite the sandwich and their blood gets into a cut in your mouth). However, this chain of events is very unlikely. It is also possible to get oral herpes if you eat someone else’s predigested food (this is rare, but just don’t do it!).
Getting a blood transfusion
It is possible to get an STD such as HIV or hepatitis through a blood transfusion. However, donated blood is screened for these infections in the United States, according to the CDC. However, if you are receiving a blood transfusion in a different country that has fewer health regulations, it may be more possible to contract a blood-borne STD through a transfusion.
What is the incubation period for each STI?
The incubation period of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) refers to the amount of time between the time a person is infected and the time they start to have symptoms. Incubation periods can also affect when a person may develop a positive STD test. Here is a breakdown of the incubation periods for each STI, according to the CDC:
- HIV: 2 to 4 weeks
- Chlamydia: 7 to 20 days
- Gonorrhea: 1 to 14 days
- Syphilis: 2 to 12 weeks (or even years)
- Hepatitis C: 2 to 26 weeks
- Hepatitis B: 60 to 150 days
- Herpes: 2 to 12 days
- Human papillomavirus (HPV): 2 weeks to 8 months (or even years)
- Trichomoniasis: 5 to 28 days
If you’re concerned you may have come into contact with an STD, keep these incubation periods in mind so that you can monitor your own health and get tested, as needed.
How to get screened for STDS
If you’re concerned that you may have contracted an STD through sexual or non-sexual activity, it can be highly anxiety-provoking. You can give yourself peace of mind by getting an STD test. At Solv, we make STD testing easy and convenient. Use our STD finder tool to find an STD testing site near you.
Frequently asked questions
Can you get herpes from a razor?
Yes, according to experts at UCSF, it is possible to get herpes from a razor, as herpes is very contagious upon simple contact with skin. If you’ve been wondering can u get herpes without having sex, this is a potential way.
Can STDs be transmitted through bath water?
Generally, no. According to the CDC, you’re only at risk of getting an STD in the bathtub if you’re engaging in sexual activity in the bathtub.
Can you get an STD from washing clothes together?
Generally, no. According to the CDC, STDs cannot survive the environment of a washing machine — they are dependent on a human host to survive.
Can you get a STI by yourself?
If you have had no sexual contact with anyone, and no non-sexual contact with anyone, then no — you cannot get an STI by yourself, according to the CDC.
Can you get an STD from not cleaning yourself?
No — STDs do not come from decreased personal hygiene. However, according to the CDC, you may be vulnerable to other types of infections, such as yeast infections, if you don’t clean yourself.
Can you catch chlamydia without having intercourse?
Yes, according to the CDC, it’s possible to catch chlamydia without having intercourse. Chlamydia can be contracted through oral sex.
How to get HIV without intercourse?
If you’re wondering if you can get HIV without being sexually active, the answer is yes. It’s possible to get HIV without intercourse if you have unprotected oral sex, or if you are deep kissing someone with HIV and you both have sores or open wounds in your mouth. HIV is not transmitted through saliva alone. Experts at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) note that it is also possible to get HIV through a blood-borne route.
Solv has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases (June 17, 2021)
- Blood Safety Basics (March 18, 2020) https://www.cdc.gov/bloodsafety/basics.html#:~:text=All%20blood%20for%20transfusion%20is,donated%20blood%20are%20listed%20below.&text=For%20the%20general%20public%2C%20pathogens,detect%20them%20in%20donated%20blood.
- Screening Recommendations and Considerations Referenced in Treatment Guidelines and Original Sources (September 15, 2021)
- STI Screening Timetable
- Ways HIV Can Be Transmitted (April 21, 2021)
- Time Periods of Interest. HIV, STDs, Viral Hepatitis (July 2018)
- Pubic Hair Grooming Linked to Sexually Transmitted Infections (December 12, 2016)
- How is HIV Transmitted? (August 10, 2021)