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Chances of Getting an STD: Separating Myths and Facts

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are fairly common and widely discussed topic. But there’s also a lot of misinformation out there. For this reason, it can be hard to get the real facts about STDs. We want to help you pick the wheat from the chaff by getting clear answers about the chances of getting STD from different types of sexual encounters.
A man and woman thinking about the chances of getting an STD

Chances of getting STD from oral sex

Oral sex involves using the mouth, tongue, or lips to sexually stimulate your partner’s vagina, anus, or penis. Oral sex is common among sexually active people and can occur between straight (heterosexual) and gay or lesbian (same-sex) couples. 

It’s not surprising, then, that many STDs (and other infections) are spread by way of oral sex. If you’re exposed to a partner who suffers from an STD, it’s possible to get an infection in your throat, mouth, rectum, or genitals. 

The chances of getting STD from oral sex depend on a variety of factors, including:

  • The specific type and severity of the STD
  • The type of sexual act you’re engaged in
  • The total number of specific sexual acts performed
  • The prevalence of STDs in the population to which you and your partner belong
  • Whether you are having safe sex

In general, there are some key things to remember about oral sex and the risk for STDs. It’s possible to contract certain STDs in your throat or mouth while giving oral sex to your partner, even if they have an anal/rectal or genital infection.

It’s also possible to contract some STDs in the vagina, rectum, or anus while getting oral sex from a partner who has a throat or mouth infection. STDs aren’t limited to one area of the body, either, so you may experience an infection in more than one region at the same time (e.g. in the genitals and in the throat).

It’s important to remember that there is a chance of getting an STD from oral sex even if your partner isn’t showing any signs or symptoms of one. In some cases, symptoms just don’t present themselves. And since several STDs transmitted through oral sex can spread to other parts of the body if left untreated, it’s essential to ensure you get regular STD testing if you’re sexually active.

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STDs that can be spread by way of oral sex are:

Apart from these STDs, other infections including hepatitis A, intestinal parasites like amebiasis, and Shigella may spread by giving oral sex to your partner on the anus.  

Factors that increase the chances of getting an STD from oral sex 

The factors that may increase the chances of getting STD from oral sex include:

  • Poor oral health, including bleeding gums or gum disease, tooth decay, and oral cancer 
  • Sores on your genitals or in your mouth can increase your chances of getting STD from oral sex, as they are open wounds
  • Exposure to ejaculate or pre-ejaculate of a partner who is infected with an STD 

How to prevent transmission of STD during oral sex

You can reduce your chances of getting an STD from oral sex by using a dental dam, condom, or any other barrier method every time you are involved in oral sex. 

A woman holding a condom, which can reduce the chances of getting an STD from oral sex
  • When having oral sex on the penis, your partner should cover his penis fully with a latex condom. If you have an allergy to latex, use polyurethane (plastic) condoms instead.
  • When having oral sex on the anus or the vagina, use a dental dam. Make your own by simply cutting a square out of a condom and placing it between your mouth and your partner’s anus or vagina.

Chances of getting an STD from a one night stand

The chances of getting an STD from a one night stand or just one unprotected encounter are quite high. If you have sexual intercourse even once with a partner who is infected with syphilis, gonorrhea, or Chlamydia, your chances of getting the STD are about 30 percent. Since these infections can lead to serious health concerns if not treated promptly, it’s important to understand the risk that unprotected sex poses. To reduce the risk of transmission, always use a reliable form of sexual protection like latex condoms.

Do condoms prevent STDs 100 percent? 

When used correctly and consistently, condoms are highly effective in preventing STDs that are transmitted through bodily fluids, including chlamydia and gonorrhea. They also effectively prevent the spread of HIV. They provide less protection against infections spread by way of skin-to-skin contact, such as herpes, HPV, and syphilis.

So, can you catch STD with a condom? Yes. Abstinence is the only method that is 100 percent effective. But among people who use condoms for protection, the chances are greatly reduced.

To get the most protection while using condoms, do the following:

  • Read the package label of the condom before using it
  • Choose condoms with a label that says they prevent disease
  • Use a new condom each time you have sex
  • Store condoms in a cool, dry place, as heat may weaken them and reduce their effectiveness
  • If you are using lubricants with condoms, always use a water-based lubricant; oil-based lubricants like baby oil, petroleum jelly, and cold cream can weaken the condom

Choosing the right type of condom to prevent STDs

Always read the package label and look for the following two things:

  • The condoms must be made of latex or, if you have an allergy to latex, polyurethane. Tests show that both polyurethane and latex condoms (including female condoms) may prevent the transmission of hepatitis and HIV. Condoms made of lambskin may not offer the same protection. 
  • The package label must say that condoms can prevent disease. If there is nothing mentioned on the package about prevention of disease, the condoms may not be tested to prevent the spread of STDs.

STD testing: When do you need it?

If you are sexually active, it’s a good idea to get tested for STDs. This is particularly important if:

  • You are entering into a new relationship
  • You and your partner aren’t using a barrier method, such as condoms, while having sex
  • You or your partner are having sex with multiple partners
  • You are experiencing symptoms and signs that suggest you may have an STD
  • You are sexually assaulted and are concerned that you may have contracted an STD

Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should be tested for STDs, as they can affect the fetus. Your physician may screen you for STDs at your initial prenatal visit

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that the only way to be completely protected from STDs is to abstain from sex. No matter what kind of sexual encounter you’re having, there is a chance of getting an STD.

Many STDs — including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, HIV, HPV, and trichomoniasis — can be spread by way of oral sex. You can reduce your chances of getting an STD from oral sex by using a dental dam or condom every time. The chances of getting an STD from a one night stand are also high if protection isn’t used. And condoms are extremely effective in preventing many of the most common STDs.

https://www.cdc.gov/std/healthcomm/stdfact-stdriskandoralsex.htm

https://www.fda.gov/forpatients/illness/hivaids/ucm126372.htm

https://teens.webmd.com/features/teens-and-stds-common-myths

https://www.healthline.com/health/sexually-transmitted-diseases/getting-tested

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