Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are infectious diseases that you can contract and pass on to another person through all types of sexual contact: fellatio, cunnilingus, anilingus, vaginal penetration, anal penetration, masturbating your partner, sharing sex toys and, for some STIs, intimate skin-to-skin contact. Some infections are also transmitted through blood (such as HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C). This is why we use the term sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBIs).
The risk of transmission of an STBBI depends on the type of infection and the type of high-risk behaviour you are engaging in. Most STIs can be prevented by the use of protection, like by wearing a condom or using dental dams, and by getting tested regularly. But STBBIs can also sometimes be contracted through non-sexual activities, like sharing drug inhalation or injection paraphernalia, getting a piercing or tattoo with unsterilized equipment, or sharing personal hygiene items.
Do you know the different STBBIs?
- Bacterial infections: chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis
- Viral infections: hepatitis B, hepatitis C, genital herpes, HIV/AIDS, HPV
- Parasitic infections: scabies, pubic lice (crabs), trichomoniasis
STBBIs: not just sexually transmitted!
There are many different ways you can contract an STBBI (sexually transmitted and blood-borne infection). Do you know them?
While engaging in:
• oral sex (fellatio, cunnilingus, anilingus)
• vaginal sex (penis penetrating the vagina)
• anal sex (penis penetrating the anus)
• sharing sex toys
• masturbating an infected person
Remember, condoms and dental dams protect you against the vast majority of STBBIs.
• If you share drug injection or inhalation paraphernalia (such as syringes, straws, or pipes)
• If you pick up a used syringe in an unsafe way
Tattoos and piercings
If you get a tattoo or piercing with unsterilized equipment.
For some STBBIs, there is also a risk of getting them if you share personal hygiene items (i.e. razors, toothbrushes, towels, etc.) that may have been in contact with someone with an STBBI.
Did you know?
A dental dam is a protective device for STIs contracted through oral sex. This latex rectangle is placed over your partner’s vulva or anus during oral sex. It prevents you from contracting certain STIs through the mouth. As with condoms, you must throw it away after use, since it cannot be reused. You can get a dental dam at the pharmacy without a prescription, or you can easily make one by cutting off both ends of a condom and cutting it lengthwise.
Source: Public Health Agency of Canada
It’s not mandatory, and the chances of you having an STBBI are very low. 😘 Talk to your partner about it. It’s important that you trust each other and talk about your sexual history, whether or not it involves penetration. But if a test makes you both feel more comfortable then don’t hesitate to get one. Otherwise, condoms are still a good form of protection.
Most STBBIs show no symptoms. This means that a person can have an STBBI without knowing it. You may not feel or see anything on yourself or on your partner. Sometimes men have greater reactions to certain STBBIs, while sometimes women have greater reactions to others. The only way to be sure is to get tested! This will give you peace of mind.
Yes! 😛 You can get an STBBI from fellatio, cunnilingus, the combination of the two (69ing) or anilingus (stimulating the anal area with the tongue). When engaging in cunnilingus or anilingus, using a dental dam is recommended. This is a latex sheet that is applied to your partner’s vagina or anus to protect you from STBBIs. You can get one at a pharmacy or make your own with a condom. For fellatio, you can use a condom (in fact, there are flavoured condoms designed specifically for oral sex).
However, condoms and dental dams won’t fully protect you against genital herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), pubic lice, or scabies, because these infections may be contracted from areas outside the covered area.
No method is 100% safe and being ready to have sex means accepting the risks that come with being sexually active. If you’re feeling anxious, there are things you can do to help you cope with your concerns. What would reassure you? Don’t hesitate to talk about it with a friend, the people around you, the sexologist at your school, or Tel-jeunes.
We protect ourselves from STBBIs so as not to put our health, our lives, and the lives of others in danger. It should be a reflex: when you want to have sex, use protection! Wanting to protect yourself doesn’t mean you don’t trust the other person.
For peace of mind during and after sex, condoms are the only effective way to protect against both pregnancy and most STBBIs. Ideally, you should talk to your partner about contraception before you have sex. This will save you from having to make a decision in the heat of the moment.
Between the two of you, you’ll surely find ways to incorporate condoms into your sex life in ways that are exciting, and even fun.