Transmission of STIs

There must be an exchange of body fluids in order to transmit most STIs such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, trichomoniasis, HIV, hepatitis.

Others like genital warts, herpes, scabies, and pubic lice can be transmitted by skin-to-skin contact and still others are not necessarily transmitted through sexual contact.

STIs cannot be caught through casual social contact such as shaking hands or hugging.

Modes

Modes of transmission include:

  • Sexual transmission (genital-anal, genital-genital, oral-genital/anal)
  • Skin-to-skin contact (i.e., kissing, non-penetrative sex, body rubbing)
  • Mixture of infectious body fluids (blood, semen, vaginal secretions)
  • Sharing of needles and other drug paraphernalia and needle stick injuries
  • From a pregnant woman to her unborn fetus, or to infants during vaginal delivery or through breast milk
  • Infestations (scabies and pubic lice) can also be transmitted through shared clothing, bedding, linens etc.

 

All information on this page has been reviewed by Options for Sexual Health's Director of Clinical Services, Danielle Chard RN, BSN.

 

Levels of Risk

In order for someone to best assess their comfort in engaging in sexual activity, it helps to be aware of the possible risk of different types of sexual activities. 

While Options for Sexual Health revises our resource on this topic, these external resources may be useful in helping define risk:

  • Health Initiative for Men: Know Your Risk This resource offers users the opportunity to  enter information about the types of sex they are having to help assess the risk level. This is a resource geared towards men who have sex with men (MSM). 
  • Scarleteen.com: The Risk Thermometer This resource shows Low Risk to High Risk sexual activities, and is a largely text based resource, and has many links that may help clarify or explain any information readers are unfamiliar with. This is an American resource so access to testing may be different for Canadians. 
  • Smart Sex Resource: Know Your Chances This is a BCCDC resource and provides information in a chart format, and information on the charts has been reviewed by British Columbia-based STI experts.