Sometimes people are too embarrassed, too busy, or just don’t know the right questions. The questions on this page should cover a lot of aspects of what you need to know though.

Most Asked Questions About Sexually Transmitted Infections - STIs


Are condoms the only effective way of preventing sexually transmitted infections?

Yes. Condoms have been proven to provide protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). In fact, condoms are the only contraceptive method that also provides STI protection. Condoms provide different levels of risk reduction for different STIs because infections are spread differently—some are spread by contact with bodily fluids while others are spread by skin to skin contact.

In general, research shows that condoms are most effective in preventing those STIs that are spread by bodily fluids, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV. Condoms also can reduce the risk of contracting diseases spread by skin-to-skin contact, such as herpes and human papillomavirus (HPV). However, condoms only can protect against these diseases if the sores are in areas covered by the condom.

Can HIV be transmitted through hugging, shaking hands or mosquito bites?

HIV cannot be transmitted through casual contact. This includes closed mouth kissing, hugging, shaking hands, and sharing food, clothing, or toilet seats. The virus cannot survive long outside of the human body. Mosquitoes cannot transmit HIV, either.

Will washing the penis or vagina after sex lower the risk of becoming infected with an STI?

Genital hygiene is important and a good practice. There is no evidence, however, that washing the genitals prevents STI infection. In fact, vaginal douching increases a woman's risk of acquiring STIs, including HIV, and pelvic inflammatory disease.

Who is more at risk of becoming infected with an STI, men or women?

If exposed to STIs, women are more likely to become infected than men due to biological factors. Women have a greater area of exposure (the cervix and the vagina) than men, and small tears may occur in the vaginal tissue during sex, making an easy pathway for infection.

Will having sex with a virgin cure someone with an STI, including HIV?

No. Instead, this practice only risks infecting the person who has not yet had sex.

Does pregnancy place women at increased risk of becoming infected with HIV?

Current evidence is conflicting as to whether pregnancy increases a woman's chances of infection if exposed to HIV. If she does become infected with HIV during pregnancy, however, the chances that HIV will be transmitted to her baby during pregnancy, delivery, and childbirth may be at their highest because she will have a high level of virus in her blood. Thus, it is important for pregnant women to protect themselves from HIV and other STIs through condom use. If a pregnant woman thinks that she may have HIV, she should seek HIV testing. Resources may be available to help her prevent transmitting HIV to her baby during pregnancy, delivery, and childbirth.

What is HIV?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, the virus that can cause AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). The virus damages cells in the immune system, which usually works to fight off germs, bacteria and disease. When this system is damaged to a certain extent because of HIV, a person is usually diagnosed with AIDS.

Can HIV be transmitted through kissing?

HIV can only be transmitted through direct contact with or exchange of bodily fluids such as: blood, semen, vaginal secretions and breast milk. HIV is not spread by saliva, but if both partners have sores, open wounds or bleeding inside the mouth, HIV can be transmitted (although in this case the virus is transmitted through the blood, not the saliva)

What is the difference between a STD and STI?

STD stands for sexually transmitted disease, while STI stand for sexually transmitted infection. Not all sexually transmitted infections manifest in symptoms or turn into a disease. So although the terms are interchangeable, an infection does not always develop into a disease.