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Can I Get An STD Without Having Sex?

Illustration of young woman wondering I she can get an STD without having sex

We know that the ‘S’ in STD stands for sexually, so you’re thinking the only way you can contract and STD is through sex, right? Unfortunately, no. STDs can spread without sexual contact. Things like kissing a loved one or family member, having oral sex, sharing contaminated food, borrowing unclean towels, and more can transfer sexually transmitted infections.

There are approximately 20 million new cases of STDs in the US every year. Sexual intercourse is the most common way to contract an STD, but it is possible to catch one without having sex. We’ve put together a list of the most common ways you can contract an STD without having sex.


Although kissing may seem like the most innocent form of intimacy, a few STDs can be pass on when you swap spit. One of the main culprits is Mononucleosis, or Mono, but herpes, the virus that causes cold sores, is the one you should be most wary of!

Oral Sex

Although some may not classify oral sex as sex, you can still transmit diseases if the penis, vagina, or anus involved are infected. The secretions, sores, and broken skin associated with genital herpes are all likely to spread the disease during oral sex. Chlamydia, in rare cases, can infect the throat during oral sex. Diseases like herpes and HPV cannot be prevented by condoms.

Contaminated Foods

You can get hepatitis A from contaminated food and drinks. Hepatitis can live outside of the body for weeks on end. However, HAV is mainly transmitted via ingestion of fecal matter. Example, if someone uses the restroom, doesn’t wash their hands and then prepares food or drink for you, you can contract HAV.

Skin-to-Skin Contact

Although this may seem harmless, skin-to-skin contact is all herpes and HPV need for transmission. With the new “bare-down-there” grooming trend it’s become much easier to contract various STDs because razors can cause breaks in the skin.

Touching Bases

Much like skin-to-skin contact. Indirect contact is less likely but still a possible way to get an STD without having sex. For example, trichomoniasis can be spread through hand-to-genital contact or even from an unwashed sex toy.

Spare Sheets, Towels, or Gloves

It isn’t likely you will find viral infections present in your towels, but there could be infections in the fibers. The single-celled protozoan parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis causes trichomoniasis and loves damp fabrics. It can live for almost an hour outside the body. Crabs (pubic lice) can also stick around in your clothing or bedding.

Tanning Salons

One of the most unexpected places to unknowingly contract and STD is at your local tanning salon. The bumpy genital infection mollucsom contagiosum can spread through contaminated surfaces like a tanning bed.

Shaving Razors

Sharing razors, or anything that cuts or pierces the skin, can lead to contracting an STD without having sex. In the case of sharp objects, if a user is positive for HIV or hepatitis A, B, or C, the risk can be high if the skin breaks and you are mixing blood. Although, this case is unlikely it is still possible.

Blood Transfusion

If you get a blood transfusion and your donor has HIV, your chances of contracting HIV are extremely high. However, improvements have been made in the process for screening blood donors. This greatly reduces the chances of contracting HIV through blood transfusions.

You cannot contract HIV while donating blood because they only use needles once and then safely dispose of them.

Bottom Line

50% of sexually active people contract an STD by the age of 25, and only about 12% of people in this group report getting tested. Don’t be a statistic. myLAB Box offers a variety of testing kits for sexually transmitted infections.

Many STDs do not present symptoms, but can be treated easily when caught early on.


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  4. Alexandra Morales, José P. Espada, Mireia Orgilés, Silvia Escribano, Blair T. Johnson, Marguerita Lightfoot. (2018). Interventions to reduce risk for sexually transmitted infections in adolescents: A meta-analysis of trials. PLOS ONE.
  5. Larios Venegas, Alejandro; Melbourne, Heather M.; Castillo, Ileana Aurora; Spell, Kenneth; Duquette, William; Villamizar, Kira; Gallo, Giselle; Parris, Don; Rojas, Lourdes M. 47(5S):S61-S65, May 2020. Enhancing the Routine Screening Infrastructure to Address a Syphilis Epidemic in Miami-Dade County. Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
  6. Edelstein, Zoe R.; Wahnich, Amanda; Purpura, Lawrence J.; Salcuni, Paul M.; Tsoi, Benjamin W.; Kobrak, Paul H.; Santos, Paul A.; Andaluz, Adriana; MacGregor, Jennifer H.; Matsuki, Jennifer D.M.; Katz, David A.; Daskalakis, Demetre C.; Myers, Julie E. 47(5S):S41-S47, May 2020. Five Waves of an Online HIV Self-Test Giveaway in New York City, 2015 to 2018. Sexually Transmitted Diseases.

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