Whatever your level of experience when it comes to sex, you need to educate yourself around how you can get an STD.

In this article, we want to run through some of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to getting STDs, including transmission, the first signs of an STD and some of the common questions that our LetsGetChecked community asks us.

We will also offer you a quick guide to safe sex to ensure that you are healthy and well in your sexual experiences.

So, how do you get an STD? Let's find out.


How Do You Get An STD?

The most common way to get an STD is through sexual contact with an infected partner.

Here are some of the variables that put you at greater risk for getting an STD:

  • You can get an STD by coming into contact with infected fluids including semen, vaginal fluids and blood.

  • You can also get an STD via skin to skin contact with an infected sore or open wound on the body, for example through sores on the genitals or mouth.

Technically speaking, not all known “sexually transmitted diseases” are transmitted via having sex.

There are other instances in which you can contract an STD, which are a little more rare including:

  • You can get an STD through the use of recreational intravenous drugs.

  • You can get an STD from your mother, this is known as a congenital STD.


The most common way you can get an STD is through having unprotected sex.

When it comes to understanding how you can get an STD, it is just as important to also understand the ways in which you will not get an STD.

You will not get an STD via insect bites, using a public toilet, kissing an infected person, sharing a cutlery with an infected person or incidental physical contact.


Whether you get an STD via intimate skin-to-skin contact or through the transmission of fluids will depend on the type of STD that you come into contact with.

STDs can be broken into three groups:

  1. Bacterial STDs
  2. Viral STDs
  3. Parasitic STDs

Bacterial STDs include chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, mycoplasma and gardnerella. Viral STDs include herpes, hepatitis A, B & C, HPV and HIV, and parasitic STDs include trichomoniasis.

In most cases STDs are based via intimate skin-to-skin contact or contact with infected bodily fluids. Though all STDs can be passed on through either method, it is important to note that certain STDs are more commonly passed on via skin-to-skin contact or bodily fluids.

For instance, chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV and trichomoniasis are most commonly transmitted through bodily fluids.

Syphilis, herpes, HPV, mycoplasma and gardnerella are most commonly transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact.

Read the LetsGetChecked STD List to get a full factsheet on each of the above STDs,

The below table summarizes how you can get some of the most common STDs:


What Are The First Signs Of An STD?

Generally speaking there are no “first signs of an STD”.

Most sexually transmitted diseases don’t have any first signs or symptoms, which is why it is so important to get tested on a regular basis.

In some cases, it is possible for STD symptoms to appear the next day. In other cases, signs or symptoms may remain dormant for years.

Dr. Dominic Rowley says that if you experience signs and symptoms of an STD, there are a few common side effects that you might notice.

The most common signs of an STD in men include:

  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Pain during sex
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bumps on the genitals or anus
  • Ulcers on the genitals or anus
  • Fever or a high temperature
  • An abnormal rash on the face or body
  • Unusual discharge or drip from the penis

The most common signs of an STD in women include:

  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Pain during sex
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bumps on the genitals or anus
  • Ulcers on the genitals or anus
  • Fever or a high temperature
  • An abnormal rash on the face or body
  • Unusual vaginal discharge

You can read the full list of symptoms per sexualy transmitted disease here.

Now that we have spoken about how you can get an STD, plus some of the early signs of common STDs, let’s take a look at some of the most frequently asked questions that we receive from our customers.

It’s so important to remember that there is no such thing as a silly question when it comes to sexual health. For most of us, it’s a tricky subject to fully understand, especially when there is so much conflicting information online.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at some FAQs around how you can get an STD.

Can You Get An STD From Kissing?

You can an STD from kissing, though the majority of STDs will be caused by unprotected sexual contact.

The majority of us do not consider cold sores to be a sexually transmitted disease, cold sores arise from the herpes simplex I virus. Genital herpes are caused by the herpes simplex II virus.

In very rare cases, it is possible to transmit syphilis through kissing, but this only occurs in cases where there are sores in your mouth. Your chances of getting syphilis through kissing are heightened if you are involved in prolonged and/or passionate kissing sessions.

It is possible to get an STD from kissing but you are more likely to get an STD through unprotected penetrative sex.

Most STDs do not have the ability to inhabit your saliva, therefore making it almost impossible to transmit the majority of sexually transmitted diseases through kissing.

You cannot get the following STDs through kissing:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Hepatitis
  • HIV
  • HPV
  • Trichomoniasis
  • Gardnerella
  • Mycoplasma

If you suspect that you have kissed someone who has an STD, the chances are that you will not have contracted an STD from kissing the individual alone.

If you have kissed someone who has an active cold sore, there is a pretty high chance that you will get a cold sore.

If you feel tingling or notice developing blisters, you should purchase over the counter medication as soon as possible. The sooner you treat the blisters, the greater the chance you have of cutting the outbreak short.

If you have kissed someone and you suspect that the sores in the mouth are telling of syphilis, you should make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. The symptoms of syphilis can be serious and if you begin to notice any signs or symptoms, you should not delay treatment.

In sum, you can get STDs from kissing. Most STD cases arise from having unprotected sex but if you do get an STD from kissing, there are quick and easy treatment options that you can undertake to manage your symptoms.

Cold sores are extremely common and you should be vigilant, it might not sound sexy to scout someone’s lips for blisters before kissing them, but this is a virus that people carry for life. Whether it is dormant or reactive, you should keep an eye out, and in some cases even ask your kissing partner if they get cold sores.

Syphilis sores are a little harder to spot than cold sores but again, if you are about to get physical with someone, you are well within your rights to ask them about their sexual health screening history.

We all make mistakes, if you do end up having unprotected sex, ensure that you get tested or go to your physician’s office straight away if you are feeling very unwell and require immediate treatment.

Is It Possible To Be A Virgin And Have An STD?

It is possible to be a virgin and still have an STD. Of course, the definition of virginity is different for each person, so depending on your definition, it is possible to be a virgin and still have an STD.

It’s important to bear in mind that these cases are so rare that it’s something you shouldn’t worry about too much.

As mentioned above, it is possible to get an STD through kissing, if you didn’t have unprotected sex but you were kissing someone who is infected with herpes, syphilis or hepatitis you are at a higher risk of contracting both. If you engaged in foreplay but didn’t have penetrative sex, then you it is possible that you can catch an STD.

Oral sex is often disregarded when it comes to the risk of getting an STD, however it’s important to remember that you can contract an STD through giving or receiving oral sex, therefore it is just as important to have the conversation with your potential partner before engaing in any form of sexual contact.

How you define your virginity is a strong indicator of how this question may be answered.

Let’s take a look at some of the other very rare instances in which it is possible to be a virgin and have an STD.

STDs can be passed from mother to child

Congenital STDs are described as sexually transmitted diseases that are passed from mother to child during pregnancy and or childbirth.

STDs that can infect a baby prior to pregnancy include syphilis and HIV. STDs that can be passed from mother to baby during delivery include chlamydia, gonorrhea and genital herpes.

Sexual health testing is heavily recommended during pregnancy, as the window for prenatal treatment is very small, whereas the risk is high for both mother and baby if an STD goes untreated.

According to the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention: “The rate of congenital syphilis in the United States has increased every year since 2013. In 2017, there were 918 reported cases of congenital syphilis and the national congenital syphilis rate was 23.3 cases per 100,000 live births, the highest rate in two decades.”

STDs may be contracted through the use of intravenous drugs

STDs may be contracted through the use of intravenous drug use.

According to a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “injection drug users (IDU) reported more HIV-seropositive partners, more incident STIs, and trading sex for money.”

For those who are working in a clinical setting which facilitates blood transfusions, it is recommended that they practice high caution around used equipment, though cases of STDs via working in a clinical setting are extremely rare.

Can You Get An STD From Someone Who Doesn’t Have One?

You cannot get an STD from someone who does not have an STD.

(That is our shortest answer yet!)

If you realize that you have an STD while you are sleeping someone who doesn’t have one, it could be a recurrent STD. Recurrent STDs may occur for a number of reasons.


Can You Sleep With Someone With An STD And Not Get It?

You can sleep with someone with an STD and not get it, however that is a risk you should not be taking.

Always use protection when you’re having sex, whether it’s a long term partner or a one night stand, unless both of you have been tested and have results that say you are clear of STDs, and haven’t had unprotected sex since receiving your last test result, you should not be having sex without protection.

If you learn that you or your partner has an STD, you should seek out treatment immediately. In some instances, you should refrain from having sex, in other instances, it is okay to have sex as long as you wear condoms, though ideally, you should wait until you have retested and are given the green light from your physician.

Your Quick Guide To Safe Sex

This is your quick guide to safe sex that you can return to again and again if you want to double check the things you need to bear in mind when it comes to having safe sex.

Always Wear A Condom


We’re all human and we all make mistakes. The thought of interrupting the flow to dig out a condom probably isn’t the sexiest thought in the world. Sometimes while you’re in the throes of passion, you might disregard the absolute importance of using a condom.Others may complain that they don’t enjoy how condoms feel. Whatever the reason, whatever the excuse, use a condom. Having peace of mind is paramount, and if you use a condom, you have already drastically lowered your chance of an unplanned pregnancy or getting an STD. Always stock up on condoms, but more importantly, always use them.

Have the conversation

Whether you’re entering into a new relationship or you’re having an on-going fling, you need to eventually have the conversation. You might fill with dread at the thought of speaking about your sexual history but you only have to offer up as much detail as you feel comfortable with. What’s important is that let your partner know the last time you got screened, and that they let you know the last time they got screened. Honesty is absolutely essential here. Even if you don’t want to have the conversation, it could be something that you can laugh at moving forward, when you think about how nervous you felt about asking them about their sexual health screening habits.

Never be afraid to say no

It’s your body and it’s absolutely your choice, always. Don’t forget that you always have the power to say no. If at some point, you have a gut feeling that is telling you not to get intimate with someone, you can say no. It doesn’t matter how close you are to having sex with that person, you have the right to change your mind at any time. Never be afraid to say no.

Keep track

It doesn’t matter how many partners you have or have had, keeping track of your sex life is a good and solid way to monitor your sexual health. Each time you have sex, jot it down, if you notice symptoms at a later date, you will be better able to attribute it to a particular sexual experience.

Get screened on a regular basis, no matter what

It doesn’t matter if you are having little or a lot of sex. You need to get screened at least once a year. If you have unprotected sex, you need to get screened three weeks after it occurred.

Sexual health screening should be just as regular as going to your physician or dentist for a check up, and once you do get screened on a regular basis, you will have far better peace of mind and confidence in the fact that you have nothing to worry about.

How do you not get an STD? You simply follow our quick guide to safe sex. Track, monitor and improve with LetsGetChecked. It’s good to know.

What Should You Do If You Think You Have An STD

If you suspect that you have contracted an STD, it’s important to remember that each STD has a different incubation period. What do we mean when we say incubation period?

An incubation period refers to the time that it will take for an STD to become reactive in the blood. Read about the incubation periods for the most common STDs here.

We recommend that you undergo screening on a regular basis, prevention truly is the best cure.

If you feel extremely unwell, go straight to your physician’s office.

If you have had unprotected sex and you think you may have a sexually transmitted disease, you have two options, you can either go straight to your physician’s office, or you can take a full sexual health screening from the comfort of home.

If you have any questions or queries regarding your sexual health. You can talk to our medical team via live chat. Alternatively, you can schedule a call to speak through your concerns.

Read: The LetsGetChecked STD List | Signs, Symptoms & When To Test

Written by Hannah Kingston | Medically Approved by Dr. Dominic Rowley