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How do you get an STI

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Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are a significant global health issue. In the Netherlands, the incidence of various STIs increased again in the past year: 21% of all STI tests conducted at Sexual Health Centers tested positive, marking an increase compared to previous years. Some STIs can have serious health consequences. Therefore, it is important to be well-informed about the different ways you can contract an STI, how to find out if you have one, and how to treat it. Read on for answers to these questions.

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What is an STI and how do you get one?

An STI, or sexually transmitted infection, is a collective term for various infections transmitted through sexual contact. These conditions can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites, ranging in severity from mild to severe, and can be transmitted in various ways from person to person. There are numerous STIs, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV, herpes, genital warts, trichomonas, and hepatitis B. Each STI has its own characteristic symptoms and potential complications. For instance, some STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhea can lead to pain during urination and discomfort in the genital area, while others like HIV can cause severe issues with the immune system, ultimately progressing to AIDS if left untreated.

Now that you are aware of the existence of various STIs, it’s crucial to understand how one contracts an STI. How do you get an STI?

  • Unprotected sexual intercourse: Engaging in vaginal, anal, or oral sex without the use of a condom or another barrier method can lead to contracting an STI. This is the most common way STIs are spread.
  • Sexual contact with infected bodily fluids: STIs can be transmitted through contact with infected bodily fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal discharge, and rectal secretions. This can occur during sexual contact, sharing needles in drug use, or in rare cases, from mother to child during childbirth.
  • Direct skin-to-skin contact: Some STIs, like herpes and genital warts, can be transmitted through direct skin-to-skin contact with infected areas. This doesn’t apply to all STIs.
  • Use and sharing of sex toys: While the risk is low, sharing sex toys without thorough cleaning between uses with different partners can lead to the spread of STIs.

Can you contract an STI if your partner doesn't have one?

If your partner doesn’t have an STI, there is no risk of contracting one. However, it’s essential to note that some STIs can be asymptomatic, meaning that an individual is contagious but does not experience any symptoms. It is also possible for someone to carry a virus without exhibiting symptoms. In such cases, the person is already contagious and can unknowingly transmit an STI. Additionally, certain STIs, like genital warts and genital herpes, can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact alone.


The aforementioned situations can lead to the transmission of various STIs. There are also plenty of situations in which you face a low or even negligible risk of contracting an STI. These forms of intimacy carry a negligible risk of an STI:

  • Masturbation: Masturbating without the involvement of an infected partner poses no risk of STI transmission.
  • Kissing: Kissing someone usually does not carry a risk of an STI. There are some exceptions, such as herpes, which can be spread through mouth-to-mouth contact if someone has symptoms.
  • Non-sexual skin-to-skin contact: Non-sexual touches, like holding hands, hugging, or cheek kissing, do not pose a risk of an STI.

It is crucial to be aware of the ways in which STIs are spread to prevent contracting one. Safe sex practices, regular STI screening, and open communication with your sexual partners are essential steps to reduce the risk of STI infection. But how do you find out if you have an STI?

How do you know if you have an STI?

The symptoms of an STI can vary depending on the type you have contracted. Some STIs may not present immediate symptoms or can even be entirely asymptomatic, meaning you experience no symptoms but are still contagious.

When an STI does cause symptoms, you may notice the following:

  • Pain during urination: This could indicate chlamydia or gonorrhea.
  • Itching or rash in the genital area: This may suggest genital herpes or pubic lice.
  • Discharge from the penis or vagina: Abnormal discharge can be a sign of various STIs, including gonorrhea.
  • Sores or ulcers: These may appear with syphilis or herpes.
  • Swollen lymph nodes: This can occur with almost any STI.
  • Fever and fatigue: These symptoms can occur with HIV.

Would you like to know more about the symptoms of different STIs? We’ve written a separate blog detailing the symptoms for each STI. If you experience symptoms that could indicate an STI, it is crucial to get tested as soon as possible. At Easly, we offer various STI tests. Take the Easly STI test guide, order your personal STI test, and find out if you need treatment. It’s important to note that some STIs may show no symptoms at all, which is why regular testing is crucial when sexually active.

How likely is it to get an STI?

The likelihood of contracting an STI varies and depends on various factors. Some individuals are at a higher risk of getting an STI due to risky behaviors they engage in. Therefore, it is wise to consider the following points when wondering if you might have an STI:

  • Have you engaged in risky behavior? Risky sexual behavior includes having unprotected sexual contact, having multiple sexual partners, or engaging in sexual contact with someone who has an STI.
  • Regular check-ups: Regardless of whether you have symptoms, it is advisable to undergo regular STI tests if you are sexually active. This is especially important if you have engaged in risky behavior. When was the last time you had an STI test? Have you and your (new) partner undergone STI testing?
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Partner notification: Through various websites, it is possible to (anonymously) notify a previous sexual partner if there is an STI present. It goes without saying that getting tested is essential if you receive such an (anonymous) notification.

Do you want to know if your symptoms are caused by an STI? Or do you want to undergo a periodic check-up? Take the Easly STI test guide, order the appropriate STI test, and easily and reliably conduct the test at home.

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