What are Sexually Transmitted Infections?


Hey there! Let’s understand what is an STI and how do we learn more about it?

STIs are Sexually transmitted infections. It includes infections that are transmitted through sexual activities of various kinds and some of these infections are also transmitted through other modes like pregnancy, childbirth, shared infected needles, and infected blood products. The most common STIs are syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomonas, HSV infection (Herpes Simplex Virus), HPV infection (Human Papillomavirus), Hepatitis B, and HIV. All of these are treatable and many are even curable. 

Do you have sexual partners? Are you sexually active? In that case, you might have the risk of contracting STIs. Condoms may not protect against all infections as many of these infections are also transmitted when you kiss, rim, give head or pet (smear infection). That is why we recommend people who are sexually active to use a combination of strategies to prevent themselves from these infections such as using protection, vaccinations, openly discussing with sexual partners and getting tested regularly – even if you don’t have symptoms. 

Get yourself tested regularly!

Here is a list of testing centers.

Remember I am your friend and not a medical expert, and I would recommend going here to find a list of medical providers to book your appointment and get more information!

How are STIs transmitted?

STIs are transmitted when there is contact with mucous membranes, infected skin sites or bodily fluids through sexual practices like: 

  • Anal or vaginal sex
  • Oral sex
  • Via sex toys
  • Through mutual masturbation
  • Through kissing
  • Skin-to-skin contact 

Not all infections spread through all the above activities for example – HIV/hepatitis B doesn’t spread through kissing/skin-skin contact. The main mode of transmission of chlamydia is through oral/anal/vaginal sex, while sharing sex toys also carries lesser risk. But some infections like herpes, genital warts, HPV, and syphilis can spread not only through anal/vaginal/oral sex but also through other activities like kissing, skin-to-skin contact. Similarly, there is a risk of transmission of gonorrhea (ano-rectal gonorrhea) through using saliva while fingering, fisting, and with lesser chances – kissing (oropharyngeal gonorrhea), etc. Hence understanding the risk involved in different modes of transmission for specific infections can help you protect yourself in multiple ways.

How Do I Spot An Infection?

Each infection has a specific set of symptoms, however common symptoms of STIs include burning when peeing, discharge from your penis, vagina or anus, itching, ulcers/blisters in genital/anal/oral regions, common flu-like symptoms, rashes, pain in the lower abdomen, warts. Specific symptoms of each infection can be referred to below. 

However, many of these STIs can often be present with no symptoms or the symptoms may appear after long durations. This means that you won’t be able to sense or know if you have an infection. You can, however, spread the infection. Hence, apart from watching out for symptoms, testing yourself and your sexual partners regularly becomes important.

What If I’ve Got An STI?

If you have sex, you can get infected.

An STI is nothing to be ashamed of. 

Talking and discussing STIs with your doctor or nurse is not something you should be ashamed of. Be transparent with your medical provider about your sexual history.

Do understand that your medical provider is required by law to offer you the best possible treatment choices and explain what your STI means. 

Your medical provider must provide the best possible care without judgment.

You can receive treatment immediately and you don’t have to fear any health consequences. These infections can be treated well if detected early on. 

While on treatment, you may be asked to refrain from having sex for a certain number of days depending on the infection and the course of treatment, in order to prevent the infection from spreading to your sexual partner(s). Eg: if one is treated with a single dose of antibiotics for chlamydia or gonorrhea, they would be asked to refrain from sexual activity for 7 days after treatment, while for syphilis, one might be asked to refrain from sexual activity for 2 weeks after the last dose of treatment.  

It is important that you inform all your sex partners in order to prevent further infection. They can then also get tested and treated if necessary. This will also prevent re-infection and transmission to others.

Now that we understand what is an STI, let’s talk about how you can protect yourself from an STI? Click Here.

Informing your partner 

There is no need to be ashamed about having an STI. They are part and parcel of sex. They are no one’s fault.

You can help prevent STI transmissions. If you test positive, inform your sexual partner(s) so that they can get tested and get treated if necessary.

Sex Pleasure and Non-Judgement 

There is no shame in having multiple sexual partners or seeking sexual partners without romantic intimacy. When you approach your physician you meet them for their medical opinion in a non judgmental setting.

If your medical provider associates sexual intimacy or your sexual choices with guilt remember you can choose to seek alternative medical care.

Your choices may involve seeking sex for pleasure or using toys, or having multiple non-romantic or romantic partners in varied settings, spaces and scenarios. 

Any of us can contract STIs irrespective of the nature of the relationship, whether it is monogamous or polyamorous. Try to see if your medical provider is able to offer medical advice and help you determine your STI in a non judgmental setting.

Let us normalize talking about sex, STIs and pleasure with our chosen families. There is no shame in having sex, there should be no shame in getting tested or treated for an STI.

Most importantly there should be no judgement in seeking medical care or while offering medical care. 

Queer Liberation histories were centered in sexual liberation.


Do You Have Any Question? #AskQueerLips


Do you want to know more about Major STIs like Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, Hepatitis A/B, Hepatitis C, Herpes, HPV, Genital Warts, Crabs, Scabies, Fungi.

About the Author: Raju Behara (she/they), a trans-disabled Peer Support Provider with a decade of healthcare experience, holds a Masters in Pharmacology and a PG Diploma in Health Economics, Health Policy at the Indian Institute of Public Health. Aligned with the Safe Access Community Wellbeing Project, Raju has contributed to LGBTQIA+ safety in Indian workplaces, drafting gender-neutral dress codes and working on sensitization. A published author and poet in various anthologies, Raju, through EQUAL fellowship, chronicled social histories of housing, healthcare and workplace discrimination for queer-trans individuals in India. They initiated ‘Queer & Quarantine’, a crisis intervention program for trans folks facing housing challenges.

Article Vetted by: Dr. Swathi SB


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