National HIV/STI/TB Programme

Government of Jamaica 

Frequently Asked Questions on STIs

1. 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.


2. 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.


3. 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.


4. 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.


5. 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.


6. Why is it especially important to prevent HIV infection during pregnancy?

If a woman becomes infected with HIV during pregnancy, 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. 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. It is not clear whether a woman who is exposed to HIV is more likely to become infected if she is pregnant.


7. 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.


8. 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.


9. I’ve never had sex but I’ve gone down on my partner. Can I get an STI that way?

Yes, just like vaginal and anal sex, you can get an STI through oral sex. To protect yourself from STIs during oral sex, make sure your partner wears a condom, or use a dental dam to cover the anus or genitals.


10. My new partner and I want to stop using condoms because we’re going to use the pill instead. I’ve never had sex before but my partner has had sex with a few people before me. What should we do to make sure we’re safe?

You should both get an STI check before you stop using condoms. Your partner might have got an STI from a previous partner and you might also be at risk, as some STIs can also be caught through other sexual contact, such as oral sex, or touching someone’s genitals. Until you’ve both been tested and, if necessary, treated, you should continue to use condoms used with water-based lubricant.


11. How long does it take for an STI to show up?

Although this varies, we can usually test for most common STIs two weeks after having sex. If you’re ever worried about having caught an STI, make an appointment – it never hurts to be cautious!


12. Does having another STI place a person at greater risk of infection if they are exposed to HIV?

Yes. In particular, infections that cause sores on the genitals such as chancroid and syphilis increase a person’s risk of becoming infected if exposed to HIV. Other STIs, too, can increase the risk of HIV infection.


13. Can STIs be transmitted through anal sex (penis in anus)?

Yes. STIs, including HIV, are commonly transmitted through anal sex. Unprotected anal sex carries the highest sexual risk of HIV transmission.



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