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Surprising STDs You Can Catch Without Having Sex

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Surprisingly, many STDs aren’t just passed on through penetrative sex. In this article, we explore other common ways STDs can be caught and the STD infection types that can be spread through skin-to-skin and blood contact. 

Which STD can you catch without having sex? You can catch STDs like herpes, syphilis, and HPV through contact with bodily fluids, such as saliva, which happens when kissing or practicing oral sex. You can catch chlamydia, HIV, and Hepatitis B & C through contact with infected blood. This can happen when sharing razors or needles.

Read on to find out the unusual ways you can catch an STI, and what steps you can take to ensure you don’t contract one. 

Can You Get An STI Without Having Sex?

Some STIs aren’t just transmitted through penetrative sex. There are many STDs that can be transmitted through skin-on-skin contact or accidental contact with someone else’s infected bodily fluids. You can come into contact with infections and viruses through common activities, such as kissing, shaving, and getting a tattoo. 

There are several sexually transmitted infections you can catch from other types of physical contact, including:

  • Chlamydia 
  • Herpes
  • HIV / AIDS
  • Trichomoniasis
  • HPV
  • Syphilis
  • Hepatitis B & C

While the risk of transmission is usually lower when you aren’t having unprotected penetrative sex, STDs can still be passed on. Keep reading to find out how these STDs can be caught, the symptoms they show, and how you can get tested.

Other Than Sex, How Else Can STDs Spread?

Below, we outline the most common ways STDs can be spread without having sex:


Many STDs don’t show symptoms, so they can be easy to overlook. A common STI that often won’t show symptoms is herpes, which can be spread easily through contact with infected saliva or kissing. Syphilis can also present sores on the mouth, which can transmit the disease if another person comes into contact through kissing. 


When going for a new tattoo or piercing, although exciting, make sure to use a reputable and licensed body artist. You must make sure they use a new sterilized needle for each client, to ensure there is no risk of transmitting infections. If you take medication, such as Insulin for diabetes, be wary of sharing needles with others, which can often transmit blood-borne infections, such as HIV. 


Shaving can sometimes leave little cuts or micro-tears on the skin, which can be the ideal place for bacteria and viruses to enter your body. If you are sharing a razor with someone who has an STD, such as HPV or syphilis, there is the risk that these could enter your bloodstream through shaving cuts. 

Sexual Contact

Even if you’ve not had penetrative sex with your partner, you can still come into contact with bodily fluids through other forms of sexual contact. While it’s much less likely to catch an STD through sexual contact when compared to penetrative sex, it still happens for a lot of people. 

STDs could be spread through the sharing of sex toys, masturbation, and oral sex. To ensure you minimise the risks of catching an STD from these activities, use dental dams and condoms to reduce contact with bodily fluids. Clean your sex toys between each use to minimise the transfer of bacteria and viruses. 

Which STDs Are Commonly Spread Without Sex? 

Many STDs can be spread through non-sexual contact:


Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can be spread through skin-to-skin contact. The chance of infection is highest when you kiss or have sex with someone who has open sores (an active outbreak). Although uncommon, you can catch oral herpes from the sharing of unwashed cutlery, straws, and drinkware.

Common symptoms of both genital and oral herpes are:

  • Unusual tingling, itching, or burning sensations
  • Fluid-filled blisters and sores
  • Flu-like symptoms and aches

Get tested for HSV-1 and HSV-2 with our Instant Herpes I & II Profile Test, which can be done at home, or at one of our UK clinics.


Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that can only be passed on through sexual contact with an infected individual. While it’s less common, the disease can be spread through oral sex or the sharing of sex toys. Sometimes, giving oral to a partner can cause chlamydia in the throat.

If you have chlamydia, you may experience: 

  • Pain when urinating
  • Unusual penile or vaginal discharge
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Pain during sex


Trichomoniasis, also known as trich, is a common STD that is caused by a parasite. The infection can be transmitted through non-sexual contact, which may include damp towels or genital touching.

Look out for these symptoms: 

  • Abnormal discharge that may be strange in colour
  • In women, increase in discharge with an unusual smell
  • Soreness or itching around the genitals


We all come into contact with the HPV infection at some point in our lifetime. The HPV virus is easily spread through skin-to-skin contact but can be protected against with vaccines. HPV usually doesn’t present any symptoms whatsoever. 

Sometimes, you may experience: 

  • Skin warts, including genital warts
  • Cervical cancer in very rare cases


Syphilis is a bacterial infection that is usually caught by having sex or contact with someone that is infected. The condition presents with sores on the genitals or mouth and will spread through contact with these sores. Simply touching syphilis sores can result in contracting the disease. Sharing sex toys, grinding, or laying together naked could increase the risk of catching syphilis.

Common early syphilis symptoms include:

  • Painless sores on the genitals or mouth
  • Swollen glands in your neck, groin, or armpits
  • Flu-like symptoms and joint pain

To find out more about catching syphilis without sexual contact, read our recent blog post

Hepatitis B & C

Both types of hepatitis are transmitted through contact with infected blood. This could be done by sharing needles or razors with someone who carries the infection. Hepatitis B and C can also be contracted through other bodily fluids, such as semen or saliva. 

Common symptoms might include: 

  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Fever with high temperature
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)

I’ve Not Had Sex, Should I Still Get Tested For STDs? 

Yes, you should. To be 100% sure that you aren’t a carrier of an STD, err on the side of caution and get tested every six months, especially if you have had other forms of sexual contact. Remember, some STDs can be asymptomatic, which means you might not get any visible signs they are there, but you can still pass them on to a partner. Read more about asymptomatic STDs on our blog

By taking a test, you rule out any hidden infections and can receive the necessary treatment for any infections found. Try our most comprehensive and most popular test – the Premium Profile – to screen for all common and well-known STIs, and also several lesser-known infections. 

Full STD Screening At Your Sexual Health

If you’re worried about coming into contact with STDs, even if you haven’t had penetrative sex, book a private STD screening for a full comprehensive profile. STD tests can be done from the comfort of your own home, or at one of our 100 clinics in the UK.

If you’re not sure which test to go for, or you have a question, get in touch with our friendly team for help.