All sexual activities carry some risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
And while many people choose “no intercourse” sex, such as oral sex, mutual masturbation, and anal sex, to avoid pregnancy and reduce the risk of STDs, specialists assure that if condoms are not used correctly, in all these acts there is the possibility of transmitting or infecting some pathology.
Among the most common -and the cases that have increased exponentially in recent years- are syphilis and gonorrhea. However, unprotected oral sex also increases the risk of infections with human papillomavirus (HPV), herpes, chlamydia, hepatitis, and gonococcal tonsillitis.
In recent years doctors have noticed a sustained increase of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) generated by the more than 30 sexually transmitted diseases that exist.
A phenomenon that was noticed in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic was their reduction due to confinement and also the underdiagnosis that took place to give priority to the coronavirus. But everything changed in 2021. With the arrival of vaccines and the end of restrictions, personal contacts and sexual relations increased markedly. And already with the data from that year, in this 2022 a sustained increase in most STDs in our country and the world has been confirmed.
Contact between the mouth and genitals can favor the appearance of one or even more STIs. A simple touch to the skin of someone with an injury can enhance transmission. In the case of men, semen and pre-seminal fluids can infect a person who is giving oral stimulation.
The lubricating fluid in the vagina can also transmit pathogens, although women are naturally more susceptible to STIs due to the anatomy of their sexual organ.
The risk is further increased when there are injuries to the genitals or mouth.
The bad news, at this point, is that STIs are very common and many people have them, even without knowing it.
Specialists from the Hospital de Clínicas José de San Martín warn that in Argentina only 14% of people admit to using protection in their sexual relations. In addition, they clarify that the condom reduces the risk of pregnancy by 97% and could prevent 98% of sexually transmitted infections.
“Although the condom has a double function since it helps to avoid an unwanted pregnancy, it also helps to protect against the spread of sexually transmitted infections”said Analía Urretavizcaya, a member of the Clinical Sexology team at the Hospital de Clínicas.
Syphilis is caused by a bacterium (Treponema Pallidum) and is transmitted through sexual intercourse (vaginal, anal or oral) without a condom with an infected person. There is also what is called vertical transmission, which is what occurs from mother to child during pregnancy. It is diagnosed from a blood test and treated with an antibiotic (penicillin). Symptoms appear 20 days after the virus enters the body and present several stages.
In the primary, there is the appearance of a painless ulcer after contact of the bacteria with the skin of the contaminated person. The patient may have lesions inside the mouth, either on the tongue or cheeks. These lesions are called “hard chancre.”
When this happens, the person who had oral sex can contaminate their partner even without knowing that they were sick.
Secondary syphilis is characterized by more systemic symptoms and occurs a few weeks after contamination of the first type. The individual may have spots on the skin and sores.
In the tertiary stage, symptoms appear years after infection. With late diagnosis there is a risk of vascular and neurological compromise, heart failure, or stroke.
2- Gonococcal tonsillitis
Caused by gonococcal bacteria, the same agent as gonorrhea, the infection causes discharge from the tonsils and throat.
It is more common to be transmitted through oral sex, because there is direct contact between the mouth and the genitals, something that increases the risk of contagion. Diagnosis is based on the patient’s history of symptoms. An exam is usually done by removing discharge from the throat to visualize the organism.
Since it is a type of resistant bacteria, not all antibiotics treat and cure the problem. Therefore, it is important to do a thorough investigation to find this STI.
It is caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoea, which can infect the genitals, rectum and throat, the latter being the most serious to treat.
Gonorrhea can cause infertility and make it easier to spread the HIV virus. And as they warned from the World Health Organization (WHO), unprotected oral sex would be contributing to its contagion.
This disease, whose symptoms are sometimes difficult to identify, can cause infertility and facilitate the spread of the HIV/AIDS virus.
Treatment of this sexually transmitted infection is also complicated and can take a long time, as in some cases the body develops increased resistance to certain antibiotics.
Human papillomaviruses (HPV – or HPV for its acronym in English) are transmitted mainly sexually and are very common throughout the world.
Among the more than 200 types of HPV that exist, some of them cause certain types of cancer, such as cervical cancer, the fourth most common cause of cancer in women. However, it is a disease that can be prevented and also cured, if detected early and treated properly.
It is estimated that more than 80% of sexually active people will acquire at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives, since it is a virus that is easily transmitted through skin-to-skin contact or during sexual intercourse. Although 90% of infections clear up on their own in about two years, HPV variants 16 and 18 are the cause of 70% of cervical cancers.
Because high-risk variants do not usually cause symptoms in the early stages of infection, therein lies the importance of early diagnosis.
Prevention is a key factor. The correct use of latex condoms greatly reduces transmission, although it does not completely eliminate the possibility of contracting or spreading HPV.
Vaccines can protect against several types of the virus and provide the most protection when given before you are exposed to the virus. This means that they are best applied before people become sexually active. In Argentina, the vaccine is part of the National Immunization Calendar and is applied free and compulsory at 11 years of age.
This STI is caused by a virus that is divided into types 1 and 2.
In the first case, the appearance of “bubbles” is more common in the oral region. In the second, the symptoms may appear in the genital region.
The recurrence of the problem (with the appearance of lesions in the form of blisters and wounds), indicates that the person has a drop in immunity and needs to undergo tests to check if there is a lack of vitamins or other nutrients.
It is worth remembering that the form of transmission can also be through other than sexual means, such as kissing, the makeup brush, sharing objects, and more. Treatment includes the use of oral ointments or tablets.
Chlamydia infection is a common STD that can infect both men and women. It can cause serious and permanent damage to a woman’s reproductive system and make it more difficult or impossible for her to become pregnant in the future. Chlamydia infection can also cause an ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy that occurs outside the uterus) which can be fatal.
Data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that most cases occur in people between the ages of 15 and 24.
This STI can also be transmitted through oral sex, the risk increases when there is contact with sperm, since semen can have a higher viral load of the infectious agent.
Hepatitis A, B, and C infections are the leading causes of chronic liver disease, liver cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma.
However, transmission of hepatitis A occurs through the fecal-oral route.
That is, it is possible to contract the infection in oral sex and also through any sexual activity. However, the most common is through the anus.
In type B, meanwhile, transmission can occur due to an injury to the mouth, contact with semen, and the vaginal or anal canal.
Treatment includes the use of antivirals and also, when necessary, avoiding the consumption of alcoholic beverages.
In type C, there is a lower risk of contagion through oral sex is lower, being more common through the handling of infected objects such as needles, syringes and other items involved in the use of recreational drugs. Treatment is with antivirals.
In all cases, one of the safest ways to prevent the spread of these diseases is through the use of barrier methods -male and female condoms-, which prevent the mucosa of the mouth from coming into contact with the genitals, and vice versa.