Human papillomavirus (HPV), herpes, and syphilis are spread through skin-to-skin contact. There are methods you can use to reduce the risk of transmission, but these sexually transmitted infections are more difficult to prevent than those spread through blood or bodily fluids.
HPV is the most common STI. It doesn’t always produce symptoms and often goes away on its own, so you might not realize that you have it. HPV can cause genital warts or cancer. The virus is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. It’s possible to transmit the virus even if you don’t have any symptoms. There is no cure for HPV, but the warts or cancers it causes can be treated.
There are two kinds of herpes: oral herpes (HSV-1) and genital herpes (HSV-2). The virus causes sores on the genitals or mouth and is typically spread through contact with open sores. However, herpes can also be transmitted when contacting skin that doesn’t appear to have sores. Medications are available to help reduce the frequency of herpes outbreaks, but there is no cure for the infection.
Syphilis can cause sores on the genitals, anus, or mouth. It is typically spread through direct contact with a sore. Syphilis is usually easy to cure with antibiotics. However, if you don’t get treatment early on, the infection can progress and cause additional symptoms, health problems, or even death.
The following steps can be used to help reduce your risk for STIs spread by skin contact:
- Use latex condoms every time you have sex.
- Be sure to put the condom on before any skin-to-skin contact involving intimate areas occurs. Remember that these STIs can be transmitted even if there’s no penetration.
- Get the HPV vaccine, which protects against the most dangerous strains of the virus.