We all know that when it comes to safe sex, using a condom is key. However, condoms don't necessarily eliminate all risks of contracting an STI, as much as we'd like to think otherwise. Of course, you're likely to be OK as long as there isn't an active flare-up of an STD present, as condoms will reduce the risk of transmission of all STIs. Still, it's worth noting that some STIs can be passed from skin-on-skin contact or in places where a condom cannot cover an outbreak, explained Dr. Yvonne Bohn, a Los Angeles-based ob-gyn, to POPSUGAR. Here are a few situations where you can spread an STI, so it's important to be extra vigilant before getting down to business.
First off, STDs that are found in the ejaculate or in secretions can be reduced with condoms. "These include chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV and herpes simplex, cervical human papilloma virus (HPV)," Dr. Bohn said. Yet, those that are passed from skin-on-skin contact can be trickier. "Diseases that can be transmitted through contact skin to skin include herpes simplex, condyloma from human papilloma virus, and molluscum contagiosum," she said.
How Does It Spread?
"Condoms do not protect from skin-to-skin contact type of diseases because the condom doesn't cover all of the genital area. Also many people do not put a condom on until ready for penetration so there is rubbing and skin to skin that occurs prior to condom placement," she explained.
For instance, herpes simplex can be contracted by skin on skin from shedding of the virus. "It causes painful ulcers and blisters," she said. If you have an open flare-up and the condom cannot cover the exposed area, you can pass herpes to your partner, even if you're using a condom.
Similarly, HPV is transmitted from skin-to-skin contact. "[HPV] forms condyloma (or genital warts)," she said. Plus, just to be clear, you should know your partner's sexual history. "A partner with herpes can still give you herpes if there are no lesions," she cautioned. Also, sometimes people mistake sores for something else or don't notice any symptoms in the first place.
Lastly, molluscum contagiosum, which is a pox virus that forms small bumps with a whitehead, can be transmitted by skin-to-skin contact. "People can get it from wet towels, and wet pool decks as well," she said. You can then pass this on to your partner, even if you're wearing a condom, if the bumps are exposed.
The best way to protect yourself from contracting an STI (in addition to using condoms, of course) is to always have a discussion before getting active with a new partner!