What are STIs?

STIs are sexually transmitted infections. Every year over 100,000 people in the Netherlands catch an STI according to estimates. Some STIs have serious consequences if they are not treated in time. Fortunately, most are easy to cure. STIs are infectious and you can have one without even noticing it. As a result, you can inadvertently transmit an STI.

Examples of STIs include: HIV infection which causes AIDS, chlamydia, genital warts, genital herpes, hepatitis B and syphilis.

How do you catch STIs?

STIs are transmitted through semen, blood, vaginal discharge and contact with mucous membranes. Mucous membranes are found in places like the anus, the penis, the vagina and the mouth.

Most STIs are transmitted through unprotected sex:

  • Vaginal intercourse with a condom (penis in the vagina)
  • Anal intercourse without a condom (penis in the anus)
  • Oral sex (blow jobs and cunnilingus) without a condom or dental dam
  • Shared use of sex toys, like dildos, without interim cleaning.

A number of STIs are transmitted through blood. You can catch HIV, hepatitis B and syphilis as a result of tattoos and piercings that are unhygienically applied. Or if you use someone else’s needles, syringes and other equipment for drug use.

During pregnancy, HIV, hepatitis B and syphilis can be transmitted from mother to child. A baby can also be infected with HIV, hepatitis B, syphilis, chlamydia, genital herpes and gonorrhoea during birth.

What does not give you an STI?

You cannot get an STI by drinking from someone else’s glass. You also cannot get one from coughing, insect bites or a dirty toilet seat.