NurseAsk Nurse Lisa

Sexual Health FAQs

Other animals have their own type of HIV.  Cats have Feline HIV for instance.  Animal forms of HIV are different from human forms and often affect the animal in different ways than HIV affects humans.

STIs can be passed on through genital contact, most often during vaginal and anal sex. STIs may also be passed on during oral sex and genital-to-genital contact. STIs can be passed on between straight and same-sex partners—even when the infected partner has no signs or symptoms.

The male erection is dependent on blood flow and not the nervous system. So, a guy who is paralyzed could get an erection.

Chances are very slim but yes you can get sexually transmitted infection through kissing.  It’s possible to catch herpes just from kissing someone on the mouth. The herpes virus can be spread not only through kissing, but also through sharing utensils and cups. The tricky thing about herpes is that the signs are not always visible. Herpes is often dormant, and a person can pass it along without ever showing any signs of having it. Diseases that are not STIs, like mono, the common cold, stomach bugs, and strep throat, also can be passed through saliva. STIs can be transmitted through all types of sex, including oral sex. So, although mouth-to-mouth kissing can only pass herpes, mouth-to-genital contact can spread many STIs, including HIV. So is it possible, yes…but not as common as through sexual contact.

Condoms, when used consistently and correctly, are the only form of protection that can help stop the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as HIV, and prevent pregnancy. However, you can still get STIs if you wear condoms, especially if there are open sores in the genital area.

Yes, it is possible for either sex partner to become infected with HIV during anal sex. HIV can be found in the blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, or vaginal fluid of a person infected with the virus. In general, the person receiving the semen is at greater risk of getting HIV because the lining of the rectum is thin and may allow the virus to enter the body during anal sex. However, a person who inserts his penis into an infected partner also is at risk because HIV can enter through the urethra (the opening at the tip of the penis) or through small cuts, abrasions, or open sores on the penis. Having unprotected (without a condom) anal sex is considered to be a very risky behavior in terms of STI/HIV risk. If people choose to have anal sex, they should use a latex condom. Most of the time, condoms work well. However, condoms are more likely to break during anal sex than during vaginal sex. Thus, even with a condom, anal sex can be risky. A person should use a water-based lubricant in addition to the condom to reduce the chances of the condom breaking.

STIs that are caused by bacterial infections (Chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and others) are easily cured with antibiotics. Other STIs that are caused by viruses (Herpes, HPV, HIV, and others) are not curable.

Yes. Although the chance of getting or giving a sexually transmitted infection (STI) during oral sex is smaller than vaginal or anal sex, it is still risky to have unprotected oral sex. Here’s why.  Many STIs want to infect warm, wet places, like your mouth, urethra, vulva, vagina, penis, and/or anus. This means that many STIs can be passed from your mouth to genitals and vice versa. The sexually transmitted infections that can be passed during oral sex are herpes, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, and syphilis. There is a very small risk for getting and giving HIV through oral sex, too. This doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy oral sex. But it does mean that you need to plan ahead, talk to your partner, and use protection. One way to make oral sex safer is to get tested regularly for STIs, and to pay attention to any potential symptoms of STIs, and get them checked out by a health care provider right away.  Typical symptoms include burning sensations during sex or when you pee, unusually strong smells from your genitals, or bumps on your genitals, anus, and/or mouth and lips. Most STIs have NO symptoms, so it is still really important to get tested regularly. (To find a clinic near you, click here.)  If you do not abstain from oral sex, using a latex barrier is your best chance of avoiding most STIs. When a guy is receiving oral sex, he can use a latex condom to protect himself and his partner. Many condom brands now have flavored condoms to make using one during oral sex taste better.

When a girl is receiving oral sex, she can use the Sheer Glyde dam to protect herself or her partner. Her partner can use a flavored lube on the outside of the dam to make it taste better.

Yes, some STIs are transmissible by contact with infected skin.  This is the case with HPV and syphilis, for example.  Coming into contact with a sore or lesion from an STI infection can lead to transmission of the infection.

STIs, when left untreated, can cause serious damage to your sexual health. While you cannot die from the diseases themselves, you can die from related complications. For example, HIV causes AIDS. Individuals can die from a variety of AIDS-related complications. HPV (the virus causing genital warts) is very closely associated with the development of cervical cancer, a terminal illness.

Health care providers, health educators and condom manufacturing representatives all agree that you SHOULD NOT wear two condoms during sexual intercourse.  While there does not yet seem to be any scientific literature to support this stance, it comes from the advice of professionals (including the Centers for Disease Control, OB/GYN doctors and nurse practitioners, and condom manufacturers) who are most knowledgeable in the area of contraception and sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention.  Their explanation is that during sex, an excessive amount of friction will occur between the two condoms and increase the likelihood of either, or both, condoms breaking. When worn correctly, one condom is adequate (88%-98% effective) for pregnancy prevention and for protection against some STIs such as HIV/AIDS. If you are concerned about pregnancy prevention specifically, you can opt to use condoms in combination with other contraceptive methods such as oral contraception (“the pill”) or a diaphragm.  Also, several condom manufacturers sell extra-strength condoms that have shown to be even more tear-resistant than normal strength condoms.  Extra-strength condoms are especially recommended for anal intercourse.  And, since extra-strength condoms are made of a thicker latex rubber, they may also have the additional effect of reducing a man’s sensitivity and allowing him to delay orgasm. For correct condom use instructions, visit the following website for detailed instructions: click on the button titled “education.”

There are many different types of herpesviruses, but there are about 9 that routinely infect humans. Of these 8, there are two that are the most common. These two are generally referred to as genital herpes. Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the herpes simplex viruses type 1 (HSV-1) or type 2 (HSV-2). Most genital herpes is caused by HSV-2. Most individuals have no or only minimal signs or symptoms from HSV-1 or HSV-2 infection. When signs do occur, they typically appear as one or more blisters on or around the genitals or rectum. The blisters break, leaving tender ulcers (sores) that may take two to four weeks to heal the first time they occur. Typically, another outbreak can appear weeks or months after the first, but it almost always is less severe and shorter than the first outbreak.  Although the infection can stay in the body indefinitely, the number of outbreaks tends to decrease over a period of years.

Sexually active women; 25 years
 Chlamydia testing every year.
Sexually active men or women, who are not in a long term,mutually monogamous relationshipHepatitis B vaccination, annual HIV testing and Chlamydia, as recommended by your health care provider
All men who have sex with men (MSM)
Hepatitis A vaccination, Hepatitis B vaccination.
Sexually active men who have sex with men (MSM), who are not in a long term, mutually monogamous relationshipHepatitis A vaccination, Hepatitis B vaccination, at least once every year for HIV, Syphilis, Chlamydia, and Gonorrhea.
 Pregnant women
Chlamydia at first prenatal visit. Syphilis at first prenatal visit. HIV as early as possible in the pregnancy. Hepatitis B during an early prenatal visit. Hepatitis C as recommended by your health care provider. Gonorrhea as recommended by your health care provider.
Any person seeking STI evaluation or treatment
Testing for HIV. Hepatitis B vaccination. Testing for Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia as recommended by your health care provider.

There are many reasons why someone might choose to get tested for STIs. This table outlines the different recommendations for testing based on population type. If you or anyone is interested in getting tested, please consult your local provider.

The Alaska age of consent laws are unique. The age of consent in Alaska is 16. This is the age at which an individual may consent to have sex with someone over 18, legally, in Alaska. In Alaska, the laws on statutory rape depend, in part, on the age difference between the two partners. The law recognizes statutory rape only in cases involving an age difference of more than 3 years. A 20 year old man who has sex with a 15 year old girl, in Alaska, is guilty of statutory rape. A 17 year old male who has consensual sex with a 15 year old girl is not guilty of statutory rape, under Alaska law.  Dating someone who is much older or younger than you can lead to difficult or even unhealthy relationships since the older person in the relationship generally has more power or influence over the younger person.  This can lead to the younger person having fewer opportunities to make their own choices about the terms of the relationship or sexual behavior.  Dating someone nearer to your own age is no guarantee of a healthy relationship, but avoids many of the issues associates with dating someone much older than you.

STDs have been known throughout history: gonorrhea was described by the ancient Egyptians, and was recognized by Greek and Roman medical writers. By the Middle Ages both gonorrhea and syphilis were widespread.

You can use polyurethane (male or female) condoms, which are made from a different kind of plastic. Polyurethane condoms also protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Eye herpes is transmitted through contact with another person who is having an outbreak, or through self contact and contamination during an active herpes infection (such as a cold sore of the lip). The herpes simplex virus enters the body through the nose or mouth and travels into the nerves, where it may be inactive. The virus can remain dormant for years and may never become active. The exact cause of an outbreak is unknown, but stress-related factors such as fever, sunburn, major dental or surgical procedures and trauma are often associated with incidents.

Once the initial outbreak occurs, the NEI says untreated eye herpes has about a 40-50 percent chance of returning. There is no specific time frame for ocular herpes to reappear; it could be several weeks or even several years following the original occurrence. Although symptoms usually present themselves in only one eye, the virus possibly could affect the other eye as well.

AIDS stands for Acquired (means you can get infected with it); Immune Deficiency (means a weakness in the body’s system that fights diseases) Syndrome (means a group of health problems that make up a disease). AIDS is caused by HIV – Human Immunodeficiency Virus. As HIV disease continues, it slowly wears down the immune system. Viruses, parasites, fungi and bacteria that usually don’t cause any problems can make you very sick if your immune system is damaged. These are called “opportunistic infections.”  These opportunistic infections are usually what causes a person with AIDS to die.

It has been thought that STIs are as old as mankind itself. There are historical records dating back to the 15th century and beyond with detailed accounts of STIs. In the medieval ages, there was speculation began in some communities that certain illnesses resulted from sexual intercourse. The identification of STIs began to come to light with due to achievements in microbiology and chemistry in the late 19th and 20th centuries.

This depends on how much you weigh, but an average of 30 calories are burned for a 100lb person for every 10 minutes of sex.

Four sexually transmitted viral infections are still incurable today: Hepatitis B, genital herpes, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), and the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) which causes AIDS. However, even in the absence of a cure, medical science has developed some helpful strategies: There is a vaccination against Hepatitis B, the symptoms of genital herpes and HPV can be effectively treated, and AIDS patients now live longer thanks to various ever-improving medications.

There are at least 25 different STIs with a range of different symptoms. These diseases may be spread through vaginal, anal and oral sex.

Women who are pregnant can become infected with the same sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as women who are not pregnant. Pregnancy does not provide women or their babies any protection against STIs. The consequences of an STI can be significantly more serious, even life threatening, for a woman and her baby if the woman becomes infected with an STI while pregnant. It is important that women be aware of the harmful effects of STIs and knows how to protect themselves and their children against infection. Some STIs, such as genital herpes and bacterial vaginosis, are quite common in pregnant women in the United States. Other STIs, notably HIV and syphilis, are much less common in pregnant women.

No. This would be a form of discrimination and lead to people with STIs being treated unfairly.  Public Health officials can quarantine or separate people with very infectious diseases like tuberculosis; but STIs, do not fall into this category. 

The most common sign of having an STI or HIV is having NO SYMPTOM AT ALL.

Different STIs may produce different symptoms on the genitals such as bumps, open sores, burning with urination or discharge. However, most STIs will cause no noticeable signs or symptoms.

Most people do not know they have STIs because many STI don’t have symptoms.  It’s safest to assume that anyone you have sex with could have an STI they don’t know about.  Finding ways to share intimacy with each other without intercourse or using condoms are ways to protect yourself and your partner even if you are your partner have STIs that are undiagnosed.

Orgasm is the way your body responds to being sexually excited. When orgasms happen, your body gets tense and blood flows to your genital region. Muscles in the genital area contract to release that tension. And it feels good. Some people say orgasms feel like a slow build-up with an intense—or peak—moment of excitement. Others say their entire body tingles. Everybody feels different. Often people experience their first orgasm through masturbation.  Men and women usually have orgasms in different ways and at different times. The simultaneous orgasms you see in the movies seem normal, but it hardly ever happens that way. Most men are able to have orgasms during sexual intercourse, but many women aren’t. Most women need direct stimulation of their clitoris to have an orgasm. Usually men ejaculate (release a whitish fluid from the tip of the penis) when they have an orgasm. Most women don’t ejaculate (although a small number say they do, see the G-Spot FAQ). Some women have a difficult time reaching orgasm – it either takes a long time or doesn’t happen at all. Some women can have one orgasm after another. Most men need time to rest in between orgasms – this is called the ‘refractory’ period.

Caused by the type 1 herpes simplex virus, eye herpes (ocular herpes) is a common, recurrent viral infection affecting the eyes. This type of herpes virus can cause inflammation and scarring of the cornea that sometimes is referred to as a cold sore on the eye. Herpes of the eye can be transmitted through close contact with an infected person whose virus is active.

“HIV” stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Many people also refer to HIV as the “AIDS virus.”

A sexually transmitted disease (STI), also known as sexually transmitted infection (STI) or venereal disease (VD) is an illness that has a significant probability of transmission between humans through sexual behavior, including vaginal intercourse, oral sex, and anal sex.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. It has often been called “the great imitator” because so many of the signs and symptoms are indistinguishable from those of other diseases.

CDC estimates that 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.

Many STIs are treatable. However, even the once easily cured gonorrhea has become resistant to many of the older traditional antibiotics. Other STIs, such as herpes, HIV, and genital warts, all of which are caused by viruses, have no cure.

Everyone would answer this question differently, however, the fact that someone can have an STI and transmit it to someone they love without knowing it is a particularly scary part of STIs. 

Most STIs can be passed from a mother to her baby before or during birth including chlamydia, HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea and HPV.

HIV is the deadliest STI because it leads to AIDS, which is usually fatal. Condoms are highly effective in preventing the transmission of HIV.

You can get birth control from the Public Health Nursing Clinic or your local tribal clinic or hospital.

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the herpes simplex viruses type 1 (HSV-1) or type 2 (HSV-2). Most genital herpes is caused by HSV-2. Most individuals have no or only minimal signs or symptoms from HSV-1 or HSV-2 infection. HSV-1 can cause genital herpes, but it more commonly causes infections of the mouth and lips, so-called “fever blisters.”

Knowledge is the first step towards informed actions.  Everyone should know about sexually transmitted infections so they can protect themselves and their ones they love.

School districts provide sexual health education at different times and for different age groups across the US.  There is not one unified standard for all school districts.  For years, adults have had plenty of debate over when and what teens should learn about sex. Rarely do they ask teens their opinion about what they need to learn. Some adults say that giving young people information about contraception and safer sex encourages them to have sex or gives them permission to have sex.  But research doesn’t back this up. Studies show that comprehensive sexuality education does not encourage teens to become sexually active. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Teens who get “comprehensive sexuality education”—which includes information about abstinence and safer sex, contraception, pregnancy options, relationships, LGBTQ2S+ issues, and pleasure—are more likely to wait to have sex than teens who do not receive this type of sex ed. The website Sexetc. has some great resources for you to get involved in sex education.

The vast majority of people who know they have STIs do not want to spread them.  Most people will seek treatment when they find out they are infected and take steps to protect their sexual partners.

HIV is the virus that causes the disease AIDS. Although HIV causes AIDS, a person can be infected with HIV for many years before AIDS develops. AIDS is diagnosed when you have a variety of symptoms, infections, and specific test results.

The U.S. Government and private organizations provides funds to prevent treat and track sexually transmitted infections in the population. This financial support is not enough to fully address the problem. To find out ways you can help prevent infections through education visit,

Knowing about STIs gives you the ability to make informed choices about having sex.  Now that that you know about how STI are transmitted, you can use this knowledge to protect yourself and your partners.

Yes. STI prevention as well as HIV prevention (and pregnancy prevention) are important reasons for condom use. Refraining from having unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected partner is the best way to achieve HIV prevention and other STI prevention. Latex condoms are highly effective and when used consistently and correctly.  Many people find that once they get used to condoms, they do not interfere with sex at all.  In fact, many people report that using condoms make sex more enjoyable because they are not worried about getting an STI.

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