Once a month, we feature answers to commonly asked questions that our Valley Women’s Clinic medical staff receives. Our nurses provide answers to these questions here on the blog.
This question gets at how STIs are spread. Since STIs are a common issue, many worry that they are easily spread through public places such as a restroom toilet seat.
Why? Because bacteria and viruses are the culprits in causing STIs. The bacteria that cause chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomonas thrive in the moist warm environment of the urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body) and under the foreskin of males and in the vagina and around the labia for women. They cannot survive more than a few minutes outside of these environments.
So how long can the same bacteria last on the cold, hard environment of a toilet seat? Not long!!! Even if you sat down on a toilet seat that’s still warm from the previous person (and that person had a STI), your skin that does touch the toilet seat would have to have an abrasion or open cut to allow an HPV or herpes virus to enter and start an infection. The toilet seat would have to touch a woman’s vagina or labia to transmit chlamydia or gonorrhea. Given these conditions, it would be very unlikely to contract an STI from a toilet seat.
If you’re worried about contracting an STI, skin-to-skin contact is of greater concern. Bacteria and viruses cannot survive for long on dry, healthy skin that has no cuts or abrasions on it. But skin-to-skin contact in the genital areas during sex acts can transmit several viruses such as herpes and human papilloma virus (HPV) when one partner is infected.
Why? Because the genital area is usually moist, and rubbing skin on skin causes microscopic abrasions in the skin where HPV or the herpes virus can take hold and grow. The skin to which these viruses attach is not covered by a condom. This is why, according to the CDC, condoms do not fully protect against transmission of HPV and herpes.
Sexually transmitted bacterial infections like chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomonas, and syphilis grow in the moist environment of the vagina, the anal canal or the mouth and throat. So if you have only oral sex or anal sex, you are still vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases.
If you’re worried that you may have an STI, Valley Women’s Clinic can provide you with free testing for chlamydia and gonorrhea. All of our services are free and confidential. Request an appointment at our Blacksburg or Radford office.
Do you have a question for one of our VWC nurses? Fill out this form to anonymously ask your question and it could be featured on one of our future Ask a VWC Nurse blog posts!