[Question #6560] Question and Clarification Concerning Tranmittal

13 months ago
Hi Doctors,

I have a question concerning a response Dr. Handsfield made to one of my questions.  

I'm trying to educate myself for future reference.

Dr. Handsfield stated "STIs are inefficiently transmitted;  even in the presence of known infection with gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes, or HIV, most exposures don't result in transmission of the infection."  

Why is that?

I didn't know that about STD transmission.  Why are they inefficiently transmitted?  I always assumed by way of other online education outlets that STDs are easily transmitted during sexual activity.  Do I have that wrong?  I'm assuming I must have that wrong if the experts on this site say differently.

Guess I'm looking to clear up some confusion and mis-education on my part concerning this topic.

Thanks again for all the work you do!

Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
13 months ago

It is unfortunate to see you back on the Forum following Dr. Handsfield's warning about repeat posting.  I have opted to provide a brief response to your question because I think that the question you asked may be be a contributor to your unwarranted and inappropriate concerns about STIs.  Dr. Handsfield's statement regarding the FACT that STIs are inefficiently transmitted holds not only for STIs but for most infectious diseases in general.  The FACT is the in most cases, for most people a single, or even repeated exposures to persons who have infectious diseases do NOT result in infection.  Think for a minute about how many times you have been in close proximity to persons with colds or the flu, both of which may be transmitted by breathing the same air as an infected person and did not become infected.  If infections were always transmitted through contact with infected persons, the human race would have been wiped out long ago.  This generalization holds for STIs as well.  The efficiency with which different STIs are transmitted through sexual contact varies according to the infection you are dealing with- for gonorrhea, a man having sex with an infected woman becomes infected only about once in every 5 (20%)  acts of vaginal intercourse.  This is inefficient.  Other STIs are transmitted less commonly- for instance, HIV is transmitted through heterosexual intercourse less than once in every 1000 encounters (i.e. 99.9% of sexual contacts to infected persons do NOT lead to infection).  The perception that most STIs are transmitted through most sexual contacts is simply WRONG!.  The biological reasons for this are complex and will not be gone into here. 

I have provided this perspective to help clarify what is clearly a misperception regarding STI "risk"   on your part.  I will not go further.  I will not provide further responses either.  If you wish further clarification, you need to take more biology courses, not be posing these questions on this form.

This is the only response which will be provided related to this, or your earlier questions.  I hope it is helpful.  End of discussion.  EWH

13 months ago
Thank you for your response and clarification on STD transmission.  You may close this question.