[Question #992] STDs Possible threat

51 months ago
Hi there, just to let you know that I am highly paranoid and hypochondriac so im sorry if its a dumb question...
Yesterday i was at a gay sauna, I wanted to try it out since I didn't pay to get in. I didn't do any sexual act with any one whatsoever. However, I was walking around from steam rooms to steam rooms and I had a towel always wrapped around my waist, People were performing sexual acts or must have before I sat down on those places. At the end of the trip I took a shower and I wiped myself with that same towel. My question is, could I have gotten a disease from wiping myself with that towel which may have been in contact with semen or something?
I am highly paranoid when it comes to this. Please tell me if I am in danger? do i have zero chances of hiv? how about other stds?

Thank you have a great day
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
51 months ago
Welcome to the forum. Thanks for your question.

As you obviously understand, your gut/emotional concerns are unwarranted and your intellectual understanding is correct:  no risk. From the earliest days of the AIDS epidemic in the mid 1980s, before HIV was discovered or known to be the cause, health officials accurately told the public that it could not be transmitted by non-sexual, non-blood contact. How did they know? Because there simply were no people with AIDS who had not had unsafe sex or shared blood with other people. For example, no cases at all in people who shared households -- including bathrooms, kitchens, towels, etc -- witih AIDS patients. That earliest experience and knowledge are exactly the sorts of contact you are worried about. The biological reasons are complex and I won't go into them here, but the sorts of contact you experienced simply cannot transmit the virus. It's the same for all other STDs as well. (They call them "sexually transmitted" for good reason:  the causative bacteria and viruses evolved so that their transmission requires the intimate contact of sex.)

So no worries at all. Zero chance of HIV and all other STDs.

I hope this has helped ease your concerns. Best wishes--   HHH, MD

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51 months ago
Hi Doctor Handsfield, 

Thanks for the fast response, it puts my mind in a great level of peace. Wouldn't it be possible however that the towel had been exposed to blood or semen that were on the steamroom benches when i sat down and by wiping myself with it I could have gotten infected? I've been told i am beyond hypochondriac... No need to get tested? 
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
50 months ago
Sorry for the delay in responding to this follow-up question.

Is it theoretically possible that an infection could be transmitted by a used towel? Maybe. But it has never been known to happen. Contact with a towel does not expose those tissues and cells that must have contact with STD viruses and bacteria for infection to take hold. I agree with what you have been told by your friends or others. For sure there is no need for you to be tested.

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