Gonorrhoea – chances are you only know it as one of those STIs that's very tricky to spell, despite being it being one of the most common sexually transmitted infections in the UK. You probably are aware, however, that it's a bacterial infection that can be transmitted during sex. What you might not be so clear on is exactly how this can happen. By sex, we don't just mean vaginal, but anal and oral activities as well. It's not just a case of staying safe as long as you don't insert tab P into slot V.
Campaign after campaign has attempted to drive home the importance of safe sex, from using condoms and dental dams to having regular tests at a sexual health clinic. It's true that genital on genital contact is probably the main culprit when it comes to the spread of STIs, but this doesn't mean that the other methods of transmission should be neglected.
It's not as common as it's counterpart, but research demonstrates that gonorrhoea can also be transmitted orally. That includes mouth-to-mouth, i.e. through kissing. Yes, it's true, we hate to break it to you, but you can genuinely get the cooties from kissing.
Gonorrhoea is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which usually targets areas of the body where mucus membranes, or bodily fluids, are present, such as the penis, vagina and anus. But this also goes for the eyes, mouth and throat, so why do we forget these areas when we talk about gonorrhoea? Even when we're discussing safe sex, kissing doesn't usually even get a mention.
As you can see from our infographic below, kissing, as well as oral sex, is not so safe if your partner is infected with gonorrhoea. But how can you tell if the coast is clear when indulging in a bit of snogging?
Basically, this comes down to the same safe sex advice you've heard a million times before. Wear a condom when engaging in vaginal or anal sex, and use a latex dam to protect both of you during oral sex. As for kissing, obviously there's not a great deal you can do there. However, if you are keen to stay safe (and you should be) the best thing you can do is make sure you and your sexual partners have regular sexual health tests. And if your partner displays symptoms of an STI, make sure you get tested, even if you have no symptoms yourself - in many cases those with the infection will be completely asymptomatic.