Ask Kim: Can I Give Myself an STI?

Dear Kim,

Is it possible to give yourself an STI? I think I heard once that you can give, but I’m also afraid this is a silly question so I’ve been afraid to ask. Can you clear this up for me (no pun intended)?

Thank you,


Dear Wondering,

Definitely not a silly question – we get this one more often than you’d think.The good news is, you cannot give yourself an STI you do not already have. There is no risk of a new STD infection with masturbation or touching your genitals in any other way.

It is important to know, however, that if you have an existing STI, it is possible to spread it to other parts of your body. This is called autoinoculation. If you have an infection of the genitals, and you touch your genitals then touch your mouth without washing your hands, you could spread the infection to your mouth, as well. Another way this can happen is if you have, for example, a herpes flare up on your thigh and it rubs against your other thigh. The other thigh could develop a herpes outbreak, too.

The examples above can only happen if you already have an STI; you cannot give yourself a new STI infection by touching your genitals or masturbating.

Be well, Be Yourself!

Kim Adamski

HIV Prevention Specialist

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