Shigella is an STI Most Gay Men Aren’t Even Aware Of, and It’s Concerning!

Gay men aren't aware that anal play can lead to a bacterial infection call shigella; it can have uncomfortable side effects, but this STI is easily treatable.

Health Sexual Health Sean Kivi

This article was published on July 31st, 2021

It’s no secret that the gay community is predisposed to higher infection rates for sexually transmitted infection. Almost everyone knows about the more insidious infections and viruses like HIV or the clap, but one that is often overlooked, and many times over unknown is shigella. Shi-a-what? It’s likely you haven’t heard of this before, and that’s okay! 

We are going to explain what it is so you can protect yourself from it. Shigella is a bacterial infection that is passed on through sexual contact with someone who has an active infection. Almost anyone who has an active shigella infection will have symptoms, however some people are asymptomatic. 

The bacterial infection is not picky about who it chooses for a host. However, just like with many other sexual infections our community is at greater risk of becoming infected. We are at a greater risk because shigella is passed from person to person through sexual acts like rimming and fingering. Yeah, straight people do this too, however this is usually vaginal more so than anal. Therefore, because of our interest in anal pleasure, rightly attributed to the g spot, we are at elevated risk of contracting Shigella

Shigella is very contagious and being exposed to a minute amount can cause you to become infected. It is caused by bacteria in faecal matter that is transferred to your mouth during sexual acts. You can get shigella by licking condoms, dildos or and even skin which have the bacteria on them. Common sexual acts that we know cause shigella are rimming, giving oral after anal sex (if penetration occurs without a condom) AKA ass-to-mouth, or handling used condoms, douches, or toys. In some cases, it can be passed through food.  Kinky!

Sounds scary, but no need to fear. There are many ways to protect yourself against this bacterial infection. The first and most important thing to understand is that bacterial infections are not the same as viral infections. Bacterial infections can be cured. The second thing you need to know about Shigella is that the symptoms start between 12 hours and 4 days after exposure. 

Once you begin to experience symptoms, they can range from an upset stomach to bloody diarrhea. The symptoms usually last about a week and some people will recover without medication. 

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, you should go visit your GP or a sexual health clinic. This helps prevent the spread and it also aides in promoting safe sex practices for our community. You should also stop having sex with other until about a week after your symptoms disappear.  Shigella is easily treated with antibiotics so we can quickly get rid of the infection.

The best way to protect yourself is safe sex and making sure to wash your hands after each sexual encounter. Another good way to protects yourself, as I’m sure all us good gays already do, is to wash your genitals and bum. If rimming you could use a dental dam, and for fingering or fisting we can use gloves or condoms. The condoms aren’t recommended for fisting. It would be highly uncomfortable. 

As we already know that our community is susceptible to infections of all types, it is crucial that we know about the things that can affect us. This includes learning about safe sex practices and why we need to employ them. Our community has a lack of access to information about sexual health in some parts of the world, so we should not take advantage of our access to information. So, the takeaway is to not be afraid of getting STD tested at your local clinics. We are privileged to have open access to sexual healthcare.

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