Is Mono an STD? The Answer May Surprise You

The short answer is: it doesn’t matter. (Explanation at bottom)

The longer answer, which we’ll substantiate, of course, is, yes, generally, mono is an STD.

Although some people have written otherwise and have chosen to exclude it from their grouping of STDs, that doesn’t alter the factual information or the supported research.

To better understand why mono often borders the land of STDs and is placed into that confusing gray area, we have to start with the basics.

Mono Epidemiology

Mononucleosis (also called ‘Mono’, and, colloquially, the ‘kissing disease’), is a disease most commonly caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). EBV affects the white blood cells involved in the immune system. The disease can be found in anyone but is most commonly contracted by adolescents and young adults ages 15–35.

Mononucleosis can also be caused by Cytomegalovirus (CMV), a herpes virus most commonly found in bodily fluids. While CMV can cause mononucleosis, 85%-90% of all cases are associated with EBV. A person becomes infected with CMV by direct contact with infected bodily fluids. CMV is most commonly transmitted through kissing and sexual intercourse.

That being said, EBV is a member of the herpes virus family as well. It is one of the most commonly found viruses and epidemics throughout the world. Contrary to common belief, EBV is not highly contagious. It can only be contracted through direct contact with an infected person’s saliva and sometimes through vaginal, cervical, and penile secretions.

So What?

So, what does all that mean? To start, it means, when mono occurs as a result of CMV, it’s an STD.

It also means, mono is not as contagious as the common cold or flu – generally, infections which are easily transmittable non-sexually or which are primarily transmitted non-sexually are not classified as STDs. Transmission of EBV requires intimate contact with the saliva, blood or genital secretions of an infected person. Kissing or having sex with someone with mono makes you much more likely to get the infection.

Moreover, a recent study of more than 2,000 entrants to Edinburgh University has established that EBV is sexually transmitted. An accompanying editorial notes that of the eight human herpes viruses, four – HSV, CMV, KSHV, and EBV – are now known to be sexually transmitted. However, the authors doubt EBV will be ‘given much priority in STD clinics anytime soon’ despite its ‘still-unfolding virological, oncological, and sociological fascinations.’

And lastly, a cohort study among 510 university students suggests that acquisition of EBV is enhanced by penetrative sexual intercourse, although transmission could occur through related sexual behaviors, such as ‘deep kissing’, an increased dose of EBV is transmitted by deep kissing during penetrative sexual intercourse and that enhances virus transmission in young adults.

The researchers point to data that confirms far higher concentrations of EBV in saliva than in genital secretions, and they surmise that intercourse is actually a surrogate marker for deep kissing that facilitates viral transmission. However, for all practical purposes, EBV infection behaves like a sexually transmitted disease.

Then Why Did I Say It Doesn’t Matter?

Clearly there’s data backing infectious mononucleosis as a sexually transmitted disease/infection, however, there are still numbers of people adamantly denying the correlation.


Because sexually transmitted diseases carry a stigma. As a clinician, it’s much easier to communicate a diagnosis sans the STD label. And as an infected individual, it’s far simpler to explain contracting a common non-stigmatized infection to your loved ones and potentially significant other(s) than it is to tell people you have an STD. It just makes sense people are reticent to relate the two.

Despite leading you to the articles that say otherwise, I actually don’t care if you want to move forward with not calling mono an STD.

Now you can understand why we’ve included mono in our list of infections, of course, but from there, how you label it is your business.

I’m more concerned you take care of yourself while waiting for your body to heal and that you are mindful of the ways in which your infection is transmitted, lest you spread the infection unwittingly.

And lastly, please make sure to tell any respective partners before putting them at risk. Whether you want to call it an STD is up to you, but it is contagious should you engage in any kind of sexual activity involving saliva or other bodily fluids. So, the ethical thing to do is to let the individual know in advance of the aforementioned activity.

The Birth Control I Never Thought I’d Use

I never had to be sold on condoms. I was born in 1979 and I grew up in a world of Ryan White, the Aids Quilt and Left Eye rocking a condom on her glasses. Safe sex has always been commonplace and condoms have always been compulsory. But female condoms, now those were unique and, I learned from that super-helpful radio call-in show, distinctly not normal.

This Is How Rumors Get Started

I only heard the show talk about the product that was, at that time, called Reality once and what I remember them saying between screeches of laughter, gasps of shock and periodic outbursts of “ohmigod” was “They, like, hang out of your body”, “they make a swishy sound” and “You have to push them up into your body”None of this sounded appealing.

As time went on I noticed that whenever safer sex options were discussed, “regular” condoms got all the press and female condoms were mentioned in passing as if to say “and these are also something that exist.” I never got the impression that they were something I should really consider. Even as recently as July a piece ran on a popular website about female condoms. The message? They’re icky.”

I’ll tell you this: I had bought into the hype. Female condoms sounded weird and complicated and I figured we already had condoms so this discussion was really unnecessary.

And Then I Changed My Mind

I entered a new relationship and, as it turns out, my partner is a huge fan of female condoms. He was surprised that, for all my sex geekery, I had never tried them and one day showed up at my house bearing a box of what are now known as FC2 female condoms.Yeah, I love them.

Love them.




Oh my goodness, so many reasons!

What’s So Great About Female Condoms?

ErectionsHave you ever gotten all excited just to see your partner’s erection wilt at the sight of a condom? It’s a common and frustrating problem. Female condoms to the rescue. That’s right; no more penis panic!


Sex educators love lube. There’s no cheaper, easier way to keep things gliding pleasurably along for a long time. With male condoms, men are left with a measly drop or two of lube in the tip. With FC2, you can really lube up the inside (literally pour a little lube into the condom before inserting it). What’s more, you can each choose your own lube! My partner likes silicone, I prefer a hybrid, so it’s silicone inside the FC2, hybrid outside. Lube for everyone. It’s a beautiful thing. (Learn more about lube in The Ins and Outs of Sexual Lubricant.)

Period Sex

You may know I have strong feelings about period sex. Or having it, that is. But still it’s nice to keep the mess factor down, no? Because of the rigid top ring on a female condom, any blood stays above the condom and out of the way until you take it out. So easy!


I’ve heard people say otherwise but I’m going on record as saying that I barely feel these. I have way more sensation with them than with traditional condoms.


It’s nice to be in charge. Rather than playing the “you should put a condom on now” game, I get to say “I’m suiting up and now game on!”

Busting the Myths About Female Condoms

Now that I’ve learned to love female condoms, I do want to respond directly to the things I heard growing up:

“They hang out of your body”

This is true and, yeah, it’s a little weird at first. Then again, I’ll bet the first person who ever saw a penis covered in latex didn’t think “That totally looks natural.” You’ll get over it.

“They make swishy sounds”

I have also heard the sound described as “crinkly.” This used to be true of female condoms, but it hasn’t been a problem for years. The previous version was made of polyurethane which was, in addition to being kind of noisy, expensive. The FC2 is made from nitrile, which is soft, quiet, sensitive and less expensive.

“You have to push them up into your body”

Yes, yes you do. You do have to touch your own vagina to use this product. If that thought makes you uncomfortable maybe you should rethink having sex. (Male condoms are as easy to put on as you might think – at least if you want to do it right. Find out more in 9 Things You Didn’t Know About Putting On a Condom.)

Changing Minds Is Hard to Do

The thing is, female condoms have gotten a bum rap for years. But take it from me, this prophylaxis is way underrated. Many years ago, I got the impression that female condoms were a bit of a joke. But you know what’s really funny? The fact that more women haven’t given them a try.


Is It Normal To Have Small Bumps On Your Nipples?

Ever wondered what those small bumps on your nipples are? Health’s medical editor explains what you should know about Montgomery tubercles.

Yes, it is totally normal to have small bumps on the dark skin around the nipple (the areola). The bumps are called Montgomery tubercles; they secrete oil (produced by glands beneath the skin) that helps lubricate the areola and nipple during pregnancy and lactation. The oil also has antibacterial properties, and research has suggested that infants may even detect the smell of the secretions, helping direct them to the breast to latch onto for feeding. The number of bumps varies from person to person. Some may have just a few, while others may have dozens.

The bumps sometimes become more prominent when the nipple is stimulated or during pregnancy and breastfeeding. (The bumps, as well as the rest of the nipple, may become a darker, more intense shade during pregnancy and breastfeeding, too.) In general, you should leave these bumps alone—they’re nothing to worry about. But if a bump looks inflamed or is painful, it’s possible that a gland is infected or clogged, and you should get it checked out by your doctor, who can prescribe antibiotics or drain the gland if necessary.


Having More Sex Can Boost Your Career, Says Science

New research suggests a healthy sex life could lead to better engagement at work.

Is Oral Sex A Dealbreaker?

On this segment of ESSENCE Live, we answer one viewers question about having oral sex with her partner. It’s important to feel comfortable being open and honest about what you are and aren’t willing to do sexually.

In case you need an extra excuse to get busy tonight, new research from Oregon State University suggests an active sex life at home many actually improve your satisfaction and engagement at work.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Management, included 159 married employees. Each day for two weeks, the participants completed surveys about their sex habits and mood.

After analyzing the responses, researchers found that when people had sex with their partners, they reported better moods the next day, and as a result, were more likely to enjoy and immerse themselves in their tasks. “We make jokes about people having a ‘spring in their step,’ but it turns out this is actually a real thing and we should pay attention to it,” said lead researcher Keith Leavitt, an associate professor at OSU’s College of Business, in a press release.

The study also revealed that on the flip side, bringing work stress home can have a negative impact on a person’s sex-life. The effect was true for both men and women, even after researchers controlled for marriage satisfaction and quality of sleep.

The notion that getting lucky at night can lead to a better tomorrow isn’t terribly surprising, because we know sex is a great mood booster (thanks, dopamine!). But more research is needed on how your time between the sheets affects your time behind your desk.

Leavitt is optimistic the new findings will have a positive impact on the way we value a healthy sex life. “This is a reminder that sex has social, emotional, and physiological benefits, and it’s important to make it a priority,” he said. “Making a more intentional effort to maintain a healthy sex life should be considered an issue of human sustainability, and as a result, a potential career advantage.”

In fact, he hopes employers will take note and do their part to create better work-life balance. But until our bosses start implementing sex breaks (like one town in Sweden is considering), it certainly can’t hurt to test out Leavitt’s advice on your own time. You know, in the name of work productivity.

Access To Most Effective Birth Control Could Save $12 Billion A Year: Study

Research suggests that increased access to highly effective contraception could save the U.S. billions.

In recent decades the U.S. has seen a drop in the rate of unintended pregnancies, thanks in part to women using more effective and long-acting birth control methods, like the IUD or the implant. Still, about half of pregnancies are unintended, and a new report from the nonprofit Child Trends suggests there’s a way that could drop even further: if all women in the U.S. had access to the most effective contraceptives. The cost savings from that drop? About $12 billion in public health care costs each year, according to the new analysis.

The report used a simulation model developed by the Brookings Institution to see what would happen if all the women in the U.S. had access to the full spectrum of birth control options. To create the model, the researchers used results from a 2015 study on birth control access by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). The new report was commissioned by Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

In a 2015 study, which was published in the journal The Lancet, USCF researchers looked at 40 Planned Parenthood clinics across the country. Half of the clinics had people on staff who had been trained on insertion of IUDs or progestin implants; the other half did not, and the study found that when women went to the former, they were more likely to select a long-acting contraceptive method like the IUD or the implant, and they were less likely to become pregnant.

The Child Trends researchers used those findings to simulate what would happen if all American women had the same access to highly effective contraceptives. They found if women used the most effective forms of contraception there would be a 64% drop in unintended pregnancies, a 63% drop in unintended births, a 67% drops in abortions, and a savings of $12 billion a year in public health care costs.

“Improving women’s access to and use of effective contraception can be linked to a whole host of positive outcomes,” says Jennifer Manlove, director of reproductive health and family formation at Child Trends.

The new report is not the first to suggest that greater access to contraceptives saves money. In a 2015 report, the Guttmacher Institute—a research and policy organization focused on reproductive health—reported that unintended pregnancies cost American taxpayers $21 billion each year.

“We’re at a thirty-year low for unintended pregnancy, and the number of abortions is also at a record low—and it’s because of improved access to effective birth control,” says Raegan McDonald-Mosley, chief medical officer of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

4 Times Your Vagina Needs To See A Doctor ASAP

These gynecological symptoms could be actual emergencies.

Luckily for us, many below-the-belt issues aren’t super serious. That sour-y smell? Meh, vaginas can smell like that. Some pain during sex? Don’t panic—it’s pretty common, and may be only temporary.

But there are certain gynecological symptoms that require attention ASAP. Wondering if your issue falls into the take-care-of-this-stat category? There are two major things to consider, says Michael Krychman, MD, director of The Southern California Center for Sexual Health and Survivorship in Newport Beach, California: The severity of the pain, and how quickly it developed.

Below are four symptoms you should get checked out sooner rather than later.

It “burns” when you pee, and your discharge looks … different

Some vaginal discharge is totally normal—but if you notice a significant difference in its color, odor, or consistency, that could be a red flag. “Women are used to their own cycle,” Dr. Krychman says, “so when that starts changing, it’s an indication that something could be wrong.”

Dr. Krychman also points out that it’s hard to self-diagnose what’s causing abnormal discharge: “More often than not, [people make the wrong] assessment,” he says. “They try and treat it themselves, and wind up with an infection.” A few possible culprits include a yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis (an overgrowth of normal vaginal bacteria), or chlamydia—a sexually-transmitted bacterial infection, and the most commonly reported infectious disease in the United States. Chlamydia should be treated right away because the infection can spread to your uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes within a few days or weeks, causing pelvic inflammatory disease and possibly infertility.

Your vagina is swollen and really itchy

These symptoms could be triggered by anything from a bubble bath, to menopause, to a yeast infection. And often times, it’s no big deal. On the other hand, you might have trichomoniasis, an STD that’s caused by a parasite. That sounds scary, but according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s “the most common curable STD.” Only about 30% of people will have any symptoms, but the most common ones in women are irritation, burning, redness, and soreness.

Trichomoniasis is diagnosed with a lab test, and treated with a single dose of a prescription antibiotic. Make sure your partner gets checked out too, so you avoid re-infecting each other. Not only can trichomoniasis make sex more painful, but it can also trigger problems during pregnancy and make you more susceptible to other STDs.

You bleed after sex

Up to 9% of premenopausal women may experience post-coital bleeding (which is bleeding after sex that’s not related to their period) according to a 2014 review in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology International. The good news is that for most women, the problem will go away within 6 months. But since post-coital bleeding is also a common symptom of both cervical cancer and vaginal cancer, your doctor might want to rule out the big C with a biopsy. Other culprits include endometriosis and benign cervical polyps.

There’s a bump down there that hurts

As a general rule, you should call your ob-gyn if you can feel a lump inside (or sticking out of) your vagina. Fortunately most cysts (if that’s what it is) are pretty harmless, and probably won’t even need treatment. But if you have what’s called a Bartholin cyst or abscess—a buildup of pus in the glands that flank the vaginal opening—you may develop a painful infection that could make it hard to walk or sit. Soaking in a warm bath might help you feel better, but you may also need to get the cyst drained via an in-office surgical procedure.