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Gonorrhoea (sometimes called ‘the clap’, ‘drip’ or ‘a dose’) is a bacterial sexually transmitted infection (STI). Gonorrhoea can infect the cervix, anus, throat, urethra, and eyes. It is transmitted through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex, open-mouth kissing, or through infected body fluids entering the eye. Gonorrhoea can be treated with antibiotics, though some strains are resistant to some antibiotics. Gonorrhoea will not go away without treatment. 

If left untreated, gonorrhoea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and infertility. It can also cause permanent damage to the eyes, joints, heart or brain.

Signs and Symptoms

Content warning: click to show images of symptoms

Gonorrhoea is often asymptomatic, especially in people with vaginas. If symptoms do occur, it will usually happen within 2 to 7 days of exposure, but can take up to 2 weeks. 







Gonorrhoea is mainly transmitted through vaginal, anal or oral sex, or through infected body fluid getting into the eyes. Gonorrhoea can be transmitted via: 

  • Unprotected/”natural” oral, vaginal or anal sex
  • There is some evidence to suggest that a high proportion (~80%) of gonorrhoea transmissions are from kissing. 
  • Mutual masturbation and fingering or fisting without gloves
  • Sharing sex toys without using condoms
  • Semen or vaginal fluids entering the eyes during sex, or touching your eyes when you have infected body fluid on your hands
  • Docking or nudging genitals without condoms
  • Parent to baby during birth

Gonorrhoea can be transmitted even when the person with gonorrhoea has no symptoms. You cannot get gonorrhoea from toilets, swimming pools, spas or everyday contact with people.


As gonorrhoea is often asymptomatic, regular sexual health screening is highly recommended. You can view a list of sex worker-friendly sexual health clinics at our Where To Test page.

Additional ways to prevent gonorrhoea transmission include:

  • Use condoms for vaginal and anal sex.
  • Use condoms for oral sex/blow jobs. 
  • Avoid touching the genitals or eyes if your hands have come in contact with body fluids.
  • Change condoms between vaginal or anal sex and blow jobs to avoid spreading a potential infection to your throat.
  • Use condoms on toys if you are sharing them. Change condoms between partners or when moving them from one body part to another (for example, the vagina to the mouth). 
  • Point the penis away from the face during Spanish or hand relief to prevent semen from getting in the eyes.
  • There is increasing evidence that DFK (deep kissing) can also transmit gonorrhoea of the throat. Regular throat swabs are recommended if you provide this service.
  • A good way to tell if a client with a penis has gonorrhoea is to ‘milk’ the penis (before they shower or go to the toilet). Gently squeeze the penis along the shaft and if a thick discharge appears, it may be gonorrhoea. Find out how to perform a sexual health check on a client here.
  • Hold the base of the condom when withdrawing, so semen doesn’t spill out.

Important update on the ‘mouthwash study’ 

We have previously provided information on the first phase of the OMEGA study, which researched whether gargling with Listerine had any impact on oropharyngeal (throat) transmission of gonorrhoea. Kissing 

The final stage of the OMEGA study determined that is no conclusive evidence that gargling with mouthwash will prevent transmission of gonorrhoea to the throat. If further study is conducted on this topic that provides different findings, we will update this resource. 


Because gonorrhoea may not show symptoms, testing is a good way to help detect it. Here’s some information about testing for gonorrhoea. You can view a list of sex worker-friendly sexual health clinics at our Where To Test page.

Testing Method

When to Test

Other Info


Gonorrhoea is very treatable, and treatment is necessary – gonorrhoea doesn’t go away by itself. Here’s what you need to know about treating it.   

Treatment Method/s

Costs and Other Information 

How might this impact my work? 

Practical Considerations

Legal and Reporting Considerations

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