Top Myths About Sexually Transmitted Infections
Sexually Transmitted Infections: they’re discussed in sex ed class and not much elsewhere. Even though sexually transmitted infections, or STIs, (also referred to as sexually transmitted diseases or STDs) are not uncommon among people who are sexually active, there’s a lot of shame and misinformation surrounding these conditions. Let’s break down some of the more common myths.
Myth: If you don’t have a rash/bumps/etc. you’re “clean.”
Reality: One of the reasons that STIs are so prevalent is that they can be symptom-less. People who contract them are often young and otherwise healthy. For example, many people contract and clear HPV (human papillomavirus) without ever knowing it was in their system. However, in addition to the fact that you can easily spread an STI to a sexual partner if you’re not aware that you have one, STIs can develop into more serious medical conditions, so it’s important to catch and treat them early. That’s one of the reasons why you should regularly get yourself tested for STIs.
Myth: You can’t get an STI if you have a clean bill of health.
Reality: This is false. STIs do not discriminate when it comes to healthy or sick bodies. They do not indicate “dirtiness” or promiscuity, and there are no medical conditions that make one person more prone to STIs than another. In fact, a major risk factor for STIs is youth: young people are far more likely to contract STIs than older people. While having sex with multiple partners is another risk factor for STIs, it’s possible to contract an STI from a single sexual experience, regardless of your overall state of health.
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Myth: You can’t get an STI from oral or anal sex.
Reality: Think you’re removing the risk by only having oral or anal sex? Think again. The viruses and bacteria that cause sexually transmitted diseases don’t just go for the genitals. They can be spread through imperceptible cuts in the mouth and anus, as well. Some STIs, like genital warts and herpes, can be contracted from skin-to-skin contact alone, if you are exposed to an infected area.
Myth: All STIs are curable.
Reality: Unfortunately, this is also not true, which means you could contract an STI that will have an impact on you for the rest of your life. While bacterial STIs, like chlamydia and gonorrhea, can be cured with a round of antibiotics, viral STIs, like genital herpes and HPV, will be present in your body forever. In the case of viral STIs, the treatment focuses on managing outbreaks and symptoms, but you’ll always run the risk of passing it to others via unprotected sex.
The only way to protect yourself from STIs is by using a male or female condom. We’ll repeat that: the only way to protect yourself from STIs by using a male or female condom. While birth control methods like the pill, patch or ring will protect you from pregnancy, they will not protect you from STIs and STDs, so it’s important to take precaution every time you have sex. It’s also important to talk to your partner about STIs, even if the subject feels awkward to bring up. Open communication is key to having a healthy (and happy) sexual relationship with your partner.
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