Disinformation is running rampant in a world where you have 24/7 access to content both reliable and unreliable alike. It can be hard to know what sources to trust. When it comes to topics like healthcare, incorrect information can be dangerous, especially when it comes to your sexual health.
Arming yourself with truthful information is power. For example, it’s important to not believe what you read or hear about sexually transmitted infections from just any source. Make sure when you have questions about STIs, you’re getting answers from your doctor or credible news outlets.
If you’re going to protect yourself and your sexual partners, you need to know the facts. There are a lot of myths out there. Here are five things about STIs that aren’t true.
1. STIs Are Obvious
STIs are often hard to detect. Many people who have them show no signs or symptoms but can easily transmit them to other people.
Although some people with STIs have symptoms including discharge, sores, or pain, many don’t. Testing is the only way to know if you or your partner has one. Once you know for sure, you can treat the STI and take precautions to avoid spreading it.
Talking about them can be uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t be embarrassing. According to Nurx, STIs are common, and confidential treatment is easily accessible. In fact, there are discreet online options for many STIs, including genital herpes treatment at home.
Genital herpes is the most common STI among sexually active people, and most infected people have no symptoms. Instead of assuming you don’t have an STI, assume you do and get tested. If you are positive, treatment can be quiet but speak volumes about your resolve to be informed and responsible.
2. Only Certain People Get STIs
STIs don’t discriminate according to race, gender, age, socioeconomic status, education, partner choice, sexual preferences, or even hygiene practices. They are, in fact, phenomenally unbiased. And the numbers are staggering.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 1 million STIs are transmitted every day. More than 500 million people have genital herpes. Some 376 million are infected with gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, or trichomoniasis every year.
The only common characteristic among everyone who has an STI is that they are sexually active. Furthermore, “sexually active” includes any type of sexual contact with someone else. That includes vaginal, oral, anal, sexual skin-to-skin contact, or even sharing sex toys.
STIs are either bacterial or viral and are easily transmitted through tiny tears or cuts in the skin. Some, such as genital herpes, can be transmitted when an infected sore comes into contact with skin. Neither bacteria nor virus cares about who you are or how many times you’ve had sex.
3. An STI Will Go Away on Its Own
If you have experienced symptoms from an STI and they disappear, it’s easy to believe the infection simply went away. However, even with curable STIs like gonorrhea and chlamydia, the bacteria can be latent for a period of time. That doesn’t mean it has been eradicated.
Nearly every sexually active person will contract the human papillomavirus at some time in their lives. In most cases, HPV will resolve itself within two years. When it doesn’t, it can cause cancers of the cervix, vagina, vulva, penis, anus, and throat.
Bacterial STIs can be cured. Although viral STIs like genital herpes and HIV cannot be cured, they can be treated effectively. STIs that are left untreated can cause serious health and fertility issues, or even lead to death.
STI vaccines, treatments, and cures have come a very long way. Nonetheless, it’s vital that you get tested for STIs and treat them. Doing so may save you from numerous other health issues and even save your life.
4. Birth Control Protects Against STIs
Birth control is designed to defend against conception. It does nothing to protect either partner from STIs.
The condom is the only exception to this rule. But as with the efficacy of any birth control method protecting against pregnancy, it’s not infallible. Even at that, condoms can only protect against certain types of STIs.
Condoms don’t provide adequate protection from STIs transmitted through skin-to-skin contact because they don’t cover all skin. They are effective protection against bacterial STIs, such as chlamydia. Just remember that small tears or a condom malfunction are possibilities.
Most birth control methods are highly effective ways to prevent pregnancy. They target eggs and sperm, not viruses and bacteria. A condom is the only one that may do double duty for some STIs some of the time.
5. You Can Only Get an STI Once
Remember that incurable, viral STIs are with you for life. You may be treating HIV, genital herpes, or Hepatitis B, which may control symptoms and long-term damage. But none of them are curable.
Second, know that using antibiotics to treat bacterial infections like gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia, will cure them. But you’re still susceptible to getting these infections again and again. Moreover, damage to reproductive organs may be worse in subsequent infections.
People may fail to finish a full course of antibiotics because they go straight to work, quickly eliminating symptoms. Not completing the course of antibiotics increases your risk for relapse. It also increases your risk of developing a bacterial strain resistant to the antibiotic.
You can and will get some STIs more than once, so protect yourself. Any STI can be transmitted at any time whether it’s the first time you’ve been infected or not.
These are just a few of the myths about STIs. There are many more, such as you can get one from a public toilet seat. (You can’t.) Or that you won’t get one if you have sex in a hot tub. (You can.)
Just make sure you get your information from a reliable source so you don’t fall victim to rumor and innuendo. Above all, protect yourself, get tested regularly, and follow through with treatment for any STIs you contract. After all, forewarned is forearmed.