These are 10 common STD myths and facts regarding STD contraction and prevention. These aren’t the only myths, but they’re some of the most common STD fallacies amongst young people. Did you know that 6 in 10 women living with chlamydia don’t even know it? Remember to stay safe, always use protection, and be honest with your sexual partners.
There are many options in dealing with and STI or STD, and most infections are curable if treated properly. If you’re showing symptoms, get tested immediately for the best possible outcome. Thanks to the internet, you can order an at-home STD test kit today and avoid the embarrassment and expense of going into a clinic to get tested.
Most Common STD Myths and Facts
1. Myth: Condoms are 100% effective in preventing STD transmission.
Fact: Condoms are 98% effective at preventing pregnancy when used correctly. They are only 85% effective taking human error into account (i.e. when the condom bursts, the people who put them on wrong, etc). However, STDs like “herpes, HPV, and pubic lice are easily passed by oral sex,” says Dr. McDonald-Mosley – and as we all know, oral sex usually doesn’t involve the use of a condom.
Condoms are most effective in preventing STIs which are transmitted directly through bodily fluids.
If you have heterosexual sex with a condom, you are 80% less likely to contract HIV, however they do not help as much with the contraction of herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), or syphilis which are spread via skin-to-skin contact. Usually a condom does not cover the infected area, so it cannot offer protection.
2. Myth: Most people will tell you if they have an STD or STI.
Fact: Most people who have contracted an STD don’t know it. There are many reasons for this. Maybe they think they have a urinary tract infection or yeast infection. Maybe they were only with one sexual partner in a monogamous relationship and the partner was unfaithful. Maybe they’ve procrastinated getting tested due to the sheer embarrassment of having an STD. Or more often, they aren’t showing any symptoms. The most common symptom of all STIs is no symptom at all.
STDs and STIs are asymptomatic by nature, on occasion displaying mild symptoms that go unnoticed and are easily mistaken for something else. Even early-stage HIV symptoms. Most people with an STI or STD are unaware that they have one.
Even though most sexually transmitted diseases are asymptomatic or exhibiting mild symptoms, they’re still transmittable to others. Each individual’s body responds differently to an STD, so the disease could be passed to 3 or 4 people before anyone begins showing symptoms. Once the symptoms are recognizable, they can wreak havoc internally for a long time before they’re caught and treated. Untreated asymptomatic STDs pose long-term health threats like liver damage (Hepatitis is most common for this), and worse, infertility (Chlamydia and gonorrhea are usually the responsible parties).
3. Myth: You can avoid STDs by having oral or anal sex.
Fact: Where there’s sex (oral, anal, vaginal, or even just sexual contact), there can be an STD. Though the risk of contracting an STD through oral sex is generally lower than having vaginal or anal sex, there is still a ton of risk when dealing with an infected individual. Infections that spread more easily through oral sex are herpes, gonorrhoea, and syphilis. Infections that spread less easily through oral sex are chlamydia, and HIV. They’re both pretty bad, so you should always use protection and get tested if you are sexually active. A great way to protect yourself during oral sex is to use a condom, but a condom will not protect you from any exposed areas that are infected (ie. the groin, penis shaft, etc).
4. Myth: You can die from an STD.
Fact: You cannot die from an STD, but you can die from the internal damage caused by harboring an untreated STD. As mentioned above, most people with STDs do not not know they are living with them because they don’t usually cause symptoms. A carrier or host of the STD may look and feel completely healthy.
However, the most common “deaths caused by STDs” are found in the alarming infant mortality rates. Reproductive mortality generally results from three things: deaths related to pregnancy, contraception, and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
In 1955, deaths due to STDs accounted for 32% of all reproductive mortality in the United States. Untreated bacterial infections in women result in pelvic inflammatory disease in about 40% of these infected women. Furthermore, 1 in 3 of these women will experience infertility. Pelvic inflammatory disease, bacterial infections from untreated syphilis (bacterial infections damage the brain, heart, and nervous system), and cervical cancer result in more deaths than all reproductive causes of death combined. See #2 for common causes of death related to STDs.
5. Myth: You don’t need to worry about STDs because you’re in a relationship.
Fact: There is no way to verify if your partner has been unfaithful. Furthermore, many people living with STDs have not shown symptoms, and thus, have not been tested. If your partner has had previous sexual partners, but hasn’t shown any symptoms, they still need to get tested. It’s advisable to get tested regularly if you are sexually active.
6. Myth: If your partner has an STD, you’ll know it.
Fact: There’s usually no sign that an infected male has an STD, and sometimes females won’t show symptoms either. Symptoms can also arise several months or even years later. I can’t tell you how many women I’ve met who struggled with fertility after a few wild years where they contracted an STD.
Even doctors often can’t tell by looking at people whether they’ve contracted an STD. I once went to the doctor to get tested after having a threesome and showing numerous symptoms of chlamydia. The doctor was certain that I had it, and proceeded to treat me before the results came back. In 2 weeks time, my results came back clear. The inverse of this is more common.
Blood work and saliva/vaginal swabs are often the only way to know for sure if someone has contracted an STD.
Contrary to popular belief, physical cleanliness and looking “put together” are not indicators of infection whatsoever. Maintaining good hygiene is important to help safeguard against illness, but have little to do with STD prevention. Douching after sex or brushing your teeth kissing actually make you more susceptible to contracting and STD.
7. Myth: If you’re STD-free, your partner doesn’t need to get tested.
Fact: Your partner could have contracted an STD from you or a previous/simultaneous partner, even if neither of you is showing symptoms. The body can host this disease for a short time after sex, even if you test clean a few weeks later. It’s not a romantic conversation, but nothing feels better than a clean bill of health – not even feeling “clean” sexually. Avoid STDs abstinence, but if you do have sex, use a condom and get tested.
8. Myth: If you have sex in a hot tub or pool, the chlorine or heat will kill any STD you might catch.
Fact: Not sure who came up with this one! Although I can understand why you might think high temperatures will hinder a viruses ability to remain active as temperature can expedite the aging and expiration of most living organisms. However, the temperature of the water or the amount of chlorine in the hot tub is unlikely to kill sperm or prevent STD contraction.
If anything, a warm and most environment will encourage the body to host bacteria for longer. Having sex in a hot tub can also pose additional threats to your health. If you have a yeast infection, sex in a hot tub will make it worse. The same goes for a UTI, and bacterial vaginosis. The risk of contracting a bacterial infection is actually increased by having penetrative sex in water. The same can be said for sexually transmitted diseases contracted through unprotected sex in water.
9. Myth: You can catch STDs from a toilet.
Fact: It is very VERY unlikely that you catch something from sitting on a dirty toilet seat. There’s nothing worse than walking into a public restroom and finding a seat covered in urine because someone thought sitting down would increase the risk of contracting herpes. STDs are called SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES because their primary mode of transmission is through sexual intercourse, and vaginal, anal, or oral penetration of the genitals. Some STIs that can be contracted through casual contact, like scabies and pubic lice.
But largely, parasitic bacteria aren’t able to survive outside the body. Especially on surfaces, or fabric, in sustained hot or cool temperatures, etc. The only reason scabies and lice stay alive are because they can cling onto bath towels, clothing, and sheets, but not toilets.
10. Myth: You can only catch herpes when the other person is having an outbreak.
Fact: You can catch herpes even if the infected person isn’t showing any symptoms.Herpes is spread by direct contact of mucous membranes (in your genitals and mouth) with a person who has a herpes infection. It can happen while kissing, performing or receiving oral, anal, or vaginal sex.
It’s most likely to spread if the infected person has an active blister, or open sore. However, in rare cases, it can be spread if the host doesn’t have any symptoms. There is no risk of becoming infected with Herpes after touching a door knob, sitting on a dirty toilet seat, using dirty utensils, drinking out of a glass, sharing lipstick, using a spoiled towel, or sleeping in bed sheets with an infected person.
Bonus Myth: Only gay men contract HIV and spread it on the DL.
Fact: HIV or Aids is generally transmitted through sexual intercourse with an infected person. Anyone who is sexually active with a partner who has HIV is at risk of contracting the disease, no matter your sexual preference. However, men are disproportionately affected by HIV contracted through unprotected anal sex. But this virus can be contracted through heterosexual sex, anal, oral, and lesbian sex.