5 Myths Most People Believe About STIs
There are a lot of myths about sexually transmitted infections and diseases that linger among our Houston neighbors despite many efforts by the CDC and other state and national health associations to help spread awareness about the truth of sexual health and STIs. It’s important to be able to sort out the myths from the truth and understand how to protect yourself and your partners from sexually transmitted infections and the various temporary and even permanent symptoms that accompany them.
In this article we’ll go over 5 of the most common myths people believe about STIs and reveal the truth of the matter for each one!
MYTH: You’ll Know If You Have An STI Because You’ll See The Symptoms
FACT: Despite what many people believe about sexually transmitted infections, they are not guaranteed to come with warning symptoms. As a matter of fact, for many individuals who have contracted the infection from a sexual partner, the infection can rage silently long before symptoms arise. And often when symptoms do appear it’s because the infection has spread or evolved into a much more serious condition.
It’s important to understand that STIs are not something actually associated with dirty sexual habits or poor hygiene, they can be carried and passed through normal interactions between otherwise healthy sexual partners.
STIs/STDs that you could have without symptoms include:
If you are sexually active and don’t have the symptoms of an STI the CDC suggests you get tested regularly to make sure you haven’t contracted an infection without symptoms.
Women who are younger than 25 should be tested for Gonorrhea and Chlamydia every year. Women who are older than 25 and have new or multiple sexual partners in a year or a partner who has an STI should be tested every year for Gonorrhea and Chlamydia.
Sexually active gay and bisexual men should be tested yearly for syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea and may benefit from being tested more regularly (3 to 6 months) for HIV.
Obviously, no matter your gender or sexual orientation, if you have the symptoms of an STI it is important to get in to your doctor so you can be tested and treated right away to avoid further spreading the infection or complications.
MYTH: You Can’t Get an STI Through Oral Sex
FACT: Sexually Transmitted Infections aren’t picky, they are not restrained to ONLY the genital area of the body. Additionally, STIs can be contracted simply through skin-to-skin contact, not just via sexual fluids. While they are most commonly contracted and spread through sexual intercourse, the reality is that they are caused by bacteria or viruses which can easily be passed from the genitals to many other areas of the body.
Individuals who have had oral sex with a partner who’s carrying an STI often contract that infection in their mouth or throat, and interestingly, it can go the other way as well. Cold sores are caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus and individuals who have cold sores around their mouth can spread the herpes virus to their partner’s genitals during oral sex.
It is best to be very careful about these infections and use a condom or mouth dam every time you have oral sex if you want to be completely safe from infection.
Learn more about STI/STDs risks and Oral Sex from the CDC Oral Sex fact sheet.
MYTH: All STIs are Curable
FACT: The truth is fairly short and sweet, sadly no, not all STIs are curable. As a matter of fact, while we can treat and cure bacterial infections through antibiotics, we can only manage the symptoms of viral infections. If you contract a viral STI such as Genital Herpes, HPV or HIV, you will be managing it for the rest of your life.
MYTH: You Can’t Get an STI if You Use a Condom
FACT: Many individuals do not understand how sexually transmitted infections are spread and believe such things can only pass through the fluids excreted during sexual intercourse, however, the truth is very different. STIs can be passed through simple skin to skin contact and often the infection is not contained just within the penis or vagina but also infects the surrounding areas.
Yes, using a condom does help decrease the transmission of sexually transmitted infections the most effective protection is to practice restraint, limit the number of sexual partners you have, and get tested regularly.
MYTH: You Can Only Get One STI at a Time
FACT: While it is a completely understandable wish, the truth is that having an STI does not protect you from getting another STI. As a matter of fact, the opposite is a lot more likely since STIs compromise your current immunity and sexual health you become more susceptible to contracting an STI if you already HAVE and STI.
This is called co-infection and it is a real danger, especially when it comes to specific STIs. For example, Chlamydia and Gonorrhea are particularly fond of occurring together and are discovered through the same tests. The Virginia Department of Health estimates that between 40 and 50 percent of individuals who have Gonorrhea will also have Chlamydia. Perhaps the good news here is that these two infections can be treated with the same antibiotics, so you can take care of them at the same time.
The most famous co-infection of all happens to be HIV and any other STI. This is because HIV attacks the immune system which makes it very hard for the individual with HIV to fight off additional infections.
Finally, having had an infection once does not mean you are immune to that infection, as a matter of fact, you can contract the same sexually transmitted infection multiple times.
If you are worried about your sexual health and concerned you or a partner might have an STI come down to our Angels Medical Houston or Pasadena branches and let our experienced and knowledgeable staff get you tested so that you can have peace of mind today and going forward.
Learn the facts about STIs and be protected against them with the help of the CDC’s STD/STI fact sheets that can be found here. If you have additional concerns about being tested, check out our article, “Why Is It Important to Get Tested For STIs?”.