Demystifying Misconceptions About STIs
The conversation about sexually transmitted infections is never an easy one. Still, it’s an important conversation to have. You might be surprised by how many people are sexually active, but there are all sorts of studies available on the internet to show just how many of us are involved in sexual relationships. A study in 2018, for example, said that 40% of adults between the ages of 65 to 80 are sexually active. Another survey showed that the average adult in the U.S. has interourse a little more than once a week. People in their twenties and thirties may be having more than that–much more, in some cases.
And then there is the data about monogamy. At least a third of American adults surveyed admitted that their current relationship is non-monogamous–at least to some degree. Whether that’s with or without the awareness and consent of their partner is neither here nor there.
There are a lot of misconceptions floating around about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and diseases (STDs). Many myths about STIs are a consequence of stereotypical, shame-based thinking making open discussions about this subject awkward or uncomfortable. Consequently, candid conversations about sex-related disorders don’t happen nearly as often as they should.
In reality, there is nothing to be ashamed of and no room for embarrassment or hasty judgments when it comes to STIs. These are serious health conditions and the more facts we have about STIs the better we can protect ourselves, our partners, and stop the spread of STIs in society. In the spirit of prevention and awareness, here are answers to the top misconceptions about STIs.
Think of this topic on a health-and-wellness level, just like you’d discuss blood pressure, anxiety, or migraines with your doctor.
What’s the Difference Between STIs and STDs?
Although the terms are used interchangeably, STIs and STDs are not the same. After years of stigma attached to the word ‘disease’ in STD, it was replaced with STI (infection) in hopes to reduce fear-based ideas about the concept of disease. Other than nomenclature, the big difference between an STI and STD is that an STI is recognized as a disease when it causes symptoms. While infections can lead to disease, most sexually transmitted conditions begin as infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, or trichomoniasis.
Debunking Common Misconceptions About STIs
Now that we’ve established what an STI is, let’s break down some common myths about sexually transmitted infections and get to the real truth so we can dispel these misconceptions once and for all.
- Only homosexual activity causes STIs
False. STIs do not discriminate. Anyone is susceptible to STIs, regardless of age, gender, race, or sexual preference. If you are sexually active and having unprotected sex, you are at risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections.
- The pill is proper protection against getting an STI
False. The pill, known as birth control, has nothing to do with sexually transmitted infections. It is a contraception that reduces the chances of becoming pregnant and in no way protects you or your partner from STIs
- I don’t need to worry about STIs because I’m in a monogamous relationship
False. While being in a long-term relationship with only one partner may reduce the chances of getting an STI, it does not protect either of you completely. Many symptoms of STIs do not manifest in obvious ways, so while you’re in a monogamous relationship, you or your partner may have an STI and not be aware of it. Your best option is to get yourself and your partner screened for STIs. Ideally, testing should be done before engaging in sexual activity with your partner. You can learn more about STI screening on HologicWomensHealth.com.
- 4. Abstinence is the only way to prevent getting STIs
True and False. Celibacy is indeed the best way to avoid sexually transmitted infections. However, it is not the only option available. Correct and consistent use of condoms and practicing safe sex habits can also reduce the chances of contracting STIs.
- Condoms are 100% reliable when protecting myself from STIs
False. Although condoms are effective, they do not entirely guarantee your safety from getting an STI. Some issues that reduce condom efficacy include improper application and/or removal of the condom and potential tears or rips in the condom. Condoms can also dry out if exposed to excessive heat or light, making them less effective. Check the expiration on condoms too as they can lose their functionality and become less reliable over time. This may seem obvious, but do not reuse condoms. Apply a new one each time you engage in sexual activity.
A Few More Facts About Sexually Transmitted Infections You Should Know
As mentioned, STIs don’t always display obvious symptoms, so it’s important to get tested. Tests for STIs are not painful and most are as simple as taking a urine sample. Sometimes your doctor may draw blood for more extensive testing, or do a visual examination. In some cases, you may have access to a home testing kit and you can send your sample to a lab for analysis, after which you will receive notification of your STI test results.
If you have been tested positive for an STI, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. It is rare for an STI to go away on its own, and they are commonly treated with antibiotics. If left untreated, an STI may develop into a serious disease, cause complications to pregnancies, or may even lead to infertility.
While most STIs can be cured with medical treatment when detected in the early stages, some sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV do not have a cure. Consequently, your best option to avoid STIs and STDs is to always adhere to proper hygiene practices if you are sexually active. In other words, keep yourself and your partner safe and stop the spread of sexually transmitted infections by always engaging in safe sex practices.