It's no secret that there is a lot of misinformation around sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). In fact, this is one of the most widely talked about topics online. People rely on information from the internet to learn about STDs, and it can be difficult to determine what is true and what is false.
That's why HeHealth is here to help! In this article, we will debunk some common myths about STDs and provide the facts behind them. We hope that this information will help you make informed decisions about your sexual health!
Myth 1: Taking oral contraceptives = I won’t get STDs
The truth is....oral contraceptives are taken to prevent pregnancy (that's why it's also called birth control) - they don't work for preventing STD infections!
The most effective way to protect yourself from STDs (and pregnancy) is using male and female condoms correctly every time you have sex (including oral sex).
You can find out more about how to use condoms correctly here.
Myth 2: Double the condom = double the protection
The truth is....NO!!
Firstly, as mentioned above, using condoms during sexual activity does not 100% eliminate the chances of you contracting STDs. (CDC, 2021) Secondly, using two condoms together at once actually increases the chances of it breaking, which in turn creates a greater chance of getting STDs.
Myth 3: Using the pull-out method prevents me from getting STDs
The truth is....pulling out is also known as withdrawal, is when the penis is withdrawn out before ejaculation during sex. This method does not protect you against STDs! (CDC, 2017)
Some STDs, like herpes and genital warts, can be spread through skin-to-skin contact. And other STDs like chlamydia, syphilis, or gonorrhea can be carried in pre-ejaculate (a small amount of fluid released during sexual arousal and before ejaculation). So if you are going to have sex, the best way to prevent STDs is by using condoms correctly every time you have sex.
Myth 4: I'm safe from STDs because there's no penetrative sex
The truth is....penetrative sex is not the only way you can get STDs. These infectious particles can live on any internal or external skin or in bodily fluids, meaning certain STDs can be spread as long as there's skin-to-skin contact.
As long as you are having sexual activities, like oral, vaginal, or anal sex, sharing of sex toys, deep kissing, or skin-to-skin genital contact etc., STDs transmission is highly possible. (NHS, 2018. CDC, 2021) To top that off, certain STDs can also be transmitted through sharing of needles or when you are exposed to blood that is STD positive.
Myth 5: Being in a monogamous relationship means I don’t have to worry about STDs
This seems to be one of the most common misconceptions amongst couples. In fact, regardless of how many (or few) partner(s) you have had sex with, there will always be a chance of catching an STD. This includes couples who are having penetrative sex for the first time or being involved in any other type of sexual activity with their new partner(s). Therefore, we strongly encourage you to get tested for STDs if you have been sexually active!
So while being in a monogamous relationship does decrease your risk for contracting an STD, it's not a guarantee that you will not get one.
Myth 6: STDs can only be transmitted when symptoms are shown
The truth is....it was found and explained by WHO that majority of STDs have either no or mild symptoms (WHO, 2021). Due to this little to no signs of STDs when one has it, it is often overlooked by many and this has led to an increase in STD transmission. That's why it's important to get tested regularly and use barrier methods such as condoms to reduce the risk of catching an STD.
Myth 7: Only individuals who belong to the LGBTQ+ community will contract HIV
The truth is....STDs do not discriminate. (read more about HIV transmission here) Any individual, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, or any other factors, can still acquire STDs, including HIV.
In fact, according to UNAIDS (2020), sex workers and their clients, gay men and other men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, transgender people and the sexual partners of these populations accounted for 65% of HIV infections globally. This means 35% of the HIV infections falls out of these populations.
If you wish to learn more about HIV, you can watch this video.
Myth 8: My annual health checkup results are always great, so STD testing is not needed
The truth is....not all places include STD testing in their standard check-up packages. In fact, STD testing isn't always available in every clinics. As mentioned above, not everyone will show symptoms even when they are infected, that's why it's always best to ask for STD testing. Additionally, multiple different STD tests may sometimes be required to be done in order to cover the various different types of STDs.
Taking action is key: Get yourself tested!
Now that these misconceptions have been cleared and there’s a better understanding of how you can contract STDs and how to prevent them, the next big step is to get you and your partner(s) tested for STD!
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Condom fact sheet in brief. Retrieved April 9, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/condomeffectiveness/brief.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). Coitus interruptus (Withdrawal). Retrieved April 9, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/contraception/mmwr/mec/appendixh.html
NHS. (2018). Sex activities and risk. Retrieved April 9, 2022, from https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sexual-health/sex-activities-and-risk/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). STD diseases & related conditions. Retrieved April 9, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/std/general/default.htm
World Health Organization. (2021). Sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Retrieved April 9, 2022, from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/sexually-transmitted-infections-(stis)
UNAIDS. (n.d.). HIV and AIDS - Basic facts. Retrieved April 9, 2022, from https://www.unaids.org/en/frequently-asked-questions-about-hiv-and-aids
UNAIDS. (n.d.). Global HIV & AIDS statistics — Fact sheet. Retrieved April 9, 2022, from https://www.unaids.org/en/resources/fact-sheet