How much do you know about sexually transmitted infections (STIs)? Check out these common misconceptions:
I would know if I have a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
Many people don’t know that they have an infection because they may not have symptoms, or the symptoms do not show up for several weeks. Thus you may be unintentionally spreading the infection to new partners, or the infection may be causing damage to your reproductive system.
If I’m on birth control, I’m practicing safe sex.
According to the National Institute of Health, “Hormonal contraceptives (HCs), which are highly effective at preventing pregnancy, do not prevent STIs, including Human Immunodeficiency Virus.”
If we use condoms, I can’t get an STI.
To be most effective, condoms have to be used every time you have sex, from start to finish. However, some infections, such as ones that are passed by skin-to-skin contact (like HPV), can still be passed from person to person because the condom does not prevent all skin contact. The best way to avoid giving or getting an infection is abstinence or being in a long-term relationship with only one uninfected partner.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea will go away on their own.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea are actually treated with antibiotics. If these infections are not treated they can cause these following problems:
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
- Infertility for women
- Ectopic Pregnancy
- Increased chance of getting HIV
- PID and abdominal abscesses
- Infertility for men and women
- Ectopic Pregnancy
- Blood and joint infection
Antibiotics cannot reverse any permanent damage that was caused by the infection.
I can only get herpes if my partner is having an outbreak.
It is actually possible to get genital herpes even if your partner shows no signs of the infection.
If I have an STI, I’ll just take antibiotics and it will go away.
There are many infections that are not treated with antibiotics. Examples of these are viruses like herpes and HIV, which have no cure, only treatments to help reduce symptoms. While most HPV infections (90%) go away by themselves, sometimes they persist and can cause a variety of serious health problems, including genital warts and cervical cancer.
I can’t catch an STI from having oral or anal sex.
People get STIs by having sex with someone who has the infection. “Having sex” means anal, vaginal, or oral sex and infections can affect the anus, mouth, genitals, and throat.
If I trust the person I’m dating, we don’t need STI testing.
Any sexually active person can be infected with an STI such as chlamydia or gonorrhea. These two are very common STIs, especially among sexually active teenagers and young adults. The CDC estimates that 2,860,000 chlamydia infections and 820,000 gonorrhea infections occur annually. However, a large number of cases are not detected and reported because people do not have symptoms or seek testing. Everyone should be tested for STIs if they have been in a sexual relationship. Just because someone is symptom free does not mean they do not have an infection.
Unless otherwise indicated, all information is cited from the Centers for Disease Control website.
We at Valley Women’s Clinic want you to have all the information you need to take care of yourself when it comes to your sexual health. Our services are free and confidential. We offer complimentary STI testing for chlamydia and gonorrhea at no cost to you, and our medical staff can answer questions you may have.