Blame it on the lack of proper Sex Ed in American schools, but there are a ton of misconceptions around STDs. Some of these myths may prevent you from doing something that would actually be safe for you to do, or they may give you permission to do something under false pretenses. Let’s clear away the misunderstanding by looking at these 13 myths:
You can see most STDs. Sure, there may be some instances where you can see an STD, like during a herpes outbreak or if someone has genital warts. But, more often than not, you’re not going to be able to tell that someone is infected just by looking at their genitals. According to Everyday Health, most STDs are not visible. Even the ones that you normally think of as appearing visibly, like warts caused by HPV, can’t always be seen by the eye.
HIV is detectable when tested right after being infected. The average length of time that it takes for someone to develop HIV antibodies that can be detected in testing is 20 days. It can often take up to three months, though, or even up to a year in rare cases. So, if you sleep with someone over the weekend, then get tested by your doctor a few days later, your status will not be totally accurate.
STDs aren’t likely to happen to you. According to STD Test Express, 65 million Americans are living with an STD. Another way to look at this number is that one in four Americans will contract an STD in their lifetime. So, don’t fall under the illusion that an STD isn’t likely to happen to you. Take precautions like using proper protection and only getting intimate with partners you trust.
You can only catch herpes if the person is having an outbreak. You may have heard this myth or even believe it yourself. I know I did before doing some research! The truth of the matter is that herpes symptoms can lie dormant for weeks before an outbreak occurs, meaning the person can infect their partner even when they appear to be symptom-free. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 750,000 people are infected with herpes each year.
Two condoms equal safer sex. It may seem logical that two condoms would be safer than one, but in reality, using two is less safe. The condoms rub up against one another and can tear or break, obviously reducing the protective benefits. Do yourselves a favor and just stick to one solid condom.
Hormonal birth control will protect you from STDs. Hormonal birth control methods (pills, the shot, etc.) offer no protection against STDs whatsoever. They may protect against pregnancy, but not STDs. Blockers like vaginal condoms or regular condoms are the way to protect yourself and/or your partner against being infected.
All STDs can be found through testing. You’ve likely heard of HPV, as 80 percent of women will have acquired it by the age of 50. Did you know, though, that men cannot be tested for HPV? They could be carrying the disease and have no idea, despite the fact that it can cause cervical cancer in women and sometimes genital warts in both sexes.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea will go away on their own. Sure, chlamydia and gonorrhea are curable. They’re some of the diseases that do not stick around, but only if you get proper treatment. If you do not get treated, you’re at risk for long-term health problems. It just takes a simple prescription for an antibiotic to rid you of the diseases.
Having sex in a hot tub is okay because the chlorine and high temp will kill STDs. This is a scary myth because the opposite is actually true: hot water will preserve STDs for longer than if they were outside of the moist and warm environment. Even if you use a condom, latex can break down in a hot tub.
HIV means your sex life is over. HIV is not a death sentence. There are treatments that allow individuals to live long and fulfilled lives. There are even medications that can allow the infected person to have an undetectable viral load, making it virtually impossible to transmit the disease. Further, if you’re the partner of someone with HIV, there’s a medicine called PrEP that can be taken to lower your risk of being infected with the disease.
If you have an STD, you’ll know it. Sometimes symptoms like warts, pus, or itchiness appear. But, more likely than not, there will be no symptoms. This is why it’s good for both you and your partner to regularly get tested.
You can’t get STDs from just kissing. This is a scary myth that myself and many others have fallen prey to. We often think we can only get STDS when semen and vaginal fluids are involved, right? Well, that’s actually wrong. You can catch herpes from just kissing someone on the mouth.
Being safe and prepared kills the mood. I don’t know about you, but nothing kills my mood more than an STD. Instead of having the attitude that using protection is killing the mood, think of it as a respectful and caring move for both you and your partner. Know that after you’ve wrapped it, you can relax into sex knowing that you’ve both made a smart move for yourself.
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