Sexually transmitted infections: we’ve all heard of them, we all do our best to avoid them, and some of us have had the displeasure of having them, but how much do we really know about them? If your sex education at school was anything like mine, you might be vaguely aware of what STIs are, and know a few names, but you also might be believing some myths about STIs. I’m here to give you the basic education that your ill-equipped PSHE teachers failed to do, and debunk some myths about sexually transmitted infections!
If you have had an STI, you must be a slut
STIs do not care about your sexual scorecard. You could wait until marriage, and only have sex once in your whole life, but that sex could give you an STI; or you could have sex with a new person everyday for 20 years and still never have an STI! To contract an STI, all you have to do is have some kind of unprotected sex with ONE PERSON who has that infection. As Lady Gaga might put it, there might be 99 people in a room who don’t have an STI, but all it takes is 1 sexual partner in that room who does have an STI. Not my finest analogy, but we all love Ms Germanotta.
STI testing is embarrassing and painful
STI screenings are super comfortable, both emotionally and physically. The staff know that you might feel a bit awkward, so they are always incredibly professional and supportive. Many STI screenings are as simple as a urine test, but regardless of what it involves, it will be private and consensual at all times. The best bit about STI screenings is that sometimes they offer a free gift of a sperm keyring – big score!
You can only contract an STI through penetrative sex
You can contract an STI through basically any sexual activity, whether there is penetration or ejaculation, or much less. Any sexual activity involving your genitals, including oral and anal sex, exposes you to potential STIs, so be careful to check your partner’s STI status and use protection! Any genital contact, as well as pre-cum, might transfer an STI, so it is important to be incredibly careful. It is always better to be safe than sorry
Oral contraception can prevent STIs
People with vulvas, I’m looking at you. Although the oral contraceptive pill works wonders for preventing pregnancies, it does absolutely nothing for sexually transmitted infections, so don’t throw away those condoms just yet.
STIs go away on their own
NOPE! STIs all need treating, no exception! Even those with little to no symptoms, like chlamydia in men, still might be having an impact on your body, and definitely have an impact on your sexual partners! If you have an STI, the only responsible thing to do for yourself and for partners is to get it treated asap. Make sure to get tested once your treatment is over, so that you check that it is fully treated!
Only LGBTQ+ people can be HIV positive
The AIDS crisis in the 1980s created an enormous stigma around LGBTQ+ people and HIV/AIDS, but it is completely untrue that non-LGBTQ+ folk cannot be touched by HIV. Similarly, LGBTQ+ people are not all HIV positive – the stigma surrounding HIV is unjust, and damaging. Please deconstruct in your own mind the idea that HIV/AIDS only affects, and universally affects, LGBTQ+ people!
If you have had an STI, you can never have sex again
Fortunately, this is a myth! Make sure that you listen to your doctor, and definitely wait until you have completed your treatment first, but you can hop back in the sack after having had an STI! Treatable STIs don’t impact your life forever (especially if you get treated promptly!), and if you pay attention to medical advice, you can absolutely have sex again after having contracted an STI. As always, just make sure to have safe sex, complete your treatment, and listen to your doctor.