STD Myth Busters
Sep. 23, 2020
By Peyton Azar
Salt-N-Pepa said it best: Let’s talk about sex, including “all the good things and the bad things.” Of course, the latter includes STDs.
Although Salt-N-Pepa may not be at the top of the charts anymore, STDs certainly are, and what better time to discuss them than in September, which has been designated Sexual Health Awareness Month by the American Sexual Health Association.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest STD surveillance report, sexually transmitted diseases are at an all-time high. Furthermore, according to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, half of these new diagnoses are occurring in those 15-25 years of age. With STD rates continuing to climb, it’s essential to learn the facts.
So, let’s bust some commonly believed myths.
- Myth #1: If you or your partner have an STD, it will be visible and/or noticeable. This is one of the biggest and most dangerously believed myths. In fact, many STD patients don’t show symptoms at all. The CDC reports that some diseases, like chlamydia and trichomoniasis, are asymptomatic roughly 70-95% of the time. This is why it is so crucial to get tested after every sexual partner. Chlamydia, by the way, is the most common STD, with 1.758 million cases diagnosed in 2018. It's easily treated. If not, it can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which can be painful and also make pregnancy difficult.
- Myth #2: You aren’t likely to get an STD if you’ve only had a couple of partners. Nope! Just like it’s possible to get pregnant after your first time having sex, STDs don’t care how many times or partners you’ve had either. Some people can even be born with STDs and not know it. So even if you and your partner have only been with each other, you should still get tested.
- Myth #3: You can only get STDs from vaginal sex. Again, this is incorrect. The Urology Care Foundation states that oral, anal and vaginal sex all carry the same risk of contracting an STD.
- Myth #4: STDs aren’t that common; you don’t have a good chance of getting one. Absolutely not. Even if people don’t talk about it often, it’s a common diagnosis, with the CDC reporting millions of Americans diagnosed each year; and as we mentioned before, that number is only rising.
- Myth #5: STDs aren’t that serious. Unfortunately, this is not the case; STDs are very serious. The CDC states that although chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis can all be treated by antibiotics, if left untreated, they can pose major lifelong health complications such as HIV, chronic pain and severe reproductive health complications, including infertility, congenital disabilities and ectopic pregnancy.
Keep in mind that many STDs, when caught early, can be easily treated with antibiotics. That's true of syphilis, which can go unnoticed and can move into three different stages without treatment. The last stage can damage organs and even lead to death.
And then there are those STDs that are treatable but not curable. These include HIV and herpes.
Now that we’ve brushed up on our STD knowledge, it’s clear that sexually transmitted diseases are incredibly serious and common. So what you can do?
First of all, you can limit your sexual partners. Individuals that do have several sexual partners should be tested for STDs frequently.
Also, remember that alcohol and drugs can lower your judgment and cause you to make choices you might regret.
Finally, even if you are using a different form of birth control — and unless you want to get pregnant, you should be — also use a condom correctly every time you have sex.
Monongalia County Health Department's Clinical Services offers free STD testing and treatment. Our friendly and non-judgmental public health nurses will not only help you through the testing procedure, but, depending on your income, can also set you up with free or low-cost birth control.
So while STDs are not fun to think about, it's a lot better to play it safe and also get tested when need.
Peyton Azar is a public information intern at Monongalia County Health Department.