It's a life fact: anyone can get a sexually transmitted disease, or STD. These diseases aren't limited to people society deems exceptionally slutty," or "easy," or any other characterizations used to shame people who are sexually active. Anyone get can one. But, unfortunately, misinformation and misconceptions run rampant when it comes to STDs. There are all sorts of STD myths that need to dispelled because, for better or worse, everyone needs to know the real-life truths about STDs in order to be able to best protect themselves.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, combined rates for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are at a "record high" in the United States and young people, women, and gay and bisexual men are still most susceptible. Knowing the facts — and the misinformation that exists — is especially important for these vulnerable populations, but since STDs really don't discriminate, everyone should brush up on their STD fact and fiction.
Obviously, safe sex practices such as correctly using a condom can limit your risk and help keep you safe and healthy, but it's still important to right the wrongs when it comes to STD misconceptions. Here, 12 myths that need to be set straight right now.
Myth #1: You're Only At Risk If You're Sleeping Around
Let's get this one out of the way first. Dr. Gail Bolan, director of the CDC's Division of Sexual Disease Prevention told WebMD, that anyone can contract an STD and it's hard to know if a potential partner (or yourself) is infected without going to the doctor and getting tested.
Myth #2: They Can Get Passed Along Via A Toilet Seat
People have long blamed public bathroom toilet seats as sources of potential STD transmission, but the science doesn't really back it up. Dr. Raegan McDonald-Moseley told Teen Vogue that because the viruses and bacteria that cause STDs like to live inside the human body, it's unlikely that they'd survive outside of it long enough to infect someone else that way.
Myth #3: You Can't Get An STD From Oral Sex
Not true. According to Planned Parenthood, you can get some STDs from unprotected oral sex, including HPV, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, and hepatitis B.
Myth #4: You Don't Have An STD If You Don't Have Symptoms
Not all STDs result in obvious symptoms. Dr. Michael Cackovic, an OB-GYN at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center told SELF that with some STDs, like HPV, you could be carrying it and not even know. Additionally, Fred Wyand, director of communications for the American Sexual Health Association, told Women's Health that chlamydia, in particular, may not cause any noticeable symptoms in women at all.
Myth #6: You Can't Get An STD More Than Once
Unfortunately, you can in fact get a specific STD more than once. Wyand told Women's Health that once you're no longer infected, you can get infected again. Wyand added that reinfection is especially common with chlamydia and gonorrhea.
Myth #7: Birth Control Pills Are Effective Against STDS
Birth control pills' major job is to keep you from getting pregnant, but it doesn't prevent against STDs. McDonald-Moseley told Teen Vogue that condoms are the only form of contraception that combats STD infection.
Myth #8: Two Condoms Means More Protection
Two isn't always better than one. Bolan told WebMd that wearing two condoms increases the chance of breakage, or leakage, which is the opposite of what you wanted.
Myth #9: Pap Smears Test For STDs
Though Pap smears do test cervical cells for cervical cancer (which HPV can cause), Pap smears aren't effective STD tests, according to the American Sexual Health Association. If you want to be screened for STDs, talk to your doctor.
Myth #10: You Won't Get An STD In A Committed Relationship
Remember, STDs don't discriminate and anyone can get them. Talk to your partner about their sexual history and make sure both of you have been screened for STDs.
Myth #11: Hot Tubs Protect Against STDs
The rumor here is that the chlorine present in hot tub water prevents STDs from spreading. False. McDonald-Moseley told Teen Vogue that not only does having sex in a hot tub not prevent the transmission of STDs, but it could put you at risk for other kinds of vaginal infections.
Myth #12: You Can Only Catch Herpes During An Outbreak
Though this used to be standard thought even among medical professionals, Bolan told WebMd that more recent studies have shown that people can still shed the virus after the outbreak has ended, meaning it could still be passed along to a partner.