When Knowledge is Life-Saving: The top STD myths and the real facts


There are as many misconceptions about sexually transmitted infections as there are diseases. Knowledge is power, so we offer these top seven STD myths for your consideration:

You can tell if a potential lover has a sexually transmitted disease just by looking at them

If you believe this myth, you could be placing yourself in serious sexual danger. People who harbor the viruses that cause HIV, herpes, venereal warts and other sexually transmitted diseases are not always obvious. In fact, many carriers of infectious diseases are not even aware of their condition. The only way to know for certain a partner is free of infection is with a blood or urine test.

You’re married or in a serious relationship, so you can’t contract a sexually transmitted disease

Sorry to tell you this, but there is a lot of extramarital hanky panky going on out there, and many a wandering spouse inadvertently shares herpes, venereal warts, gonorrhea and other STDs with their unwitting at-home partner. A husband on a business trip only has to cheat once to catch a dreadful disease. A housewife who succumbs to temptation with the mailman just one time may be exposed to an embarrassing and health-threatening STD.

When you have sex with someone, you expose yourself to the health history of every person they’ve ever had sex with too.

If you take birth control pills, your partner doesn’t need to wear a condom

Wrong. While oral contraceptive tablets do indeed prevent most unwanted pregnancy, the little pills do nothing to ward off HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia and other sexually transmitted diseases. Unprotected sex, even when on ‘the pill,’ is a dangerous deal. The same applies for women who use IUD intrauterine devices for birth control. It is imperative that women protect themselves from accidental pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases as well.

Condoms are the only form of birth control that reduce the risk of STD and STI.

You can’t catch STDs from oral sex

Wrong again. A number of serious sexually transmitted diseases are easily spread via oral contact. Cunnilingus and fellatio provide perfect opportunities for the spread of chlamydia, herpes, HIV and HPV genital warts.

Only vaginal sex is “real” sex and a risk for STDs

Some people believe that if it doesn’t involve a penis and a vagina, it’s not “real” sex. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Any human contact that involves fluids such as saliva, semen or blood comes with a risk of infection. While it is true that only penis-in-vagina intercourse offers a possibility of pregnancy, other sorts of sex play can readily transmit STD from one partner to another. In fact, anal sex may be the riskiest as far as the transmission of HIV and syphilis are concerned. Unprotected anal sex may cause tiny fissures in sensitive tissue that puts both participants at risk of sharing an infection. Oral sex, especially when fluids are exchanged, can be risky behavior as well.

You can’t get pregnant or catch an STD in a jacuzzi

Nobody is sure where this myth originated, but it’s totally false. Although the chlorine in a hot tub may smell antiseptic, it does not decrease the risk of getting pregnant or catching an infection, according to Rebel Circus.

Only people with symptoms need to see a doctor

Actually, people with no symptoms may benefit greatly from periodic STD screenings and health checkups. Some diseases don’t present symptoms until very late stages but are treatable if detected early. The Mayo Clinic recommends that every person born between 1945 and 1965 be screened for hepatitis C. Mayo Clinic also recommends HIV testing for all sexually active persons between the ages of 13 to 64.

In fact, you may not need to ask a medical doctor for a referral to be screened and tested for a range of sexually transmitted infections and diseases. There are thousands of free STD testing centers from coast to coast that can let you know your sexual health status. Safer STD Testing can set you up with a discreet lab in your area where you will provide a blood sample, a urine sample, or both. It usually takes around three days for test results to be delivered to your secure account. If you require further medical care, Safer STD can help you find a care provider in your neighborhood.

Sexually transmitted infections and diseases are a fact of 21st century life. Improve your chances of remaining healthy with periodic screenings. Be honest with potential partners and ensure that you’re both STD free before embarking on a sexual encounter.

Natalie Martin is a freelance writer, and when she is not working on her next article, she can usually be found in her garden. She attended the University of Cincinnati before turning to writing and now spends much of her time drawing attention to some of the major health problems that are plaguing the country today. Natalie resides along the Gulf Coast with her six-year-old Labrador Retriever.