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The Truth about STIs: Debunking 5 Common Myths

Apr 29, 2022

Many of us prioritize our health in various ways. We try our best to eat healthy and exercise, and we consult with doctors about everything from blood pressure to acne to muscle pain. But what about our sexual health? According to the latest statistics, we’re not prioritizing it as much as we should.

1 in 5 people in the U.S. have a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and many don’t even know it. The good news? You have the power to change that, and we’re here to help by debunking 5 common myths.

Myth 1: It’s obvious if I or someone else has an STI.
Some common symptoms of STIs, also known as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), include itching, a burning sensation when you pee and an unusual and bad-smelling discharge. However, many STIs, like chlamydia, herpes and gonorrhea, cause very mild symptoms or even none at all (asymptomatic). You can’t tell that someone has an STI just by looking at them – the only way to know for sure is to get tested, which leads us to our next myth…

Myth 2: Getting tested is difficult/painful/expensive.
It’s easier than you think! The process is generally quick and painless, usually involving a quick swab of the inside of your cheek/the affected area, peeing in a cup or a blood test. Testing is also confidential and typically covered by insurance. For those without insurance, many free clinics offer testing, which you can find using this locator. Some doctors may not screen for STIs during a regular check-up, so just ask at your next appointment!

Myth 3: Birth control will protect me against STIs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), while contraceptive methods like the pill, birth control patch, vaginal ring and IUD are effective at preventing pregnancy, they do not protect you against STIs. The surest way to avoid transmission is to abstain from sex. If you are sexually active, using condoms correctly can lessen your risk because they offer a barrier method of contraception.

Myth 4: STIs don’t require treatment and will go away on their own.
Most STIs require medical treatment. If left undiagnosed, STIs can lead to serious conditions, like pelvic inflammatory disease and even infertility. You can also unknowingly transmit to your partner. The positive news is that all STIs are treatable, and most are curable, says the CDC. The path to treatment begins with getting tested.

Myth 5: Having an STI is something to be ashamed of.
Having an STI is nothing to be ashamed of – they can happen to anyone and are very common. According to the CDC, millions of new infections occur every year, meaning many Americans are in the same boat.

Your sexual health plays a key role in your overall health. Educating yourself on STIs and getting tested helps to protect you and others. Learn more about how to prioritize your sexual health and where to find free, fast and confidential testing near you by clicking here.

Together, let’s end the stigma around STIs through knowledge and action.