MYTH: If I use birth control, I don’t need to worry about STDs–right? FACT: Birth control methods, like the pill, patch, Depo, ring, and IUD, while very effective at preventing pregnancy, do NOT protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV. Condoms are the only method of protection against BOTH STDs and pregnancy. For maximum protection, use both a birth control method, like the Pill or Depo, with condoms. To further reduce risk of getting or passing on an STD, discuss with a healthcare provider about getting tested for STDs, including HIV, before becoming intimate, and talk openly with your partner(s).
MYTH: Oral sex and anal sex are “safe” sex–or not sex at all. FACT: Almost all STDs that can be passed on through unprotected vaginal sex can also be passed on through unprotected oral and anal sex. This includes genital herpes, genital warts (caused by HPV), gonorrhea, hepatitis B, chlamydia, syphilis, and HIV. The possibility of contracting an STD from oral sex is generally less risky as compared to vaginal and anal sex, although any unprotected sex with someone who has HIV or an STD carries some risk. Unprotected anal sex is riskier than oral or vaginal sex. Male latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly–meaning EVERY time, and from start to finish–are highly effective in preventing the spread of HIV. They also reduce the risk of many other STDs.
To further reduce the risk of getting or passing on an STD, see a health care provider about getting tested before becoming intimate, and talk openly with your partner(s).
MYTH: There’s a cure for HIV/AIDS. FACT: There is no vaccine to prevent HIV nor is there a cure for those who are already infected. Although medication can help people with HIV infection live longer and healthier lives, these medicines do not cure HIV infection. Our best defense against HIV is prevention. Condoms are highly effective in preventing the spread of HIV through sex. If you are HIV positive, it’s important to find out as soon as possible so you can discuss treatment options with a health care provider. To find a testing center near you, click here.
MYTH: Two condoms are better than one. FACT: In this case two is not necessarily better than one. In short, one condom does the job. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), condoms when used consistently and correctly are highly effective in preventing the sexual transmission of STDs, including HIV. Each latex condom manufactured in the U.S. is tested for holes before packaging. Before using a condom it’s still a good idea to inspect to check the expiration date and make sure there has been no damage. In most cases, when people using condoms get pregnant or infected with and STD, it’s NOT because the condom broke; it’s because they either did not use the condom correctly, or they did not use it the whole time they were having sex. For more information on how to correctly use condoms, click here.
MYTH: Sex in a hot tub / sex standing up / jumping up and down /douching after sex… will prevent STDs, including HIV, and/or pregnancy. FACT: For those who are having sex, the ONLY way to prevent the spread of STDs, including HIV, and pregnancy is to use a condom. None of the above will reduce risk of STD or pregnancy before or after sex.
MYTH: STD testing is for cheaters & players. FACT: Many people assume that they are not at risk for STDs, and that STDs affect only those who have a lot of partners. Anyone who has had unprotected sex, regardless of the number of partners, is at risk for STDs, including HIV. In fact, STDs are very common. By age 25, it is estimated that one in two sexually experienced people will have an STD, and most of them won’t even know it because they show no symptoms. Some STDs are so common among teens and young adults that annual testing is recommended. For example, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends that all sexually active young women should be tested every year for chlamydia. When left untreated chlamydia can leave women infertile (unable to have kids). You or your partner may have an STD and not know it. The only way to know is to G-Y-T – Get Yourself Tested.
MYTH: If he pulls out, I won’t get pregnant or an STD. FACT: Withdrawal–or pulling out–is NOT an effective means of preventing HIV or other STDs. Based on typical use – that is, the experience of most who use it – withdrawal is significantly less effective at preventing pregnancy as compared to other methods, such as condoms, the Pill or shot. For those who are sexually active, the only option that protects against both pregnancy and STDs is condoms. For maximum protection, use both a birth control method, like the Pill or Depo, WITH condoms.
MYTH: If I get an STD, including HIV, there’s nothing I can do about it. FACT: Many STDs are curable and most, including HIV, are treatable. The sooner you know if you have an STD, the sooner you can get treatment or take steps to prevent passing it on. There are different treatments for different STDs.
If your health care provider gives you antibiotics to treat a curable STD, it is important that you continue your medication until it is finished, even if your symptoms have already gone away. Also, you should avoid having sex until your infection is fully cleared, and tell your partner(s), who should be tested and treated too.
If you have a non-curable STD, like herpes, remember that medication is available to treat any symptoms, and daily therapy is available for people with outbreaks to reduce their chances of passing the virus on to partners. Also, remember that you’re not alone! Genital herpes caused by HSV-2 infection is extremely common, affecting about one in six teens and adults (most of whom don’t even know it). In addition, about 60% of American teens and adults have HSV-1 (which causes cold sores, but can also cause genital herpes through oral sex). Rates of HSV-1 vary by age and racial/ethnic group – in some groups, as many as 90% of people are infected.
MYTH: If I needed to get tested for STDs, my doctor would test me. FACT: Even though some STD testing may be recommended as part of routine medical care, many doctors may not offer HIV or STD testing unless you specifically ask to be tested. STDs often show no symptoms, so not even your health care provider can know for sure if you have an STD without testing you. Also, it’s important to know that a Pap test is not a test for STDs. If you are not comfortable talking with your regular health care provider about STDs or if you don’t have a regular health care provider, there are many clinics where you can get confidential and free or low-cost testing. To find an STD testing clinic near you, click here.
MYTH: You can tell by looking if you or someone else has an STD / I would know if I had an STD. FACT: Many STDs, including HIV, often show no symptoms, so many people who have an STD do not know it.. In fact, 1 in 2 sexually active people will get an STD by age 25 and most won’t know it. You also can’t tell if someone else has an STD by looking. The only way to know for sure is to get yourself tested.
Some STDs are so common among teens and young adults that annual testing is recommended. For example, all sexually active young women should be tested every year for chlamydia, which silently affects millions of people, but can leave women infertile (unable to have kids). There are other common STDs for which doctors may not routinely test. Talk to your health care provider about what testing is right for you.