We’ve all sat through a boring sex ed class and, if you’re anything like me, you were too distracted by pictures in your textbook to pay any attention. Even now, most of us would rather not talk about the risks of sex, and just have fun instead… only to worry about the possibility of an STI the next morning.
But being informed is key to having a happy, healthy sex life. So, here’s ten must-know facts about STIs that you wish your teacher had covered in class.
1. More than half of all people will have an STI in their lifetime
More than 65 million people in the US currently have an STI, with at least 19 million new cases reported each year. Yet, these are only reported cases. Some people never see their doctor, get treated, or experience symptoms. Many don’t even know that they have an STI.
2. STIs are the new STDs
STD and STI are often used interchangeably. A sexually transmitted infection is a less serious classification than a disease. Medical professionals prefer STI, because infections don’t necessarily turn into diseases – and are often curable before they progress.
3. It doesn’t mean you’re promiscuous
Anyone can get an STI, even someone who has only had skin-to-skin contact with one partner! The risk is related more to how you protect yourself than your number of partners.
4. You can spread an STI without symptoms present
Many STIs have no symptoms. The most common STI, the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), is usually symptom-free, yet can still be spread. Even STIs with warts or sores can be spread when no signs are present.
5. Some STIs are curable. All are treatable
Most STIs can be cured with medication. All can be managed to reduce symptoms and prevent transmission. HPV can even clear up on its own!
6. STIs are spread through more than intercourse
STIs can be transmitted through anal sex, oral sex, and sometimes, even skin-to-skin contact or sores in the mouth.
7. Condoms don’t always protect you
Lambskin condoms, a latex alternative, are porous, which means that infected cells can travel through the material. If you’re giving oral sex to a woman and you’re worried about spreading or catching an STI, use a dental dam. If an STI is spread through skin-to-skin contact, condoms won’t protect you.
8. Your sex life isn’t over
If you have an STI, it’s not the end of the world for your sex life. You’ll just have to take steps to protect yourself and your partner.
9. Regular testing is ESSENTIAL
This is especially important if you have multiple partners, unprotected sex, or a partner who has not been monogamous, even if you don’t have symptoms. Catching an STI and treating it early can prevent it from progressing.
10. Communication is key
Simply talking with your partner about your STI status, asking about theirs, and learning about protection options is incredibly effective in reducing the spread of infection. Always have open, honest communication with your partner – whether they’re your boyfriend, hookup, or a one-night-stand.
If you’re worried about your sexual health, talk to your GP, book an appointment at your local clinic or for more information on STIs visit Planned Parenthood.