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 by age 25
STIs are incredibly common, and more than 20 million new cases are 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. An 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. Anyone can get an STI
Anyone can get an STI, regardless of gender, age, or number of partners. Even someone who has only had skin-to-skin contact with one partner can get an STI!
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. The only way to know if you have an STI is by getting tested, and some tests (like for herpes) aren’t always accurate.
5. Condoms don’t always protect you
Lambskin condoms, a latex alternative, are porous, which means that cells can travel through the material. If you’re giving oral sex, you can use a condom or dental dam. If an STI is spread through skin-to-skin contact, condoms can often reduce risk. No method can guarantee 100% prevention.
6. Some STIs are curable. All are treatable.
Most STIs can be cured with medication. All can be managed in a way that reduces symptoms and prevents transmission.
7. Your sex life isn’t over
If you have an STI, it’s not the end of the world for your sex life. You can take steps to protect yourself and your partner, manage the symptoms, and communicate and work with partners to have an amazing sex life.
8. Regular testing is essential, easy, and confidential
Even if you don’t have symptoms, getting tested regularly is important, especially if you have multiple partners, unprotected sex, or a partner who has not been monogamous. Catching an STI and treating it early can prevent it from progressing. It’s best to repeat testing after four weeks after the first test or after treatment for an STI to detect if an infection is still present.
You can purchase STI tests online. There are plenty of options, but we recommend NURX. Once it’s purchased, you’ll visit a nearby testing facility and provide a blood or urine sample depending on what you’re being tested for. It takes about 10 minutes and results are available within a day or two. Free clinics like Planned Parenthood also offer testing, and ALL testing STD testing is completely confidential, which means that no one other than you will have access to your test results. Make sure you receive a genital, anal, and oral test, depending where you are at risk for the infection to be present.
9. Communication is key
Simply talking with your partner about your STI status, asking about their status, when they were most recently tested, their safer sex practices, and learning about protection options is 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 curious about your sexual health, talk to your GP, book an appointment at your local clinic, or for more information on STIs visit Planned Parenthood.