Safe sex misconceptions: Things you should know about STIs
Canadian communities — and much of the world — are in the grips of a historic outbreak of sexually transmitted infections.
READ MORE: ‘The war on STIs has failed’
We asked an STI clinician and an epidemiologist for some tips, and the things they wish people knew.
Myth: You can’t get diseases though oral sex.
Fact: You can contract gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, HPV and herpes simplex virus from any oral-genital contact. It’s very difficult to transmit HIV through oral sex, however — 0.01 per cent risk if you’re giving, 0.05-0.1 per cent if you’re receiving.
Myth: If you feel fine, you’re fine.
Fact: Most STIs are asymptomatic. The only way to know if you have them is to get tested.
Myth: You’ll know if your sexual partner has an STI by looking at them.
Myth: You can get STIs from toilet seats.
Myth: If you only have sex with someone once you’re probably fine.
Fact: Any kind of sexual contact with someone, even if it’s only once, can get you infected.
Myth: It doesn’t matter what kind of sex you’re having — if it’s unprotected, it’s unprotected.
Fact: Sexual contact involving any kind of abrasion — from a canker to a cut — increases the likelihood of transmission.
Myth: Getting an STI once means you’re immune later.
Fact: Nope. (Some strains of chlamydia may confer a degree of protection from re-infection, but for syphilis, gonorrhea, hepatitis you can get infected again and again.)
Myth: If you’re not having sex with a new person every night, you don’t need to get tested.
Fact: You should get tested between sexual partners, right after getting a new partner, and once every three to six months if you’re having sex with multiple people over that period of time. If you’re in a long-term, monogamous relationship, you can get tested whenever you get regular physicals.
Myth: Women get tested when they get pap smears.
Fact: You should ask to get tested when this procedure is done.
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