Did you know that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 68 million Americans have at least one sexually transmitted infection (STI)? Did you know that many women and men who’ve been infected with an STI don’t even know that they have it? And that you or your partner might be among that group?
If you find these statistics surprising or even alarming, don’t blame yourself. Many people feel ashamed of STIs, so they don’t talk about them. And, when they do, they pass on harmful myths that may prevent you from getting the tests and care you need to manage or cure an STI.
Board-certified OB/GYN Diana Heard, MD, and Olga Vega, PA, are dedicated to keeping you and your sex life happy and healthy. That’s why we offer testing for STIs at Glendale OBGYN in Glendale, Arizona. We also provide treatment for the diseases that STIs cause (i.e., sexually transmitted diseases or STDs).
An STI is an infection that’s spread through sexual contact with someone who already has an STI. You can spread an STI through vaginal sex, anal sex, or oral sex. Some STIs, such as herpes and human papillomavirus (HPV), can even be passed through intimate touch alone. The most common STIs include:
However, many more STIs exist, including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and AIDS. Many of these are included in our panels when we test your blood or urine for STIs. Others you must request separately, such as a culture or blood test for herpes.
Many STIs don’t cause noticeable symptoms until the infection progresses and symptoms associated with STDs develop. The fact that so many STIs don’t have any symptoms at all increases the likelihood that you may continue to unknowingly spread the infection to others.
Another reason STIs continue to spread is that people fail to get regular testing, often because of misinformation. We want you to know the facts about STIs so that you can add regular testing to your self-care routine. Five common myths about STIs include:
Fact: Many people mistakenly believe STIs aren’t serious and will go away without treatment. In reality, untreated STDs can cause serious and even permanent damage to your reproductive organs. The result could be infertility and other long-term reproductive health complications.
Luckily, a course of antibiotics will cure most bacterial STIs. Viral STIs can’t be cured, but they can be managed with antiviral medications, which prevent breakouts.
Fact: Just one sexual act is enough to get an STI, if that one act is with somebody who’s infected. Anyone you have sex with afterward can also become infected and continue spreading the disease to others. Even if you use condoms, you should be tested regularly for STIs if you’re sexually active.
Fact: Even though herpes and other conditions may cause visible warts or blisters on the genitals, those signs aren’t always present. And, as mentioned before, many women and men never develop symptoms at all. Also, the disease may be in a dormant stage when you first encounter your infected partner.
Without testing, there is no way you can tell who has an STI. Before you start a sexual relationship with someone new, each of you should be tested. You should also get regular STI testing for as long as you’re sexually active.
Fact: Condoms (both male and female) are the only form of contraception that can reduce your risk for getting an STI. However, nothing but abstinence keeps you 100% safe. Also, HPV and herpes can be passed by intimate touch alone. No matter what type of birth control you choose, be sure to add condoms, too, if you aren’t in a monogamous relationship.
Fact: This particular myth can be especially dangerous. You can get many STIs multiple times and will require treatment for each occasion. Some viral infections, including herpes and HIV, remain in your body for life, and many cause recurrent health complications. In other words, there’s no cure for herpes or HIV, but you can manage them with medication.