myths & facts

1. I’d know if I had an STI.

FACT: The symptoms of STIs are not always obvious. In fact, the signs and/or symptoms of some STIs are very mild; may appear days, weeks or months after being infected; or you may not have any symptoms at all. You may have an STI without even knowing it. Even if you have used protection in the past, no method of protected sex is 100% safe. Prevent STIS. Use a condom. And if you didn’t, get tested.

2. All STIs are curable.

FACT: Not all STIs are curable. STIs that are caused by a bacterial infection generally can be cured. However, viral infections, like HIV and herpes, can only be managed, but not cured.

3. You can’t get or pass on an STI from oral sex.

FACT: Many different STIs are known to spread via oral sex. For example, the herpes simplex virus, which commonly presents as a cold sore on the mouth, can be transferred to the genitals of your partner during unprotected oral sex. Using a condom will reduce the risk.

4. I can get STIs from toilet seats.

FACT: It is extremely unlikely that anyone will contract an STI from a toilet seat. STIs are usually spread through direct (skin-to-skin) sexual contact or by coming in contact with infected body fluids during vaginal or anal sex. Although rare, you may be able to get pubic lice (crabs) during contact with objects (e.g. bed sheets, toilet seats, clothing etc.).

5. Both my partner and I are in a committed, exclusive relationship and we both have HIV. So unprotected sex is okay.

FACT: If you and your partner have HIV, unprotected sex may seem okay. However there are different strains of HIV, and protected sex is suggested to prevent reinfection with a different HIV strain. Also, if there are trust issues and your partner might engage in risky behaviours without protection, you will have an increased risk for other STIs as well.

6. Having HIV means having AIDS.

FACT: HIV is a virus that infects cells of the human immune system and destroys or damages their function. Infection with this virus results in the progressive weakening of the immune system, leading to ‘immune deficiency’. HIV is most commonly transmitted through sexual activities (anal or vaginal sex) or sharing needles with an infected person.

If left untreated HIV, it can progress to AIDS, which stands for ‘Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome’. When someone has AIDS, the immune system is unable to fight off other infections that can lead to serious health conditions or death.

There is no cure for HIV infection. However, with the right treatment, HIV infected persons are able to maintain a better quality of life.

7. Syphilis and gonorrhea are STIs of the past. Modern medicine cured them.

FACT: If you’re having unprotected sex, you’re still at risk of contracting syphilis and gonorrhea. Over the past decade, reported rates of gonorrhea and syphilis have steadily increased. The majority of gonorrhea cases continue to be among Canadians aged 15 to 29 years, with 70 per cent of gonorrhea cases in this age group. Prevent STIs. Use a condom. And if you didn’t, get tested.

8. Yeast infections aren’t transmitted from women to men.

FACT: A vaginal yeast infection is the inflammation of the vagina caused by overgrowth of fungus called Candida albicans. Small amounts of yeast are always in the vagina. But when too much yeast grows, irritation occurs. It is possible for men to get yeast infections from women. It’s also possible for women to get them from men. If you and your partner have yeast infections, it’s important to see your doctor and get treated at the same time, otherwise you may continue to re-infect each other.

9. I had unprotected sex. I feel fine, so I must be fine.

FACT: The symptoms of many STIs don’t show for days, weeks, or even longer. For example, sometimes the immediate symptoms of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can be mild and may go unnoticed. Testing for all STIs after having unprotected sex is very important. Prevent STIs. Use a condom. And if you didn’t, get tested.

10. You can’t get or pass on an STI from oral sex.

FACT: Several STIs can spread during oral sex (e.g. syphilis, herpes, gonorrhea). For example, the herpes simplex virus, which commonly presents as a cold sore on the mouth, can be transferred to the genitals of your partner during unprotected oral sex. Using a condom can reduce the risk of STI transmission.

11. I can just get medication for an STI, and it’ll be gone for good.

FACT: While most STIs can be treated and cured, others cannot. The best approach is to wear a condom and always be honest with your partner.

12. I must be okay because I have a yearly Pap test and my doctor didn’t tell me that I have an STI.

FACT: The Pap test looks for abnormalities in the cells of your cervix that may be from human papilloma virus (HPV), the virus that causes cervical cancer. Your doctor may not test for other STIs during the test.

Many women think that a Pap test automatically means they’re also testing for STIs. Don’t assume. Talk to your doctor to find out what tests are being done. If you have had unprotected sex, ask your doctor to be tested for STIs. If you’re not comfortable talking to your doctor, you can also go to a local sexual health clinic for STI testing.

13. I’ll never pass on my STI because I have sex only with a condom.

FACT: While condom use greatly reduces STI transmission, it doesn’t completely eliminate the risk of transmitting an STI. Also, condoms don’t always cover areas that might be infected. Proper and consistent condom use lowers the chances of spreading STIs. If you have an STI, see a doctor for treatment before having sex.

14. Sex in a pool with someone who has an STI is okay because chlorine kills the STI.

FACT: Chlorine does not kill STIs. You are just as likely to contract STIs in a swimming pool as you are anywhere else.

15. You can have only one STI at a time.

FACT: It is possible to have more than one STI at once. Infection with other STIs increases the risk of co-infection with HIV. HIV-positive people with other STIs can transmit HIV more easily to sexual partners. Reduce the risk of STI transmission by choosing to wear a condom during sex or a dental dam during oral sex.

16. What are the symptoms of STIs?

FACT: Symptoms will depend on the type of STI and may include a whitish/cloudy discharge from the penis/vagina, pain while urinating, pain or discomfort at the site of sores, itchiness etc.
In many cases you can have an STI and not have any symptoms at all. If you’ve had unprotected sex and/or have multiple partners, get tested.
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