**Note: STI refers to the actual infection. Not every infection turns into an actual disease (Sexually Transmitted Disease). Someone can be infected with an STI their entire lives and never develop active symptoms**
Sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) are something that no one wants to get, but no one wants to talk about. Because of it’s private and invasive nature, many people feel uncomfortable discussing it. This lack of education may lead to false beliefs or preconceptions, which could invariably lead to unconscious transmission of these STI’s. In order to dispel some myths, I will give a basic overview for the various types of STI’s in the hopes that every reader will be much more careful when engaging in sexual intercourse.
There are over 20 different STI’s which includes:
- HPV (human papillomavirus)
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
How STI’s are contracted: STIs are contracted through sexual activity. This includes oral sex, vaginal sex, and anal sex. STIs can be transmitted through skin to infected skin contact (example genital warts, HPV) or through the transmission of fluids, which includes: blood, pre-ejaculate, ejaculate, vaginal fluids, and discharge from sores on the body. Even a tiny amount of fluid is enough to transmit an STI, so it is important to be very safe and not get any fluid inside any part of your body: mouth, vagina, penis, or anus.
If you are a woman: Women are more likely to get an STI than an a man. Women are also more likely to be infected with an STI and not know it because they have no symptoms.
Prevention: There are only two ways to completely prevent STI transmission: 1. stay sexually abstinent (do not have sex) or 2. engage in sexual activity with one monogamous partner who does not have any STIs.
For many people, these two options are not viable. The next safest thing to do is to use a new condom the right way for every sexual act (including oral sex…HIV can be transmitted this way). Try watching this video for more information.
**Important things to remember when using condoms**
- Use a new condom for EVERY sexual act. If you put a condom on the wrong way, DO NOT flip it over and try to use it, because there will probably already be semen on it. Use a new condom instead.
- Make sure to leave a reservoir tip at the end, smooth out any air bubbles, and roll down the condom the entire way to the base of the penis.
- It is strongly recommended to use an oil or water based lubricant to reduce the risk of slippage or tearing
- Do not store condoms in any place that can get too hot or too cold, including a wallet, the car, etc
- Check the expiration date of every condom
- Even with perfect use, YOU CAN STILL CONTRACT AN STI.
To be even safer, ask your partner to get tested for STIs before you engage in sexual activity. Although it may be uncomfortable and certainly goes against the heat of the situation, it just isn’t worth it to contract an STI. You can get free STI testing at a local Planned Parenthood.
Treatment: Depending on the STI you acquire, there are different treatments. Some require simple antibiotics. However, for any virus (HIV, HPV, Genital Warts), there is no cure and hardly any treatment. These are lifelong diseases that will not go away. Unfortunately, these three are some of the most conspicuous infections in that you can have it symptom-free for years. So, the myth that you can “check someone out” (visually inspect their genitalia) to determine whether or not they have an STI is dangerous. Even if someone looks “clean” or like they would not have an STI, keep in mind that by age 25, 50% of people will have had at least one STI. You can never be too sure.
Interesting Statistics/ Facts (these are based on the US only):
- Every year, 1 out of 4 people under the age of 25 will contract an STI
- By the age of 25, 50% of the sexually active population will have been infected by at least one STI
- Less than half of adults between 18 and 44 have ever been tested for STIs
- 1/20 people will contract Hepatitis B in their lifetime. Hepatitis B is 100 times more infectious than HIV
- About 1/5 people are infected with genital herpes (a lifelong infection), but up to 90% of them are aware that they have it.
- By age 50, 80% of women will have contracted HPV
- About 15% of women who are entirely infertile is a result of untreated STIs
- Take this quiz from the Mayo Clinic to see what you know
For more information: