How can I have HPV? I only had sex with one person!”
As a gynecologist, I, Dr. Michele Krieger, frequently hear this kind of reaction from my patients. They have a hard time handling the diagnosis of a sexually transmitted disease (STD), especially if it’s a viral STD that they will have for life. With these there’s no turning back. There are so many myths about the transmission of STDs. Here are just ten of the STD myths that I clarify with my patients.
Myth #1: I can’t get a STD from oral sex.
Newsflash…YOU CAN. STDs can be transferred by skin-to-skin contact, genital-to-genital contact and oral-to-genital contact. If you question whether you have an STD, you need to tell your doctor what kind of sex you are having (oral, anal or vaginal). Your doctor would need to test each area separately depending on the type of sex you’re having with your partner.
Myth #2: Using a condom protects against STDs.
Nope. Since herpes sores and genital warts can spread beyond the coverage that a condom provides, both diseases can be still be transmitted even when a condom is worn. Another word of advice; don’t substitute plastic wrap for a condom. It won’t work, trust me.
Myth #3: Two condoms are always better than one.
Sounds about right….NOT. If one condom is not enough to prevent the transfer of some STDs it’s logical to think that doubling up would provide STD protection, right? Negative. It is never recommended to wear more than one condom at a time.
Myth #4: Taking a birth control pill protects against STDs.
Totally false. No contraceptive pill is going to prevent the transfer of sexually transmitted diseases.
Myth #5: I will be able to tell whether my partner has a STD.
You CANNOT tell by simply looking at a person whether they have a STD. The truth is that some STDs, such as gonorrhea or chlamydia can be completely silent meaning that there aren’t any telltale symptoms. The only way to know for sure that someone does not have a STD would be STD testing.
Myth #6: The chlorine in a hot tub kills semen and prevents transfer of STDs.
FALSE. Although chlorine smells like a disinfectant, it isn’t. Which means, it does NOT kill bacteria that could cause the transfer of a sexually transmitted disease (bacterial or viral). It also does NOT kill sperm on their journey towards conception.
Myth #7: I’ve only had sex with one person so there’s no way I could have gotten an STD.
Think so, huh? Did you know that if you have sex with ONE person who has only had ONE other sexual partner, you have up to an 84% chance of getting HPV (genital warts)? What do you think happens to that percentage if you and/or your partner has had multiple sexual partners? Plus, remember that HPV can be transferred through oral contact with or without fluid exchange.
Myth #8: I’ve only had 4 sexual partners and I plan on staying with my current partner so I don’t need to worry about getting tested.
Wrong…check out the sexual exposure chart below! If you’ve had 4 sexual partners, and they’ve had 4 partners, in reality you’ve really been exposed to 15 people. So now what do you think about getting tested? No matter how many sexual partners you’ve had, it’s always recommended to get tested for STDs, especially if you are making the choice to continue being sexually active.
Myth #9: I’ve been sexually active with multiple partners for several years…I would know by now if I had a STD.
You may THINK you are in the clear BUT…the truth is that many STDs, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia, can be asymptomatic (silent) especially in women. Men are going to be aware of a bacterial infection but women may not know that they have gonorrhea for several years. By the time they get the diagnosis, it may be when they are ready to settle down and have a family and they may have to face the possibility of being infertile.
Men can often be the carriers of some of high risk HPV that can cause cervical cancer in women. Men, do you really want to settle down with the woman of your dreams only to find out that she is facing a diagnosis of cervical cancer due to the fact that you were carrying HPV and didn’t even know it?
Myth #10: I can’t have two STDs at once.
WRONG. You can definitely have more than one STD at a time. When I have a patient who has chlamydia, I test for gonorrhea as well because these two bacterial infections often go hand in hand. I personally see several other combinations of STDs such as HPV and herpes.
I hope that these facts have been helpful for you and that you will get tested if you’ve been sexually active. As you can see, it doesn’t matter what kind of sex you’ve had, whether it’s been once or 25 times, or with one or several partners…you are at risk of receiving or transmitting a sexually transmitted disease.
And even more, I hope that you will consider your future. The best prevention is to have a monogamous marriage relationship; ONE partner for life.
Is there another myth out there that I didn’t cover?
Have a question? Leave a comment below!