STD Myths

There are many misconceptions surrounding STDs. In honor of STD awareness month (that’s in April!), we’ll clarify some of those most common myths sexual health educators hear.

“Only promiscuous people get STDs.”

STDs can be acquired and transmitted by anyone, regardless of the number of sex partners one has. Unprotected sex and inconsistent condom use can occur in a variety of sex partnerships, from a long-term monogamous couple to a casual fling.

“Condoms are too expensive to use regularly.”

Condoms and other safer sex supplies (dental dams, female condoms, lube) are available for FREE to students through Campus Health Services and Student Wellness. When used correctly, condoms are very effective at preventing most sexually transmitted infections.

“I would know if I had an STD.”

A lot of people think that if an STD has been transmitted, there will usually be symptoms or signs of infection. Actually, many STDs – particularly, chlamydia and gonorrhea – are known for being asymptomatic for long periods of time. That’s why it’s important to get tested even if no symptoms are present.

“If I’m diagnosed with an STD, it means my partner was cheating on me.”

Figuring out who transmitted infections to who is pretty tricky. A positive STD diagnosis does not always mean that a sex partner had other sex partners while in the relationship, and could be a reflection of when both partners were tested. In general, we recommend STD testing for you and a sex partner at the start of a sexual relationship. See the Campus Health Services webpage for more information on STD testing on campus.

“I can’t transmit herpes when I don’t have symptoms.”

In theory, somebody is more likely to transmit the herpes virus when they’re symptomatic and have lesions present. That said, it is still possible to transmit herpes while no symptoms are present.

They automatically test for STDs when I go for my Pap smear.”

This isn’t necessarily the case. The Pap smear specifically looks at cervical health by identifying cancerous pre-cursors—namely, those caused by HPV infection. While you can have STD testing, such as gonorrhea, chlamydia and HIV testing, easily rolled into your pap smear appointment at Campus Health, this will not necessarily be performed automatically, so be sure to bring it up!

This article was originally posted in 2012 by Diana Sanchez, who at that time was a sexual health educator for Campus Health Services. It was updated in 2018 by Sara Stahlman, Marketing and Communication Coordinator to reflect updated links and information.

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