Despite our relatively liberal climate nowadays, many people still hold prejudice against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). We tend to see STIs as a dirty subject and assume people who have them to be promiscuous and careless. To fight the stigma, here are some facts to help shed some light on STIs that will hopefully lessen the judgment society has on those who have them.
Fact #1: HIV is no longer a death sentence.
The AIDS epidemic that claimed the lives of famous men like Freddie Mercury brought both tragedy and discrimination. As many members of their community passed away, men who had sex with men (MSM) had to deal with the prejudice of being at increased risk of HIV/AIDS.
However, thanks to modern medicine, HIV is no longer the death sentence it used to be. In fact, people at high risk of contracting HIV (such as sex workers) can get pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a protective treatment. Meanwhile, those who believe they may have been exposed to the virus can get post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). So, there are effective ways to protect yourself, even after exposure.
Those who already live with HIV can effectively treat it with something called antiretroviral therapy (ART). Still, all sex partners should be aware of their partner has HIV.
Fact #2: Having an STI doesn’t mean you can’t have sex. This includes HIV-positive individuals!
For one, some STIs (such as chlamydia) are highly treatable. You just have to abstain for a temporary time until your doctor deems it safe for you to have sex again.
As mentioned before, ART is an effective HIV treatment. In fact, it can reduce the viral levels in your body to undetectable levels, erasing virtually all risk of transmitting the virus.
To start this treatment, you can find substantially more affordable antiretroviral drugs, such as TRUVADA, from an international or Canada drugs website. This type of website will allow you to connect to licensed pharmacies located in countries where pharmaceutical prices are more heavily regulated.
Fact #3: STIs are not limited to so-called “promiscuous” individuals.
You don’t have to be promiscuous to get an STI. Due to lack of awareness, someone can get an STI even if they always have safer sex. For example:
- Some STIs can be transmitted from mother to baby, including HIV and syphilis.
- Other STIs, like HPV, can be spread through intimate, non-intercourse contact, such as through saliva and sores.
- STIs like HIV can be spread through contaminated bodily fluids. So everyone from health-care workers to needle-sharing drug users can become infected.
Do note that infectious mononucleosis (popularly known as mono or The Kissing Disease) is often not considered an STI. You don’t have to kiss to get it, but you may if you share drinks and utensils with an infected person.
Fact #4: Some STIs are quite common.
In fact, around 79 million Americans are infected with HPV. This is an unsurprising fact when you realize that experts believe almost everyone who is sexually active will be infected with HPV at some point. But for most people, HPV poses no symptoms and goes away on its own.
Another common STI is genital herpes. For example, about one in six people aged 14–49 have the condition. This may be because, in addition to intercourse, herpes can be spread through sores and saliva. Chlamydia is also considered relatively common.
Fact #5: Women who have sex with women can transmit STIs.
Some women who have sex with women (WSW) mistakenly assume that, because there is no ejaculation involved, they don’t need to practice safer sex. However, there are STIs that can be transmitted between women. For instance, bacterial vaginosis is particularly common among WSW.
Furthermore, just because a woman prefers having sex with other women, doesn’t mean she doesn’t also have sex with men, therefore putting her at risk of STIs transmitted through ejaculation
Do Your Part to Prevent STIs
Everyone shares the responsibility of minimizing STI infections. This means you should get tested regularly, be honest with your partners, take medications if necessary, and abstain from sex if necessary.
Of course, STIs aren’t exactly the easiest thing to talk about. So here are a few tips to make it easier to broach the topic:
- Choose a health-care provider you are comfortable with. LGBTQ+ individuals may be especially wary of discussing their sex lives; you can find LGBTQ+-friendly health-care providers here.
- When with a new sexual partner, be the first to share your status, such as telling them the last time you got tested. This makes it easier for the other person to be open too.
- Avoid using offensive language like “slut.” Instead, be empathetic if someone shares with you their status. Mention you care about their well-being and offer resources if necessary. Treat it as if the person has the flu.
Finally, practice safer sex! This means using condoms, applying dental dams, and even simply washing your hands. Sex is meant to be an enjoyable experience, so lessen your STI worries by taking the proper precautions, and enjoy intimacy with peace of mind.