Nobody wants to hear it, but it’s true: sexually transmitted infections are incredibly common, and even the most careful among us can contract them. Culturally, we are trying to talk about the realities of STIs more often, but there are still a lot of misconceptions out there. If you’ve heard one of these myths repeated, we’re declaring once and for all: it’s not true.
1. If you had one, you would know.
Half the human population gets an STI at some point in their life, and a lot of them don’t know it. “STIs can fly beneath the radar for months or even years and exhibit no noticeable symptoms,” says Dr. Samuel Malloy, co-founder and Medical Director of DrFelix. Chlamydia is the STI most likely to appear without symptoms, yet if left untreated it can lead to infertility, chronic pelvic pain, or pregnancy complications, says Culwell. You can also transmit STIs without having symptoms, so get tested in accordance with the CDC guidelineswhether you notice anything or not.
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2. You need to have sex to get an STI.
Some STIs, like herpes and HPV, can spread through skin-to-skin contact alone, says Culwell. So, you can actually get herpes just from kissing, and while the jury’s out on HPV, we do know that you can get either condition through contact with broken skin or any genital-to-genital contact.