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3 STI Myths That Get in the Way of a Healthy Sex Life

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Think you know everything you need to know about STIs? You might be surprised.

Talking about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) with someone you’ve just started seeing or sleeping with can be difficult. Even if you’ve known the person for forever, it can still be awkward. However, talking about STIs is crucial because that’s how you establish which methods of birth control you’re going to use.

But before you sit down with your partner(s), know the truth about the following common misconceptions about STIs that can get in the way of a healthy sex life. For in-depth information or answers to more personal questions (as well as free or low-cost access to all the methods of birth control), visit your nearest The Right Time health center.

1. An STI won’t happen to me

The most common myth about STIs is that they won’t happen to you. They only happen to certain kinds of people, right? Nope, not right.

The truth is, 1 in 2 people will contract an STI by the time they reach age 25. An astounding 20 million people in the U.S. contract an STI every year, so yes, they’re incredibly common. You’ve probably even had HPV at some point in your life and your body was able to clear itself of the virus.

The good news is, because STIs are so common, there’s no reason to freak out if you find out that you have one.

2. I’ll know if I get an STI—or if someone I’m seeing has one

Another myth is that it’s easy to know if you have an STI. Unfortunately, the most common symptom of all STIs is no symptom at all.

STIs are often asymptomatic or display such mild symptoms they go unnoticed and/or are mistaken for something else. For that reason, most people with an STI are unaware they have one. Recognizable symptom or not, an STI can cause problems (like liver damage and infertility) long before we know we have one.

3. If I just have oral sex, I’m safe

Choosing to have oral sex or engaging in activities with someone who’s only had oral sex might seem like a way to lower your risk, but you can still get an STI this way.

The take-away

If you used to believe one or more of these myths were true, don’t beat yourself up. Most people think they know about STIs because they’ve heard a lot of misleading information. I was one of them. Before I contracted genital herpes, I thought STIs only happened to certain types of people. But now that I know what’s true and what’s not and how I can protect myself and my partner(s), my sex life is the healthiest it’s ever been.

Updated March 2020

_Jenelle Marie is the Founder & Executive Director of [The STD Project](–an award-winning independent website and progressive movement aimed at eradicating STD stigma by facilitating and encouraging awareness, education, and acceptance through story-telling and resource recommendations. You can also find The STD Project on [Facebook]( and [Twitter](

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