Myths about Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

There are many myths and misconceptions about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The following are some common myths and the realities:

You are safe from getting or giving STDs if you only have oral sex.

STDs can be contracted from skin-to-skin, genital-to-genital and oral-to-genital contact. There are a number of STDs that can be transmitted through oral sex, such as genital herpes or warts, gonorrhea, hepatitis, Chlamydia, canchroid, syphilis and internal parasite. Although it rarely happens, it is possible to contract HIV from oral sex. If you believe you have contracted a genital STD and have also had oral sex, you need to let your doctor know. He will need to perform tests on both your mouth and your genitals.

If you have one STD, you can't get a second.

It is quite possible to have more than one STD. Having an STD does not give you immunity to other STDs. If you have an STD from having unprotected sex, you should have your doctor test for those that often are seen together, such as gonorrhea and Chlamydia or genital warts (HPV) and genital herpes. If your doctor suggests testing for additional STDs, it is important for you to have the tests completed and find out which, if any, STDs you have so they can be treated immediately.

I always use a condom so I am safe.

It is possible for condoms to break, limiting your protection. There are also some STDs that can be transmitted because they are active outside of the area covered by the condom, for example genital herpes or genital warts.

Using two condoms gives you better protection against STDs.

Many people believe that if they double up, using two condoms on top of each other they are doubling their protection. This is not true. Using two condoms at once increases friction and increases the chances of the condoms breaking. It is never recommended that you use more than one condom at a time.

If I only have sex once in a while, I won't get an STD.

While it is true that you may not have as much of a chance to get an STD if you don't have sex often, it is not true that you are not at risk. You are at risk of contracting an STD if you have sex with someone who has one, even if you only have sex with this partner once. That means you are at risk every time you have sex, whether that is once a week or every six months. Remember, your "once in a while sex" may be with a partner who has had sex with numerous partners, increasing his or her risk of contracting and giving you an STD.

If you don't have symptoms, you don't have an STD.

Most people believe that if they don't have any symptoms, there is no reason to get tested. This myth can cause a lot of damage because many STDs don't have symptoms but are damaging reproductive organs. Some STDs can cause infertility when not treated. If you have had unprotected sex and are not sure if your partner has an STD, you should get tested.

I've only had sex with one person so I could not have gotten an STD.

This is only true if both you and your partner were sure neither of you had an STD before having sex. It is possible for you to only have sex with one partner, but that person may have had sex with several people, increasing the chances of having an STD.

STDs are spread through any bodily contact or by sharing a towel with someone.

STDs are spread by sharing or transferring of bodily fluids. They are not transferred through hugging or shaking hands, or using the same toilet or personal belongings of someone with an STD. There are some exceptions to this. You can get syphilis by kissing someone if there is a sore in their mouth. You can contract genital warts by sharing a towel with someone who is having an outbreak and uses the towel.

Abstaining from sex until you are in a monogamous relationship where both partners have been tested for STDs and are sure they are infection-free is the best way to avoid contracting an STD. You should not be embarrassed about asking your partner about testing and STDs. It is impossible to look at someone and know whether or not they have an STD, these diseases have nothing to do with how a person looks, how clean the person is or how well they dress. STDs are sometimes noticeable in the genital or groin area but there are more times when no symptoms are visible. Take care of yourself by insisting on testing before beginning a sexual relationship.


"Chlamydia - CDC Fact Sheet," Reviewed 2011, March 25, Staff Writer, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

"Genital HPV Infection - Fact Sheet," Reviewed 2011, Aug 25, Staff Writer, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

"Gonorrhea - CDC Fact Sheet," Reviewed 2011, Apr 5, Staff Writer, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

"Sexually Transmitted Diseases and STD Symptoms," Date Unknown, Author Unknown,

Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.