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Busted: The Top 5 STI Myths

Feb 14, 2024

3 min read

Owing to societal stigma and a general lack of awareness, STIs are often shrouded in mystery.  We debunk some of the most common Sexually transmitted infection myths.

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A girl running away from Myths about STIs
Rhea Kadakia, Junior Writer, Fluent Health



In India, open discussions about sex still remain largely taboo and important conversations about sexual health are often silenced. This, coupled with the near absence of comprehensive sex education, creates a breeding ground for misinformation, risky sexual behaviour and possibly the spread of STIs and STDs.

Contrary to what stigma might have you believe, the reality is that STIs are common. According to WHO, more than 1 million STIs are acquired every day worldwide, highlighting the urgent need for open dialogue and accurate information. But with stigma comes fear-mongering, and the subject of STIs is no exception. This article aims to debunk some of the most commonly held myths about STIs.

What is an STI?

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are infections that pass from one person to another through unprotected sexual contact. This includes vaginal, anal, and oral sex. Some STIs can also be spread from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding.

STIs are caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites. A sexually transmitted infection may pass from person to person in blood, semen, or vaginal and other bodily fluids.

Confused about STDs and STIs?

You're not alone! While often used interchangeably, these terms have a key difference. Let's clear the air. STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection): Think of this as the catch-all term. It refers to any infection transmitted through sexual contact, regardless of symptoms. STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease): This term gets specific, focusing on STIs that have progressed to cause symptoms or disease. So, an STD is a more advanced stage of an STI.

Now let’s move on to the top 5 STI myths

Myth: Not having sex will save you from STIs

Fact: No sex, no STIs, that's easy, right? Not quite! While avoiding sex completely keeps you safe, it's not the only way an STI can spread. Sharing needles for drug use, mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy or childbirth, and even close skin-to-skin contact in some cases can still put you at risk.

Myth: Condoms provide complete protection against STIs

Fact: Even though condoms are highly effective in preventing the spread of STIs, they may not be foolproof. Some STIs, like genital herpes and syphilis, can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, even if a condom is used.

Myth: STIs cannot be contracted through oral sex

Fact: While the risk of transmitting STIs through oral sex is lower than with vaginal or anal sex, it's not zero.  Certain STIs can spread through bodily fluids like saliva, genital secretions, and blood. During oral sex, these fluids can come into contact with various areas, creating opportunities for transmission.

Myth: You can’t get an STI if you’re in a monogamous relationship

Fact: Being in a monogamous relationship may reduce the chances of contracting STIs. However, it may not fully guarantee immunity from STIs. A partner may have contracted an STI before entering the monogamous relationship and be unaware of it. This infection can then be transmitted to the other partner.

Myth: No symptoms means No STI

Fact: Many STIs lurk silently, posing an unseen threat.  They are often asymptomatic, meaning you could be infected and unknowingly spread it. Certain STIs may remain dormant for extended periods, sometimes years, before manifesting symptoms. When symptoms do appear, they may easily be misinterpreted, leading to delayed diagnosis and heightened risks of complications.

Remember, knowledge is your friend

The myths surrounding sexually transmitted infections may be many, but it is important to understand that all STIs are preventable, and most can be cured or treated effectively. Early diagnosis and treatment can help to prevent serious health complications. Promoting safe sex practices, being informed, and having open conversations are the first steps to addressing widespread stigma and leading healthy sexual lives. If you are concerned that you may have an STI, please see a healthcare provider for testing and treatment.

Medically Reviewed By:

Dr. Uday Thanawala, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist

Rhea Kadakia, Junior Writer, Fluent Health

Rhea Kadakia has been writing across the spectrum of lifestyle journalism from her first days as an intern at the India Today Group. Since then she has fine tuned her knack of storytelling within a given context at Vogue, DNA, and CNN News 18. Her work at Fluent Health immerses her in the thick of a tidal change in healthcare, making access to informed and quality healthcare a reality for everyone. 

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