There are a lot of myths and outdated facts about STIs. You may hear and read about these rumours in life, bars, dancefloors and the internet, so let’s go through the most common ones we hear at Better2Know HQ:
1. HIV is only reliable after three months – FALSE – Not these days. There have been a lot of medical advances since the “don’t die of ignorance” AIDS campaign of the 1980s. The advances are seen across all aspects of healthcare, and HIV treatment (no longer a life-threatening condition) and testing (Our Early Detection Screen is 96% accurate at just 10 days after any incident you are concerned about) are included. So not, you no longer need to wait that long – but do check which test you are having.
2. You can only test for herpes if you have an outbreak – FALSE. There is some point in testing for Herpes if you have suspected symptoms – are these symptoms due to herpes or not, but most people are not symptomatic most of the time. Herpes is a very common virus. As with many viruses, it is detectable in the blood from 4 to 6 weeks after exposure. Better2Know can arrange a herpes blood test for you which is the right test if you do not have any current symptoms.
3. Condoms prevent against all STIs – the keyword in this one is ALL. Condoms are excellent protection against many STIs. You do not actually need to have sex to have an STI, some can be passed by body to body contact (Herpes, Syphilis, HPV (including genital warts) so fingering or rubbing an infected part against your partner which is not covered by a condom can easily pass on an STI.
4. I’ve been with my boy/girlfriend for a month, neither of us has any symptoms so we can stop using condoms right? WRONG! Most STIs do not have any symptoms. In most cases of Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea if you are going to have symptoms these usually start within the first two weeks, but most people do not have ANY symptoms until it is too late and their fertility has been damaged. The only way to know if you have an STI is to get tested, and both partners need to be tested and treated to avoid STIs being passed back and forward.
5. I have an STI, I haven’t been unfaithful so my partner must have been. This one depends on the STI (and it depends on your definition of unfaithful…) some very common STIs can occur naturally in both men and women and be passed between partners. When an overgrowth of bacteria gets out of control it can be passed on. Mycoplasma, Ureaplasma, Gardnerella and Trichomonas can all be passed between a faithful couple. Herpes can be passed on by kissing (in a friendly way) anyone. Hepatitis B is passed on through blood to blood contact (laboratory and healthcare professionals need to be vaccinated as it is very infectious and can live outside the body for a long time). None of these mean that there has definitely been infidelity.
If you are concerned about a sexual health question that you have been told in the past and want to know whether it is true, please let us know and we will do our best to help you.