STI Myths and Facts
With Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education becoming compulsory this year, now is a great time to be thinking about Relationships and Sex Education (RSE)!
Teaching about Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) is an important part of RSE. Also known as Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), STIs are extremely common, annually infecting hundreds of millions of people worldwide. STIs affect people of all ages, backgrounds, and sexual orientations. In England, more than 440,000 diagnoses of STIs were made in 2018, with those aged 15 to 24 remaining heavily affected.
Here at Health Edco, we have a dedicated line of Relationships and Sex Education teaching materials that raise awareness about STIs, their potential health consequences, and the steps people can take to help protect themselves.
Read on to learn the facts behind some common STI myths, and discover just a few of our comprehensive Relationships and Sex Education products, resources, and teaching tools that are ideal to educate young people and adults about STI contraction and prevention.
Common STI Myths
MYTH: Using condoms protects against all STIs.
FACT: Although condoms are highly effective in preventing the transmission of STIs when used the right way every time, condoms are not 100% effective in preventing STIs or pregnancy. For example, herpes and genital warts can be spread by skin-to-skin contact. If a condom does not cover an infected area or sore, these STIs can be transmitted from one partner to another.
If you are sexually active, correctly use a new male latex condom every time you have sex for protection against STIs. If you are unable to use a male latex condom, use a male polyurethane condom. When used for vaginal sex, female condoms provide comparable STI protection to male condoms. Do not use male and female condoms at the same time.
Model is ideal to teach the importance of condom use for STI protection.
MYTH: Young people are less likely to have an STI than sexually active adults.
FACT: Young people actually experience the highest rates for contracting the most common STIs. Young people are at increased risk for a variety of reasons. For example, young women’s bodies are more biologically susceptible to STIs. Teenagers and young adults are less likely to be married, which may make them more likely to have multiple partners and high-risk partners. They also may be more likely to have unprotected sex and less likely to seek healthcare or talk openly about their sexual activity with their GP or other healthcare professionals.
MYTH: Older adults don’t need to worry about STIs.
FACT: People can contract an STI no matter how old they are. In fact, the largest proportional increase in gonorrhea and chlamydia diagnoses in England between 2017 and 2018 occurred in people aged 65 and older. This age group also saw increased diagnoses of syphilis. People aged 45 to 64 had the largest proportional increase in diagnoses of genital warts. Infection rates of some STIs may be increasing among older adults for a number of reasons. Thanks to medications, older adults may be maintaining more active sex lives than in previous generations. Older adults may mistakenly believe they or their partners are not at risk for STIs and not use condoms, or they may be dating again after the loss of a spouse and be unaccustomed to condom use after years of being in a long-term, monogamous relationship. Also, older adults may have weaker immune systems that are more vulnerable to infection.
MYTH: You don’t need to worry about STIs unless you have sex with a lot of partners.
FACT: STIs are a risk to anyone who engages in sexual activity—even with only one partner one time. If you have sex just once, whether vaginal, oral, or anal, you can still get an STI from an infected partner.
excellent icebreaking activity to start discussions about STIs.
MYTH: You can’t get an STI while having sex in a shower, bath, or pool.
FACT: Any sexual contact with an infected person puts you at risk for STIs. STIs are transmitted by sexual contact through vaginal, oral, or anal sex and intimate skin-to-skin contact. Any exposure to genitalia or body fluids puts you at risk, whether you are in the water or not.
MYTH: You can’t get an STI from giving or receiving oral sex.
FACT: Many STIs can and do get transmitted by giving or receiving oral sex. STDs such as gonorrhoea, syphilis, herpes, and HPV can be spread by oral sex. Infections can occur in the throat and sometimes on the lips or in the mouth as well as in the genital area. For example, HPV transmitted to the mouth through oral sex can lead to warts in the throat as well as to head and neck cancers, whilst HPV infection in the genital area can cause genital warts and cancers of the cervix, vagina, penis, and anus.
awareness and teach the facts about oral sex and STIs.
MYTH: You would know if you had an STI, even without being tested.
FACT: Most people with an STI don’t know they are infected because STIs often don’t have any symptoms. Just because you aren’t showing any symptoms at a particular time doesn’t mean that you aren’t infected. The only way to know for certain whether you have an STI is to get tested by a healthcare professional.
MYTH: You would be able to tell if someone else had an STI.
FACT: Again, many STIs have no signs or symptoms. Just because you can’t see sores, blisters, or rashes on a partner doesn’t mean he or she isn’t infected with an STI. In many cases, symptoms appear only when an STI has reached an advanced stage.
Dangers of Sexually Transmitted Infections
Many STIs are curable, and all are treatable. Without treatment, STIs can have serious consequences, ranging from infertility and liver disease to certain forms of cancer, infant harms, and even death.
models to highlight the serious health effects of STIs.
The only certain way to avoid STIs is to practise abstinence, including contact with genitalia and exchange of body fluids. Using condoms, limiting your number of sexual partners, and avoiding substance abuse can help reduce the risk for contracting an STI.
Health Edco’s STI Education Resources
Health Edco’s line of relationship and sex education teaching tools and materials includes resources that are great for classroom activities and demonstrations, health fairs, and more. Our male condom training models and female contraceptive models are perfect for demonstrating proper use of male and female condoms to help protect against STI transmission. In addition to our STD Roulette Game featured above, our Wheel of Choices Game and Sex & Consequences Game are both ideal for teaching young people the facts about STIs.
To discover our diverse line of STI education resources, please visit our Relationships and Sex Education Materials and Teaching Resources Section.
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