By Dr. Rahul Gupta, Sexology
On the one hand, the facts about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are pretty straight forward. More than a half-dozen STDs can be spread from one person to another during sexual activity. Some are caused by bacteria. Some are caused by viruses. Some are curable, and some are not. Some cause fairly minor health problems, and some are deadly.
Here are some common Myths that should be Debunked:
Myth 1: You can always see signs of an STD.
One of the most common myths is that people think you can tell someone is infected just by looking at their genitals. STDs are not usually visible at all. With genital warts, in particular, people think you’ll be able to see warts if you have them, or that you’ll be able to see herpes if you have it.
Some types of human papillomavirus (HPV) cause warts on the genitals. The warts can be tiny, and you might not even be able to see them. In most cases, people with the HPV virus give it to others without knowing they are infected.
Myth 2: You can only catch herpes from a partner during an outbreak.
That’s also not true. Most people infected with the herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2), which causes most cases of genital herpes, don’t know they’re infected. Although people may get sores during a first outbreak within a few weeks after they catch the virus, it’s more likely that they won’t ever have noticeable sores.
In addition, people with HSV-2 infection can spread the virus even when they don’t have visible sores.
Myth 3: You can be tested for every kind of STD.
For some diseases, testing isn’t available or is limited. For example, no test is available for HPV in men, although women can be tested for it during screening for cervical cancer.
You probably also won’t find a test for bacteria called Mycoplasma genitalium, This causes symptoms similar to chlamydia. Researchers may test people for it during studies, but you wouldn’t get tested for it if you went to a clinic.
Myth 4: You can catch HIV from casual contact.
Some people still think you can get HIV through kissing or touching. I had a student recently tell me they were surprised to learn that you couldn’t get HIV through casual contact
HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is spread between adults by sharing a body fluid such as blood in one of two ways, according to the CDC: by having sex with someone infected with the virus, or by sharing needles and syringes with someone with the virus. You can’t catch it from shaking hands, hugging, or a light kiss.