With April being STD Awareness Month, you may be hearing a lot about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). You’ve probably read about which STDs are the most common, how often you should get tested, etc. Even if you think you know a lot about the topic, though, there’s plenty of information out there about STDs that many of us haven’t heard before. And this is a subject matter you don’t want to assume you know more about than you actually do.
There are probably quite a few interesting facts about STDs that you didn’t know before, which is why we spoke with Dr. Sherry A. Ross, women’s health expert and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period, to set the record straight. Brace yourselves for the knowledge ahead.
Here are 10 surprising facts you never knew about STDs.
1Many STDs are completely symptomless
“Many STIs do not have any symptoms, so getting tested regularly is important to avoid future gynecological problems,” Dr. Ross tells HelloGiggles. “HPV, chlamydia, and gonorrhea are often found on routine pap smear or STI screening tests.”
We know—the fact that STDs and STIs often don’t show symptoms is scary AF. By the way, if you’re wondering what the difference is between STIs and STDs, here’s the deal. Not all sexually transmitted infections become sexually transmitted diseases. So a person can become infected, yet that doesn’t mean they’ll have symptoms or develop said disease.
That being said, whether it’s an STI or an STD, it’s very possible for you to have it without knowing, since there are no noticeable symptoms.
2It only takes one unprotected sexual experience to get an STI
Yes, this may be a no-brainer, but how many people do you know who may be in denial about this one? “Unprotected intercourse even once can lead to an STI,” Dr. Michael Krychman, MD, OB/GYN, sexual medicine gynecologist and the executive director of the Southern California Center for Sexual Health and Survivorship Medicine, tells HG.
Okay, point taken. It’s best to *always* play it safe.
3Condoms don’t protect against all STDs
“Prevention is the best defense against STIs,” Dr. Ross says. “Male and female condoms are the current way to help reduce your risk of common sexually transmitted infections, including HPV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV.”
However, Dr. Krychman wants you to know that condoms aren’t completely foolproof. “If you think condoms protect against all STIs, that’s not true,” Dr. Krcyhman tells HG. “Some STIs can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, so it’s always best to get examined, know your partner, and practice safer sex.”
For instance, experts say that genital herpes, the most common STD, can be transmitted via the thighs and buttocks. And condoms can’t protect you from that.
4Oral sex is not as safe as you may think
“Receiving oral sex from someone who has a cold sore on the mouth can cause a genital herpes infection,” Dr. Gorens says. As you may know, there is no cure for herpes; however, symptoms can be alleviated.