Stopping the Stigma: The Truth About Common STI Myths
ATLANTA, G.A, June 1, 2023 — Stigmas surrounding STI diagnoses remain a significant barrier for people needing testing and treatment. At StopHIVATL, sex positivity and democratizing access to sexual health resources are the heart of our mission. Demystifying and identifying common myths and stigmas surrounding STIs help community members identify biases and encourage them to seek critical health resources.
By pinpointing biases and stigmas, we empower Atlantans to seek the resources they need to live their best lives. Below, we debunk common STI myths and highlight important facts.
Myth #1: Only People with Multiple Partners Have STIs
Lifestyle choices, including monogamy, polyamory, and non-monogamy, do not influence a person’s STI status. STIs do not discriminate, affecting people with all kinds of interpersonal and sexual relationships.
Regardless of the number of sexual partners a person has, they can have safer sex by using barrier methods during sexual encounters. Communication also goes a long way. We encourage every sexually active person to talk to their partners about recent encounters, testing, and knowledge about STIs.
Myth #2: STIs are Visible; I’ll be able to Tell if My Partner Has One
Although some STIs have physical symptoms, many do not. Often, sexually transmitted infections go unnoticed and, therefore, undiagnosed. Even without symptoms, people can still contract or pass on a sexually transmitted infection.
STIs are very prevalent in our population. In 2018, the CDC estimated that 1 in 5 people in the United States contract STIs. The pervasiveness of STIs enforces the necessity of regular STI testing, even without visible or otherwise obvious symptoms.
Myth #3: Using Two Condoms Will Help Prevent STIs
Condoms are an effective way to have safer sex. Properly and consistently using barrier methods like condoms minimizes the risk of contracting or transmitting STIs. However, improper use of a condom jeopardizes its effectiveness. For instance, never use two condoms at a time, as that increases friction and can result in the condoms breaking. For safer sex, use one condom at a time. It’s always a good idea to keep extras at hand.
If a condom breaks, carefully retract and remove it. Put on another one if all parties give their consent to continue sexual activity.
Myth #4: An STI Can Resolve on Its Own
STIs require a medical examination and proper medication. Luckily, when treated on time, most STIs can resolve in days. Some are even entirely curable, like syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis.
The stigma surrounding STIs and sexual activity is dangerous to everyone because it delays care and increases the transmission of infections throughout the population. Many go without medical care completely. Lack of proper treatment can lead to life-long health risks, including worsening symptoms, decreased quality of life, infertility, transmission to other partners, and more.
Myth #5: STI Testing is Embarrassing, Invasive, and Expensive
There are numerous centers for testing, treatment, and prevention services across metro Atlanta. These facilities offer discreet, free and low-cost services. The StopHIVATL and Fulton County Board of Health teams also provide the Testing My Way ATL℠ free STI self-collection kits for discreet testing from the comfort of your home.
About StopHIVATL: StopHIVATL promotes harm reduction, sexual health, sex positivity, and health engagement. They provide inclusive, zero-judgment information and resources on sexual health, drug user safety, Mpox, community events, and more. The testing, prevention (PrEP), and treatment resources StopHIVATL refer to interested parties are always confidential, secure, and accessible to anyone living in Fulton, Gwinnett, DeKalb, and Cobb Counties.
Want to learn more about StopHIVATL’s mission and services? Visit www.stophivatl.org