Teens and STDs: Common Myths
Do you know if you can get an STD the first time you have sex? Have you heard that you can catch one by sitting on a toilet seat? Does having sex in a hot tub protect against STDs?
WebMD asked Gail Bolan, MD, director of the CDC's Division of STD Prevention, to clear up some common myths about STDs. She also has some important advice to help teens protect themselves every time they have sex.
Only trashy or slutty people get STDs.
No. These infections are equal opportunity. If you're having sexual activity and you're not using condoms consistently and correctly, everyone's at risk for these infections. And you cannot have any way to tell who's infected or who's not infected. The only way you really can know is by having everybody go in and get checked by a health care provider and tested to see if they're infected.
Only adults get STDs.
The myth is actually the opposite. Younger people, especially young girls…are at higher risk for STDs and they've got the most to lose, because they’re the ones who have their reproductive years ahead of them. There are some biological factors that actually put young people, especially young women, at a much higher risk of acquiring some of these STDs….which can lead to infertility and other serious upper reproductive tract problems for girls.
I can't catch an STD from having oral or anal sex.
A lot of teenage girls…think that if you're not having vaginal sex that you're not really at risk for these infections. But if you're exposed to any kind of body fluid, you can transmit these infections.
The skin inside the mouth and rectum are not as tough as the skin on the outside of our body. So it's much easier for infections to be transmitted. We know that the transmission rate of these infections is just as high for oral and anal sex as it is for vaginal sex.
You can get an STD from a toilet seat.
That's another myth that I still, to this day hear people saying is true. But it's not. In general, these organisms don't survive outside of the human body for very long. We do not believe that toilet seats are harboring viruses or bacteria--that when you sit down you can acquire these kinds of infections.
You can't get an STD if you only have sex once.
If you have sex once with a partner who's got chlamydia, gonorrhea, or syphilis, you've got about a 30% chance you're going to pick up the infection that one time. That’s a very high infection rate. The consequences, particularly for young girls, are so significant that it’s important that everyone understands that once is definitely enough to transmit STDs.