Sex and the Cigar: STI Fact or Fiction?

According to a study by Laura Koutsky, PhD published in the American Journal of Medicine,  more than half of all people will have an STI at some point in their life. However, despite the alarming number of STIs in the population, there are still many myths.

The first, and one of the most common, is that you can get an STI from sitting on a toilet. Many people have this worry, especially when thinking about public toilet seats. The truth about them is less scary though. Most STIs are caused by a bacteria or virus, which do not survive for long outside of the body. In fact, the vast majority can only be transmitted through direct skin contact. According to American Sexual Health Association (ASHA) Doctors Charles Ebel and Anna Wald, transmission from a toilet seat is “generally impossible.”

The second myth about STIs is that you can tell if your partner has an STI. While in some cases infections do present visual signs, for the vast majority of times you cannot rely on the eyeball test when it comes to your health. For instance, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) suggests, “Most people who have chlamydia have no symptoms.” Herpes for instance, according to the CDC, up to 90 percent of people have herpes but present no symptoms and are undiagnosed. Other infections can show little to no symptoms too, like human papilloma virus (HPV) and gonorrhea.

The third myth is that you can avoid the risk of infection by having alternative sex, like oral or anal sex. This is widely untrue because most infections spread by blood, semen, or skin-to-skin contact, whether it is your genitals or lips. It is true that not every STI can be transmitted through oral or anal sex, but there still is an increased risk for a number of infections. Herpes for instance can be transmitted through oral sex if your partner just has a cold sore in their mouth. According to STDCheck.com, the following STIs can be transmitted via oral sex; HPV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, Hepatitis A and both strains of herpes.

The fourth and final myth is that STIs are the end of the world. They are not, the vast majority are completely curable and in a few weeks you will be as good as new. Some of the most common STIs are completely curable with medicine and/or antibiotics, gonorrhea, herpes, trichomoniasis and chlamydia. There’s only a few infections that are curless, most of the Hepatitis family (B,C and D), HPV and HIV/AIDS. Fortunately for everyone, modern medical intervention has allowed anyone who contracts these to live relatively normal lives and less likely to pass along the infection for others.

The reality of life is that with every sexual partner you have, the greater the risk of an sexually transmitted infection you are, even if you just have one partner. STIs are a fact of life and there’s no way around that. So get out there, enjoy yourself and use safe sex techniques to vastly reduce your risk.