Misconceptions Around Sex, Health Experts Weigh in
By: Al Gentile/TRT Reporter—
The Rainbow Times engaged several New England-area organizations to ask sexual health experts about the biggest misconceptions concerning safe sex. Even with the information available to people through marketing campaigns and the internet, people like Amanda Mehaffey, coordinator of prevention and screening for AIDS Project Worcester, say misinformation is still rife throughout the communities they serve.
- LGBTQ Women can’t contract STIs
“These pervasive misconceptions lead to an increase in untreated STIs, a cavalier dismissal of conversations about STIs, and a decrease [in] good information about risk reduction techniques for women in LGBTQ communities.” —Kurtlan Massarsky, BAGLY
- You can contract HIV from saliva
“This is just not possible. The main bodily fluids that carry HIV are blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and breast milk.” —Dwayne Stewart, Fenway Health
- HIV is a death sentence
“Many people still believe that getting HIV means you are going to die and are often uninformed that you can live a very long life with HIV and never progress to AIDS. With proper treatment persons living with HIV can become virally suppressed which makes transmission to others rare.” —Amanda Mehaffey, AIDS Project Worcester
- Contraception doesn’t work
“Unfounded claims that contraception does not prevent pregnancy are simply false. When used correctly, birth control is highly effective, and long-acting reversible methods, such as the IUD, are more than 99 percent effective, at preventing pregnancy. It’s critical that a person use the contraception method that is best for their body and lifestyle so they are better able to use it consistently and correctly.” —Dr. Jennifer Childs-Roshak, Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts
- If I don’t have symptoms, I don’t have an STI
“Many STIs don’t show symptoms right away. Especially in people assigned female at birth. Chlamydia is a common example of this.” —Dwayne Stewart, Fenway Health
- Sex toys cannot spread an STI
“If not carefully cleaned and maintained, sex toys can be a deceptively easy method of STI transmission.” —Kurtlan Massarsky, BAGLY
- STI testing is difficult to access
“STI tests are generally quick, simple, and painless. You can get tested for STIs at your doctor’s office, a community health clinic, or your local Planned Parenthood health center. These tests are confidential and many insurance plans cover STI testing. STI testing can also be free or low cost if you don’t have insurance.” —Dr. Jennifer Childs-Roshak, Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts
- I don’t need to worry about HIV. If I get HIV, I can just take a pill and I’ll be fine.
“This is a common misconception among youth today who feel the HIV fight is over and the epidemic is under control. There are still approximately 40,000 new HIV infections a year in the United States and 1.1 million people are living with HIV. The fight is far from over. And the medication is still not easy to access for marginalized communities.” —Dwayne Stewart, Fenway Health
- I don’t need to get tested for STDs
“Getting tested for STIs is a basic part of staying healthy and taking care of your body—like brushing your teeth and exercising regularly. Knowing your status is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health and take control of your sex life.” —Dr. Jennifer Childs-Roshak, Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts
- Having an STI is shameful.
“Having an STI is nothing to feel ashamed of, and it doesn’t mean you’re ‘dirty’ or a bad person—it just means you’re a human who has an infection. The reality is that STIs can happen to anybody who’s ever been sexually active with someone and they are way more common than you think!” —Dr. Jennifer Childs-Roshak, Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts