In today's edition of News That Makes Total Sense, there has been a significant increase in STD rates in New York City after the city's most popular free clinic was shut down in March. According to Buzzfeed, this was the third closing of a major STD clinic in the last five years, and these "quiet" and "discreet" cuts to funding have impacted residents' access to sexual healthcare. Naturally, these closings have led to some pretty scary increases in some of the most common STDs.
A chart from ACT and the Treatment Action Group shows that visits to STD clinics have declined by 33 percent from 2009 to 2014 — presumably because some of the most popular clinics have been closed. As a (totally unsurprising) result, the number of gonorrhea cases has increased by 60 percent in that time frame; chlamydia and syphilis diagnoses have increased by about 20 percent. Obviously, something here needs to change so people in NYC (and everywhere) can have safe, affordable sexual healthcare.
Issues of sexual health are no joke, and it's disheartening to think that our government doesn't have a nationwide standard for things like comprehensive, sex-positive sex education, and free or reduced-cost access to sexual healthcare. This latest data is yet more evidence that in order to keep citizens healthy, sexual healthcare needs to be prioritized in budgets, and places like Planned Parenthood need to keep their doors open, now more than ever.
In an effort to counteract this scary trend, here are five myths about STDs — because the more you know, the safer and healthier you'll be.
Myth 1: You Can't Get An STD From Oral Sex
Oral sex is a wonderful, fun thing. However, it's also a common way to contract certain kinds of STDs, as most people don't wear protection during oral. We all remember laughing at the idea of a plastic "barrier" for oral during sex ed in high school, but the reality is that it's extremely necessary, unless you and your partner have both confirmed with a doctor that you're STD-free. Because oral sex commonly happens casually outside the context of a relationship, it is understandable why many people don't think to bring up protection during foreplay, even if they use it during the "main event." Despite how uncomfortable it might be, it's vital to your and your partner's sexual health to make sure you're having safe sex during all stages of sex.
Myth 2: A Pap Smear Includes An STD Test
A lot of women wrongly assume that during their annual pap, they're also being screened for STDs. This, however, is not the case: You need to ask for a separate test for STDs, and tell your gyno if you're experiencing any symptoms or have any reason to believe you might have an STD. These tests might come at an additional cost, but are often covered by insurance.
Myth 3: You Can Get Herpes From A Public Toilet Seat
While I totally sympathize with germophobes who are simply grossed out by the idea of putting their butt on such an unappetizing surface, there's no reason to worry that you'll wake up with herpes after peeing in a Port-A-John. According to the American Sexual Health Association, you can't get the herpes virus just by sitting on a toilet seat: It's spread by skin-to-skin contact, so unless you're sitting on the public toilet with someone else (why, God?), you likely have nothing to worry about.
Myth 4: Female Condoms Don't Prevent STDs As Well As Male Condoms
Since they're a fairly new phenomenon and have yet to break into the market as well as the tried-and-true male condom, female condoms take a lot of unnecessary flak. Namely, people fear that because they aren't popular, it means they don't work as well as male condoms at preventing things like pregnancy and the transmission of STDs. However, one study found that women provided with female condoms fared no worse than those provided with male condoms. When used correctly, female condoms are just as effective at preventing STDs than male condoms, and they aren't made of latex, so they're a great option for those with a latex allergy. Obviously your sexual health preferences are totally up to you, but female condoms are definitely worth considering adding to your protection arsenal.
Myth 5: Having An STD Is The End Of Your Sex Life
Unfortunately, people living with STDs that can't be cured by a round of antibiotics — herpes, HPV, and HIV, for example — face a serious stigma. It's certainly unpleasant to learn that you have an STD, and it is understandably hard to tell someone that you have one. However, you can still have a happy, healthy sex life after being diagnosed with an untreatable STD, and you should never feel ashamed or embarrassed as long as you communicate openly and honestly with any subsequent sexual partners.
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Images: Pexels.com; ACT and the Treatment Action Group; Giphy (5)