Women looking at STI test instructions

Five things about sexual health we had to figure out ourselves the hard way so you wouldn’t have to

We bet that if there’s one thing we have in common, it’s that we all received some severely lacking, much-to-be-desired sex education. Though recently there’s been a push towards sex positivity, consent education, and do-what-you-will sex inclusivity, knowledge surrounding sexual health, specifically STIs, is still mysteriously lacking. Here’s some fundamental truths about taking care of your sexual health that may have been overlooked in your journey of sexual liberation:

1. Many STIs are asymptomatic — meaning that you don’t show any symptoms.

Think about it like COVID. You can still spread it to others you have contact with, even if you yourself feel totally fine.

I admit I didn’t know this before, back when I was in college. One time, when a partner called me to tell me he tested positive for gonorrhea, I flat out refused responsibility — how could I have given him that when I had no symptoms? How dare he accuse me! We were in an open relationship, so I told him to go tell his other partners about it instead *facepalm*. Maybe some of you are more on top of your game. Either way, the only way to know you have a STI is if you get tested for them!

Many STIs are asymptomatic, meaning you can’t see or feel anything different even if you have one.

2. If you leave them alone (ie. don’t get yourself checked), they can turn into serious issues.

Would you rather spend some spare cash testing yourself every few months, or go through the pain that is urethritis, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), or infertility? STIs start small, but can cause a lot of harm if you choose the route of “ignorance is bliss”.

It’s hard to push yourself through the fear of possibly having a STI when you’ve been conditioned to think they are the end of your sex life, but let me assure you, it’s not. This is coming from someone who has had multiple STIs despite being careful, and someone who has been non-monogamous for years (read: my sex life has been abundant despite my STI diagnoses).

3. Sex ed taught us to use contraception to ward off all dangers that come with sexual intercourse. But contraception does not always protect against STIs.

Birth control pills, patches, IUDs — these will NEVER protect against STIs, let’s make that clear. Condoms and dental dams do by providing a physical barrier between skin and bodily fluids, but they only protect areas that are actually covered by the barrier. Skin to skin contact in areas not covered, and contact with infected bodily fluids can still transmit STIs. This isn’t meant to scare you, it’s just to let you know that technically, “safe sex” doesn’t exist, only “safer sex.”

I used a condom and still got chlamydia
Barrier methods protect some areas from STIs, but not others.

4. Treatment for STIs is easy, and always manageable.

So we’ve established that getting a STI is fairly common, and can occur even if you’re taking precautions like using barrier methods. The good news is, treatment is so easy — many of them require a dose of antibiotics and that’s it, you’re done! Some require more care (we can elaborate on this in a subsequent post), but none make you any less deserving of being treated like a god/dess, remember that.

5. STIs are a normal part of having sex.

I’ve had a STI (multiple). You’ve probably had one and not known it (HPV anyone?). 50% of sexually active people will get a STI by the time they are 25! That means we can assume that half of your university will likely have had a STI by graduation. The percentage only grows as we get older.

If you’re having sex, it’s time to accept that STIs will find a way into your life (and more accurately, your body). And it’s okay! Sometimes it’ll be a surprise and you won’t know when you got it; sometimes you’ll get a call from a partner asking you to get tested. It’s normal to get one. The one major thing we can do to keep ourselves and our lovers healthy is to get tested, frequently. Get tested preventatively. Get tested even if you don’t have symptoms.

Ash makes this simple. We’ve made it so easy and so comprehensive, there’s no excuse NOT to get tested. Ready to start? Order your first kit.