Women’s Health: Facts about Birth Control, STIs and Condoms

From the Society of Behavioral Medicine

A Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) is a bacterial or viral infection that is passed from one person to another through sexual contact (i.e., anal, vaginal, or oral). More than 25 STIs have been identified, affecting 20+ million men and women in the U.S. each year.

Anyone who is sexually active can get an STI, even without having penetrative sex (i.e., vaginal or anal sex). Some STIs, like herpes and HPV, are spread by skin-to-skin contact. Many STIs don’t show symptoms for a long time. Even without the presence of symptoms, they can still be harmful and passed between partners during sex (i.e., anal, vaginal, or oral).

woman holding condoms

STIs occur in all parts of the population.

Young adults between the ages of 15 to 24 account for nearly half of all new STIs infections each year.

Racial and ethnic minority groups are experiencing significant increases in STI rates. In 2017, the rate of reported cases of Chlamydia among Black females was five times the rate of White females and 6.6 times greater in Black males than White males.

STI rates have significantly increased within the LGBTQIA+ community. A 2018 CDC report states Gonorrhea diagnoses nearly doubled between 2013-2018 in gay and bisexual men, and men who have sex with men (MSM). Data from 2018 indicate that gay and bisexual men accounted for 54% of all syphilis cases.

People 60+ account for the largest increase of in-office STI treatment. Between 2014-2017, rates for Herpes simplex, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Hepatitis B, Trichomoniasis, and Chlamydia rose 23% in this population.

Women who are pregnant can become infected with the same STDs as women who are not pregnant.

Fact: Oral contraceptives (birth control) cannot prevent an STI.

A common myth is that birth controls can prevent the spread of STIs. Two of the most common forms of birth controls are oral contraceptives and condoms. Many people may not use condoms because they are using another form of birth control, and feel they are safe from STIs.

Oral contraception is only effective in preventing pregnancy and cannot stop STIs from being passed between sexual partners.

Fact: Condoms can prevent an STI.

Correctly using male and female condoms can help prevent the spread of STIs and help prevent pregnancy. Dental dams, a barrier method for oral sex, can also help prevent STIs when used correctly. Most condoms and dental dams are made from latex or polyurethane, which may be preferable for individuals with a latex allergy.

Read the full article on Society of Behavioral Medicine.

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