Survey Says: We’re Not Talking About STIs

Let’s talk about sex. Ok, now that we have your attention, we are talking about sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Wait, do not go! We understand. No one wants to think about STIs, but rates have increased increased in recent years. That means if you have sex, you are at risk.

In our new survey of women and people assigned female at birth ages 35 to 64, we found that more than half of respondents did not know about the rise in STIs. And nearly 8 in 10 respondents said they were not worried about getting an STI.

“Gonorrhea, chlamydia, and especially syphilis have been on the rise in recent years,” said Tomeka Roberts, MD, an OB-GYN and member of HealthyWomen’s Women’s Health Advisory Council. “I see that many people are relaxed about using condoms. This may be due to increased access to things like birth control pills and IUDs. Also with Covid there has been a reduction in people going to the doctor. “This has improved, but we are still seeing a decline in screening.”

Although nearly 9 in 10 respondents said they regularly visit their health care provider (HCP), nearly half said their HCP does not ask them about STI testing and sexual health.

Read: 6 STIs you should know >>

“I know that as a gynecologist, I ask my patients if they would like a [STI] testing, but some primary care providers may not ask the question,” Roberts said. “And even if the patient tells me no to one [STI] At the assessment I ask them more about their sexual history to see if they really need it, and I will have another conversation with them again to emphasize the importance.”

Eight in 10 of our respondents felt comfortable talking to their doctor about STIs, but for those who don’t, Stigma can influence in avoiding conversation. But Roberts noted that most health professionals want you to ask questions and talk about sexual health. “We see a wide variety of patients every day, so you won’t be alone when talking about your sexual health,” she said.

Here’s more information on the key findings from our STI awareness survey:

76% of respondents said they were not worried about contracting an STI.

If you have sex, you are at risk of contracting STDs. Younger respondents and those with two to five sexual partners were the most worried about contracting an STI.

Do you think STIs have become more or less common in the last 10 years?

Less than half of respondents knew that STIs have become more common in the U.S. over the past 10 years.

Younger respondents were more likely to be aware of the rise in STIs compared to other respondents.

Which of the following areas are true?

Like syphilis, certain myths about STIs still persist

About 15% of respondents said that STIs can only be transmitted when you have symptoms. This is not true. Overall, there was a lack of knowledge about common STIs and how to prevent them.

Which of the following STIs have you heard of?

Some respondents have never heard of common infections such as trichomoniasis.

Only 35% said they had heard of trichomoniasis and only 7% had heard of Mgen, an STI that can cause infertility if left untreated. These common STIs can cause serious health problems and often have no symptoms.

Which of the following protects against STIs?

Almost all respondents knew that condoms protect against STIs….

It’s great to see condoms getting the love they deserve.

…but some respondents thought other birth control methods protected against STIs (they don’t)

Some respondents said that spermicide (12%), birth control pills (5%), and IUDs (5%) offer protection against STIs, which is not true. These birth control methods can help protect against pregnancy, but they do not protect against STIs.

Do you know where to get tested for STIs?

85% knew where to get tested for STIs

Respondents with two to five partners were more likely to know where to get tested for STIs compared to respondents with one or no partners.

How comfortable are you talking about STIs with the following people?

Most respondents said they feel comfortable talking about STIs with their health care professional…

It’s nice to see that the majority of participants (80%) reported that they felt open to talking about STIs with their doctor. Also interesting is that almost half of those surveyed do not believe it is appropriate to talk about STIs with family members.

When you visit your healthcare provider, do they ask you about your sexual health and/or offer you STI screening?

…however, having the conversation is another story.

More younger respondents said their doctor asks them about sexual health and offers STI testing compared to other respondents.

Overall, a lack of knowledge about common STIs means that more education is needed to help people make informed decisions about their health. “Women should talk to their healthcare provider because some STIs have no symptoms,” Roberts said.

What you don’t know can hurt you when it comes to your sexual health.

This resource was created with the support of Hologic,Member of the Corporate Advisory Board of HealthyWomen.

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