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Are You Clueless About Your Sexual Health? New Research Says Many Americans Are

3 min read

We’re coming to the end of Sexual Health Awareness Month (September) and a new survey of 2,000 sexually active Americans that examined respondents’ sexual health knowledge revealed that the majority need a crash course on the topic of sexual health: One-third of study respondents incorrectly believe you can get a sexually-transmitted disease (STD) from a public toilet seat.

When asked about the ways people can contract an STD, a fifth (22 percent) mistakenly believed incidental physical contact was enough, while 24 percent thought you could get an STD from sharing a glass of water with someone who’s infected.

Commissioned by LetsGetChecked and conducted by OnePoll for Sexual Health Awareness Month, the survey found that 81 percent of respondents believed themselves to be knowledgeable about sexual health, but the results weren’t there to back them up.

Some of this misinformation might be the result of a lack of sexual education in school: Only half (52 percent) of respondents remember receiving sex ed—but of those, 53 percent say it was “abstinence-only.”

A quarter (26 percent) incorrectly thought two condoms provide double the protection from STDs, while 36 percent wrongly believed wearing a condom protects against all STDs. A fifth (21 percent) of respondents mistakenly thought you could tell if someone had an STD just by looking at them and three in 10 incorrectly believed they don’t need to be tested for STDs unless they have symptoms.

“Taking responsibility for your sexual health is so important, not just for you, but for your partner(s),” says Chief Medical Officer of LetsGetChecked, Dr. Robert Mordkin. “Better education is needed around STDs and the serious, long-term consequences that may occur if they are left untreated. In the absence of sufficient sex education, people need to work to educate themselves and attend regular sexual health screenings.”

The Consequences of Our Lack of Sexual Health Knowledge

This lack of knowledge has consequences, since Americans aren’t taking the proper steps to ensure they’re having safe sex. Of those who aren’t in a committed relationship, 24 percent “rarely” or “never” speak to a new partner about their STD status or the last time they were tested before having sex for the first time.

For those who aren’t likely to speak to a new partner about STDs, the top reason was because it can be uncomfortable to bring up (43 percent), while others worry about “ruining the mood” (34 percent). Forty-eight percent of respondents don’t know how often they should be tested for an STD—and a fifth (19 percent) say they’ve never been tested.

Luckily, there are a variety of things respondents say would make them feel more comfortable when being tested. This includes having healthcare professionals available to help them understand the results (55 percent) and explain treatment options (48 percent), as well as being tested in their own home (52 percent).

“The increasing epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases in the U.S. and further afield highlights the need for more screening,” Dr. Mordkin says. “That’s where we come in: With LetsGetChecked, people have the ability to test their sexual health status from home. We are passionate about making screening more accessible to our customers.”

At-home screening can be one option to help take the stigma away from sexual health screening. Another is a continued cultural dedication to making this slice of the health puzzle as common and comfortable to talk about as getting a flu shot.

Interested in other aspects of 360-degree perspective on wellness? Check out our 360 Wellness interviews with experts, where they reveal what wellness looks like in their daily lives.

About The Author

Nicolle Mackinnon

Nicolle Mackinnon

Stemming from her personal journey to treat her celiac disease and Hashimoto's thyroiditis, Nicolle serves as a writer and editor for several leading publications helping women understand how important, stylish and fun it is to commit to clean beauty. By way of her contributions to No More Dirty Looks, Thoughtfully Magazine and numerous beauty brands' blogs, websites and social media, Nicolle has become a trusted voice on the correlation between health and beauty. Follow her journey on Instagram and connect with her via nicollemackinnon.com.

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