AT THIS TIME of year, it is natural to reflect on the past, to remember and celebrate victories and remind ourselves of the work we have yet to complete. One constant road-block on our journey is the persistence of myths and falsehoods. We are all susceptible to the occasional misunderstanding or confusion of facts and reason. This is abundantly clear in our sexual practices and understanding of how our bodies work and interact with others’ bodies.
We cannot grow as long as we continue to believe and reaffirm misinformation. Here are just a few common sexual health myths I encounter regularly:
“Lesbians are not at risk for HIV and other STIs.”
While it is true that lesbians, or women who have sex with other women, tend to be on the lower spectrum of risk for HIV infection, the same cannot be said about other STIs (sexually transmitted infections). The ways in which women tend to have sex with each other are not “ideal” for the transmission of HIV due to the lack of an exchange of bodily fluids. Mutual masturbation and oral sex (even with the use of toys) do not facilitate the same exchange of fluids that we see with heterosexual and male-to-male intercourse. That being said, STIs are easily transmitted through oral sex and even skin to skin contact. Both bacterial (chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis) and viral infections (HPV and herpes) are very real possibilities for women who have sex with other women.
“If I am the top, I can’t get HIV.”
HIV is spread through the exchange of fluids from one partner to another. While a “bottom,” or receptive partner during anal sex, is at higher risk, there is still an exchange of fluids between both partners. Men who are exclusively tops are by no means immune to the possibility of HIV infection.
“HIV is now easily treated with just a pill a day.”
While we have certainly come a long way in the past 30 years of this epidemic, HIV is still a life-changing condition. We no longer consider HIV a terminal illness; however, it is a lifelong chronic disease that requires constant care and daily medication. Although there are “one-pill-a-day” regimens available, they do not work for everyone. In addition to the physical maintenance of HIV, it often takes a heavy toll on one’s emotional and mental well-being. While the face and realities of HIV/AIDS have changed, the idea that it is easily dealt with and not a big deal is completely false.
Free confidential HIV and STI testing is available at ARC Ohio’s locations. Anonymous HIV testing is available.
For more information call 614-299-2437 or visit ARCOhio.org