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A weekly show where we debunk common misconceptions. This week, Elliott discusses some misconceptions about STI's!

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Hi, I'm Elliott, this is Mental Floss on YouTube. Today I'm going to talk about some misconceptions about sexually transmitted infections and yes, that means that I am going to be talking about sex. If you don't want to hear me talk about sex, (a) I get it, and (b) now would be the time to click away. 


Misconception number 1: HIV and AIDS are the same thing. So today seems like a good day to learn some big words. HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus and AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. Basically, the virus in HIV is what causes the syndrome in AIDS. Someone who is HIV positive does not necessarily have AIDS, but someone with untreated or undiagnosed HIV will likely develop AIDS.

Speaking of HIV, misconception number 2: You can't get HIV from oral sex. Vaginal and rectal transmissions of HIV are much more common, but oral transmission is possible as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you can reduce the risk by using a condom. There are also things that may increase the risk, like bleeding gums, genital sores, and the presence of other STIs.

And that brings me to misconception number 3: You can only get an STI from intercourse. So, now you know this one thanks to the previous misconception. Some STIs, like HPV and crabs can even be transmitted from contact, and in addition to HIV, gonorrhea and chlamydia can be transmitted via oral sex. 

Misconception number 4: Genital warts and genital herpes are the same. They sound very similar, even their acronyms are similar. There's HPV and HSV, but they're not the same thing. Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV, can cause genital warts. Herpes, or HSV, does not cause warts. Its symptoms are more blister and scab-like. See, we're having fun.

Misconception number 5: You can only spread herpes during an outbreak. If you have herpes, you can spread it anytime. The best way to lower the risk of spreading it is through immunosuppressant therapies. So, be safe; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the majority of people who have herpes don't even know they have it.

Misconception number 6: STI symptoms show up right away. Fifty percent of sexually active people get an STI before the age of 25, and the majority of those people don't know they have one because symptoms don't show up right away. Some people do experience symptoms, but attribute them to something else. The only way to know if you have an STI is by going to the doctor and getting a test done. 

Misconception number 7: HIV is the only deadly STI. There are actually a handful of STIs that come with a higher risk of death. For instance, HPV has been linked with many types of cancer, including cervical, vaginal, and oropharyngeal, which is the back of the throat. People tend to believe that this is only a problem in women but, according to the CDC, about 63 percent of cases of penile cancer are linked to HPV. Researchers are currently investigating a link between the STI trichomoniasis, or trich, and prostate cancer. In 2014, it was discovered that the parasite that causes trich may help prostate cancer cells grow more quickly. 

Misconception number 8: There's an HPV test for men. There isn't an FDA-approved test, and doctors don't do any routine testing for HPV in men. This isn't an episode for lectures but, I just want to note that according to the CDC, 80 percent of sexually active Americans have been exposed to HPV, and if a guy tells you he's been tested for STIs, just note that that does not include an HPV test. Okay, speech over. Thank you.

Misconception number 9: Having sex in water prevents STIs. You can definitely get an STI in water or a hot tub. Many people believe that the warmth of a hot tub will somehow kill germs, but warm water is actually the perfect place for an STI to thrive. Water doesn't protect against pregnancy either, by the way. Chlorine is not a birth control method. 

Misconception number 10: It's possible to get an STI from a toilet seat. This is so statistically improbable that it's considered a myth by experts. Any STI-causing microbe that comes into contact with a toilet seat will die almost instantly, so you really don't need to worry about it. According to the president of the American Society for Microbiology, "To my knowledge, no one has ever acquired an STD on the toilet seat -- unless they were having sex on the toilet seat!" which sounds very romantic.

Thank you for watching misconceptions on mental_floss on YouTube. If you have a topic for an upcoming Misconceptions episode that you would like to see, please let us know in the comments, it'll be great. All right, I'll see you next week, bye.