Have You Ever Lied About Having An STI?

A new study explores attitudes toward sexually transmitted infections.

No one likes to talk about sexually transmitted infections, but more than 19 million of them are diagnosed every year in this country alone.

A new survey exploring attitudes about venereal diseases has borne some interesting results. The report, sponsored by Superdrug Online Doctor, asked 2,000 respondents from the U.S. and the UK to rate which STIs they perceived most negatively and how they impact their opinions and sexual behaviors.

homosexual couple relaxing togetherness and sharing a massage

“We wanted to dive deeper than the number of infections by also exploring how people feel about these stigmas and how that impacts their relationships with partners,” researchers told NewNowNext.

First, some good news: only 1% of homosexual respondents say they’ve lied about having an STI, as compared to 2% of heterosexuals and 3% of bisexuals. Of course, the greatest risk is from partners who don’t know they have an infection: Even though one in two sexually active Americans will contract an STI by age 25, fewer than one-third routinely get tested.

That helps to explain why chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and herpes are on the rise.

Even beyond HIV, some sexually transmitted infections are more negatively perceived than others: In the U.S., syphilis was considered the most severe by respondents in the U.S. (Those in the UK, however, considered it the least severe.)

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Only 27% of straight people said they would start a relationship with someone they knew had an STI, as compared to 42% of homosexuals and 47% of bisexuals. Respondents were more forgiving when it came to other people, though: 82% wouldn’t think less of a friend who they discovered had an STI, and 78% wouldn’t look down on a family member with one. (Some 76% said they wouldn’t think less of their boss if they knew he or she had an STI.)

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Gays and straights in the survey were pretty evenly matched when it came to condom use: 51% of heterosexuals said they use condoms more often than not, while 50% of homosexuals said the same. In comparison, 60% of bisexuals said protected sex was more common than unprotected sex.

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How do these results line up with your attitudes and behaviors?

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.
@ItsDanAvery