Why 1/3 of Americans believe you can get an STD from a public toilet seat

Image for post
Image for post
New research commissioned by LetsGetChecked and conducted by OnePoll examined America’s sexual education knowledge for Sexual Health Awareness Month. (Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash)

A third of Americans incorrectly believe you can get a sexually-transmitted disease (STD) from a public toilet seat, according to new research.

A survey of 2,000 sexually-active Americans examined respondents’ sexual health knowledge and found the majority need a crash course on the topic of sexual health.

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

But that’s not all respondents got wrong about STDs: They were also unable to identify the common diseases.

While 63 percent correctly identified gonorrhea as an STD, less than half recognized herpes (48 percent) or chlamydia (42 percent).

Twenty-eight percent identified “claphytis” as an STD, while 21 percent did the same for “strenedia” — when in actuality, both are made-up words.

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),” said 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.”

This lack of knowledge has serious 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.

For those who haven’t been tested in the last year (53 percent), 23 percent said they’re uncomfortable being tested, and 24 percent worried about what the results might show.

“The increasing epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases in the U.S. and further afield highlights the need for more screening,” continued Dr. Robert Mordkin. “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.”

Luckily, there are a variety of things respondents say would make them feel more comfortable when being tested. This includes having health care 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).


  1. You can tell if someone has an STD just by looking at them
  2. Wearing two condoms provides double the protection against STDs
  3. If two people are both HIV positive, they don’t need to use condoms or other barriers
  4. You only need to be tested for STDs if you have symptoms
  5. Herpes is the name of an STD
  6. Condoms will protect against all STDs
  7. You can not get an STD from a public toilet seat
  8. Oil-based lube is safe to use with a latex condom
  9. Symptoms of an STD will show up immediately after being infected
  10. You can not get an STD from incidental physical contact
Image for post
Image for post


  1. False
  2. False
  3. False
  4. False
  5. True
  6. False
  7. True
  8. False
  9. False
  10. True
Image for post
Image for post


  1. Haven’t had sex with a new partner since their last test 36 percent
  2. Don’t have any symptoms of an STD 30 percent
  3. Don’t believe they’re at risk for an STD 29 percent
  4. Worried what the results might show 24 percent
  5. Uncomfortable being tested 23 percent

>> Download the video & infographic for this research story <<

NOTE: All news copy and multimedia on this SWNS account is free to use as you see fit. Where research has been conducted, we ask that you credit the company which commissioned it.

SWNS is a UK and US-based news and media content agency with a proud 40-year history.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store