Your STI Risk Is Way Higher Than You Think

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are like bad gossip—they spread fast and far. Think you’re safe because you know your current partner’s status? Try the Sex Degrees of Separation calculator and prepare to have your mind blown.

Created by British online pharmacy, Lloyds Pharmacy, the calculator proves that you not only have to worry about the one you’re with, but you also have to be concerned about all the people they’ve been with—and then all the people those people have been with, and so on, up to six degrees removed. (Curious as to how your “number” stacks up with other people your age? Find out How Your Sex Numbers Compare.)

When it comes to STIs, your “number” could be a lot higher than you think. According to the calculator, having just one male sexual partner in his 20s is as if you’ve slept with 479,201 people. And that’s one partner. According to the most recent data from the General Social Survey, 70 percent of women have had between two and four lifetime partners, which, if they’re between 20 and 34, lands you with almost a million and a half indirect sexual partners. 

If you’re surprised, well, that’s the point of the program. “This calculator illustrates how exposed you can be to STIs, and how important safe sex is,” explains the note that accompanies the results. “But even when using condoms, you are still at risk from STIs such as warts and herpes, and you may already be carrying a symptomless STI.”

But don’t freak out or take a vow of chastity just yet. The doctors behind the calculator don’t want you to be celibate—they simply want you to use this information to make good choices about your health. While that starts with getting regular STI screenings (the site recommends you get tested every time you have sex with a new partner), even more important is practicing safe sex, always insisting on condoms, and having a frank conversation with any new partner before you jump in the sack. (Find out How to Talk To Him About Your STI Status.)

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