Should I be tested for sexually transmitted infections (STI/STDs) and what STI tests should I get?
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) there are about 20 million new cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), also known as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), in the United States every year. Getting tested for STIs is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health. Many STIs can have little to no symptoms which makes testing the only way to know for sure if you have an STI. If not treated, many STIs can cause severe health problems. Knowing your status is a critical step to stop the spread of STIs.
It’s especially important to get tested if:
you’re about to begin or are in a new sexual relationship
you and your partner are not using condoms, or are thinking about not using condoms
you are sexually active and have not been tested before
your partner has cheated on you or has multiple partners
you have more than one partner
you have current symptoms that suggest you might have an STI
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If you and your partner are in a long-term relationship with each other, and only each other, and both of you were tested before entering the relationship, you may not need regular STI testing. But many people in long-term relationships weren’t tested before they got together. If that’s the case, it’s possible that one, or both, of you have been carrying an undiagnosed STI for years. The safest choice is to get tested.
During your doctor’s visit, make sure you have an open and honest conversation about your sexual history and STI testing with your doctor. Also, ask whether you should be tested for STIs. Don't assume that you're receiving STI testing every time you have a gynecologic exam or Pap test. If you think you need STI testing, request it. Talk to your doctor about your concerns and what tests you'd like or need. If you are not comfortable talking with your doctor about STIs, there are local clinics that provide confidential and free or low-cost testing.
Below is a brief overview of the CDC’s STD testing recommendations for women:
All adults and adolescents from ages 13 to 64 should be tested at least once for HIV.
All sexually active women younger than 25 years should be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia every year. Women 25 years and older with risk factors such as new or multiple sex partners or a sex partner who has an STD should also be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia every year.
All pregnant women should be tested for syphilis, HIV, and hepatitis B starting early in pregnancy. At-risk pregnant women should also be tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea starting early in pregnancy. Testing should be repeated as needed to protect the health of mothers and their infants.
Anyone who has unsafe sex or shares injection drug equipment should get tested for HIV at least once a year.
Finally, there are additional tests for STIs that may not be necessary for all individuals. Be sure to have a discussion with your doctor about what STI tests are recommended for you.
For more information, take a look at the following websites: