Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are common. If you’ve been sexually active, getting tested for an STI is an important step to take toward protecting your health, and your partner’s. The type of testing you receive, however, may depend on your specific risk factors.
Here’s a closer look into who should get tested and when, along with the steps you can take to be screened.
Why Get Tested for STIs?
STIs can develop in anyone who has been sexually active. Some infections, including herpes and HPV, can be spread through skin-to-skin contact when open lesions are present. Others are spread through vaginal, oral, or anal sex.
While condoms are highly effective for shielding you against STIs, they don’t offer 100% protection. Not only can condoms break, but a condom also doesn’t cover all your genital skin. If someone has a herpes outbreak on their testicles, for instance, that exposed area of their skin could still transmit the infection.
Some STIs produce noticeable symptoms, but others may not. In some cases, symptoms may take a while to develop. Because some STIs can be serious if left untreated, it’s important to receive the proper care as early as possible. The only way to know for sure if you’ve contracted an STI after being sexually active is to get tested.
Who Should Get Tested & When?
Simply put, it’s never a bad idea to get tested for an STI before getting sexually active with a new sex partner. You’ll also want to get screened right away if you notice any symptoms of an STI, such as sores or bumps around your genitals, discharge from your vagina or penis, a burning sensation when you pee, or any irritation around your genitals or anus.
Other than these factors, here are some basic recommendations for who should be tested for STIs and when:
- Teens and adults should be tested for HIV at least once.
- Sexually active women under the age of 25 should be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia annually, as young women are more at risk for these conditions.
- Women over the age of 25 who have new or multiple sex partners should also be tested.
- Everyone who is pregnant should be tested for certain STIs that could affect their pregnancy or be passed onto their baby.
- Any men who have sex with other men should be tested for HIV, chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhea annually. STI rates are higher in men who have sex with men, so it’s especially important for them to be tested and receive treatment, if needed.
- Anyone living with HIV should also receive annual testing for hepatitis C.
- People who share needles to inject drugs should also receive annual testing for HIV.
How to Get Tested for STIs
If any of the factors above apply to you — or if you’d simply like to get tested for your own peace of mind — the very first step to take is to schedule an appointment with our office for testing. The type of test you receive will then depend on the STI you’re being tested for. Some infections, such as HIV, require a blood test. Others may require a urine test or swab taken from the vagina, cervix, or penis.
If STIs (or any other health concerns) are causing you worry, contact YourTown Health. We offer discreet and timely STI testing to help you make informed decisions about your health. Send our HIV Prevention and Treatment Program team a message online or call 770-626-4033.