How Often Should I Get Tested for STDs?

How Often Should I Get Tested for STDs?

Everyone takes on new responsibilities once they become sexually active. Decisions regarding birth control and disease prevention top the list, and while the importance of planned pregnancies is obvious, there’s much myth and misinformation surrounding sexually transmitted diseases (STD) and sexually transmitted infections (STI).

The acronyms themselves are used interchangeably, though you can be infected without yet developing the disease. The semantics of the name, however, isn’t nearly as important as the need for testing.

Few STIs have obvious symptoms, particularly in the early stages, so without testing, conditions can advance to a point where the infection or disease may cause permanent damage or reach a stage where it’s harder to treat. It’s these infections that turn into diseases, underscoring the need for early detection.

Minimum STI testing

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends annual STI testing for virtually anyone, targeting the sexually active under the age of 25, a group that’s perhaps more likely to have a variety of partners as their sexuality defines itself.

Those over 25 are still at risk of infection if they’re having unprotected sex or sex with partners whose STI status isn’t known. Annual testing is recommended for this group as well.

Everyone, whether sexually active or not, should be tested for HIV at least once in their lives, and annual testing is recommended for those who remain sexually active, particularly those in high-risk groups.

Pregnancy and STIs

The CDC also recommends STI testing for pregnant women to ensure the health of their babies. This is testing that I’ll recommend early in your prenatal care. CDC recommendations include testing for syphilis, HIV, and hepatitis B screening for all pregnancies, in addition to chlamydia and gonorrhea for women who are statistically at risk.

Special risk groups such as MSM

Statistics play an important part in controlling infectious diseases, even though high-risk groups may feel stigmatized. Men who have sex with other men (MSM), whether gay, bisexual or any other definition, are statistically more likely to carry certain types of infection.

Three out of five cases of syphilis result from MSM contact and this incidence rate has been climbing since 2000. A woman who has a partner who has engaged in MSM contact in the past is at risk of infection from this and other diseases. In this case, your sexual orientation’s risk factor changes to the MSM level.

STIs on the rise

Discussing STI testing with me may be somewhat embarrassing for you. You may be embarrassed, or you may fear judgment. However, this shouldn’t keep you from being tested, even when you don’t think it’s necessary. These attitudes keep people from being tested as often as they should be, leading to a rise in the rate of infections across the country.

Consider STI testing not as something you do if and when situations arise, but an important part of your health care monitoring. You don’t feel stigma about having your car’s oil changed, even though you’re probably good for another couple thousand miles.

Nor should you feel a stigma about regular STI testing as a preventive precaution. Sex is an important part of the human experience, so ensuring your continued good health is simply smart. Call my office in Tulsa, Oklahoma, or request an appointment online today.

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