You’re probably not thinking about your chances of contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD) when you’re about to be intimate with someone new. But here’s why you should: sexual infections are increasingly common, and your risk of catching one is higher than ever before.
While using condoms can go a long way in helping prevent the spread of STDs, knowing your current STD status — and ideally, knowing your partner’s status, too — is just as important for protecting your sexual health.
The preventive health care experts at City Care Family Practice in Midtown, New York City, offer a full scope of STD counseling services, including comprehensive STD screenings. Here’s how often you should be tested to stay on top of your sexual well-being.
Every year in the United States, about 20 million Americans contract some kind of STD. While anyone who’s sexually active can get an STD, young people are less likely to take the kinds of precautions that help prevent them.
In fact, half of all new STD infections occur in young people who are in their late teens or early twenties, and half of all young, sexually active people will develop an STD by the age of 25.
STDs have always been widespread, but a steep rise in occurrence over the past few years has transformed them into something of an epidemic. In four short years (2013 to 2017), the U.S. saw an explosion in cases of syphilis (up 22%), gonorrhea (up 67%), and chlamydia (up 76%).
Regular STD testing is an important part of routine preventive health care for all sexually active people. While plenty of people display obvious symptoms after becoming infected with an STD, just as many people contract, carry, and pass on an STD without developing any symptoms at all. Examples include those who have had human papillomavirus (HPV) or herpes simplex virus (HSV).
Regular testing is the only way to detect a “silent” STD, or one that’s asymptomatic. Knowing your status is crucial for securing the treatment you need to safeguard your health and fertility; it’s also vital for helping you protect your partner and prevent the further spread of infection.
There are two main factors that determine when and how often you should be tested for STDs: your number of sexual partners and whether or not you use protection. A more complicated sex life (multiple partners and/or inconsistent condom use) generally calls for more frequent testing.
If you’re sexually active in the dating pool and you always use protection, annual STD testing is probably sufficient (see the exceptions to this guideline under “high-risk recommendations,” below). If you don’t use protection every single time, you should be tested after each new partner.
Annual testing is also sufficient if you’re in a committed, monogamous relationship. You may eventually decide to forego annual testing if both you and your partner have received a clean bill of sexual health (negative results).
If you were sexually active in the distant past but haven’t been tested since, it’s a good idea to be screened — and know your current status — before you begin looking for your next partner.
If you’re sexually active and under the age of 25, you’re in the age group that’s most at risk of contracting a new STD infection. Regardless of how many partners you’ve had or whether or not you use protection, you should be tested at least once a year.
No matter what your age, you should be tested for STDs every three to six months if you have multiple partners and/or you don’t always use protection. More frequent screening can also be helpful if your current partner has been diagnosed with an STD, even if it’s being treated.
Because STDs can pose a serious health threat to unborn babies, sexual infection screenings are a standard part of first-trimester prenatal care for all pregnant women. If you’re pregnant and sexually active (especially if you have different partners), you should have repeat testing throughout your pregnancy.
As an increasing number of people catch, carry, and spread STDs, taking steps to protect your sexual health — and the sexual health of the people you’re intimate with — is more important than ever. Simply put, the vast majority of sexually active people should be tested for STDs on a regular basis.
If you’re ready to schedule your next STD screening, call our Midtown, New York City, office today, or click online to book a visit with one of our family medicine experts any time.