Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) or Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) are typically asymptomatic, meaning that they develop and spread within the body causing harm unnoticed by the carrier. Testing for sexually transmitted diseases is recommended for the sexually active, especially those with multiple or at-risk partners. Frequent testing is recommended to ensure a healthy lifestyle. Any recent infection should be immediately treated before additional complications arise. Patients that are diagnosed with an STD should seek immediate medical attention and suspend sexual activity to prevent passing the disease to others.
How often should one get tested for STIs?
The risk of sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia or gonorrhea increases with sexual activity. If you are involved in a monogamous relationship, this risk should be very low. However, if you or your partner is involved with multiple partners, the risk increases exponentially.
Ideally, STD screening should be done at least once a year for the sexually active individual. In many situations we recommend more frequent testing when you begin a relationship with a new partner, or when you believe you may have symptoms indicative of an STD.
How are these infections or diseases transferred?
It is commonly understood that many forms of sexual interaction may cause the transmission of a sexually transmitted disease, but STDs are not restricted to only intercourse. In some cases, unprotected oral sex may cause the transfer of a sexually transmitted disease. Additionally, there are some infections that can be transmitted by skin-to-skin contact. An example of this type of infection would include oral herpes or frequent blisters of the lips, nose or soft facial tissue.
If you are involved in a sexually active relationship you are at risk for a sexually transmitted disease. Transmission of a sexually transmitted disease does not require a physical climax to occur. In most cases, using a condom during sex is the safest method to avoid an STD. Since these methods are not without issue, you may still contract an STD even if you practice safe sex tactics.
STI Testing Misconceptions
Many people know very little about testing for sexually transmitted disease. There is a fear of judgement or embarrassment that prevents at-risk patients from testing. STDs are an infectious disease that may be life-altering if left untreated. If you think you may have an STD, or if you are not familiar with your recent partner, we recommend an STD test to insure your safety.
There are also misconceptions that STD tests are painful. That is false. Tests for many STDs are as quick and easy as giving a urine sample, while some tests might also involve having blood taken. Your healthcare provider might also do a visual examination to look for signs of infection, or use a swab (like a small, soft cotton bud) on the genital or mouth area.
STDs are illnesses, just like the common cold or the flu. STDs are passed on by unprotected sexual contact with someone who has an infection. Getting an STD has nothing to do with cleanliness or grooming, and getting an STD test is not a reflection on your behavior—it’s a responsible health choice. Get tested regularly, and don’t forget to talk to your partners about STDs and safer sex.