If you’re sexually active, you may wonder how often you should get tested for STDs. This is an especially important thing to think about now since April is STD Awareness Month. After all, STDs are not going anywhere—actually, they are on the rise.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noticed an significant increase in STDs back in November 2015, stating that there were approximately 20 million new infections per year for people 15 to 25 years old. They also found that syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea are growing resistant to antibiotics.
Yup—that means it’s more important than ever to get tested for STDs regularly.
To get the inside scoop on the pressing topic of STDs, HelloGiggles spoke to two experts, who had a few things to say on the matter. Dr. Sherry A. Ross, women’s health expert and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period., tells HG, “It’s best to get tested for STIs once a year, after unprotected sex, and in between new partners.”
“Many STIs do not have any symptoms, so getting tested regularly is important to avoid future gynecological problems,” she also tells us.
Dr. Ross says HPV, chlamydia, and gonorrhea can be detected on routine pap smears or STI screenings, but “you may have to ask your health care provider directly to have an STI screening, as it may not be included in your yearly exam.” Good to know.
We know you might be wondering: STDs, STIs—what’s the difference? Here’s the short answer. Not all STIs turn into STDs, so someone can get infected, yet they won’t have symptoms or develop the disease—the “d” in STD, of course.
Dr. Michael Krychman, MD, OB/GYN, sexual medicine gynecologist and the executive director of the Southern California Center for Sexual Health and Survivorship Medicine, agrees with Dr. Ross.
“Anyone who is sexually active should get tested at least once a year for the big guns like hepatitis, syphilis, and HIV,” Dr. Krychman told HG.
“Of course, another important milestone: after ANY unprotected sex,” he says. “Plus, if you have a new sexual partner. For instance, many couples both get tested before engaging in sexual activity.”
Yes, going to get tested for STIs may not be the most fun thing to do, but it’s crucial to your health.
Unfortunately, just because it’s important doesn’t mean everyone’s doing it. Elite Daily recently did some research among 240 millennials and discovered that only 68 percent of women and 59 percent of men had been tested for STIs in the last two years. Uh oh.
However, these days it’s *so* easy to get tested for STDs. Why NOT do it?!
If you don’t get the testing done at your regular doctor, you can go to a clinic, like Planned Parenthood. And, like Dr. Krychman says, you and your partner can both get tested together.
Doing it together might alleviate some of the pressure, fear, and potential embarrassment of going alone. Fun fact: Men can go to Planned Parenthood, too, so no excuses! You can also find free STD clinics via Tinder’s “Health Safety” section within the app. Technology, right?
“Unprotected intercourse can lead to STI even once,” Dr. Krychman tells HG. “Even if you’re practicing withdrawal method, you can experience an STI. Plus, not all condoms protect against STIs, since some can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact.”
It’s best to play it safe and always use a condom, no matter what, and don’t skip out on getting tested. All in all, you’ll feel better once you get the results back. No more wondering if you happened to get an STI from that one time you weren’t safe.
And if you want some pointers on how to talk about STD testing with your partner, this video’s for you:
In the meantime, we’re going to go schedule a check-up—you can never be too safe!