Who Should Be Tested for STDs and How Often?

Every year in the United States, nearly 20 million people discover that they’ve contracted a bacterial, viral, or parasitic infection. Although most of these infections occur through unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex, some sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including herpes and syphilis, can be transmitted just as easily through skin-on-skin contact. 

Sexually transmitted diseases have always been common, but a steep and sustained surge in occurrences over the past decade has made them something of a global epidemic. 

In just four years (2013-2017), the U.S. experienced a 22% rise in chlamydia cases, a 67% increase in gonorrhea cases, and a 76% escalation in syphilis cases. What’s even more alarming is the ultra-high rate of infection among young people. Half of all sexually active teens and young adults contract an STD before their 25th birthday.  

While some people display obvious symptoms, others can carry an STD — and pass it on — without showing any signs of infection. That’s why, as an ever-increasing number of people contract and spread STDs, it’s more important than ever to take charge of your sexual health. Here’s how having periodic STD screenings at AllCare Family Medicine and Urgent Care of Atlanta can help you do just that.

The importance of routine STD testing 

If you’re sexually active on any level — even if you’re in a trusting, monogamous relationship or you always use protection with new partners — regular STD screenings should be part of your normal preventive health care routine.

Besides being the only way to detect a sexually transmitted infection that’s asymptomatic or lying dormant, regular STD testing gives you an opportunity to treat new infections before they can cause long-term health complications or impact your fertility. 

Knowing your STD status is also key to preventing the further spread of infection. You should inform your past and current partners about your positive result so they can get tested, too. If your STD can’t be cured, find out what kind of steps you should take to protect your current and future partners.  

General STD testing guidelines

The nature of your sexual activity, including the number of partners you have and whether or not you use protection, is largely what determines how often you should undergo routine STD testing. In general, a more complicated sex life requires more frequent testing.  

If you only have one partner and you’re in a monogamous, long-term relationship, you may only need to be tested once a year, depending on your age, risk factors, and health history. 

Although many committed couples decide to stop regular STD testing following consistently negative results, you should resume testing if your relationship status changes or if you find out or suspect that your partner has been sexually active outside of your relationship. 

If you’re not sexually active more than a few times a year and you use protection each time, annual STD testing may be sufficient. If you don’t use protection, however, you should plan to be tested after each new partner.   

If you’ve been sexually active in the past but haven’t been tested since, you should get screened before you find your next partner or dive into your next relationship. 

Testing for those in high-risk categories 

Young people account for half of all new STD infections, or approximately 10 million cases per year in the United States. If you’re sexually active and under age 25, you should be tested at least once a year, whether you’re male, female, straight, gay, or bi-sexual. 

For anyone in this high-risk age category, it’s especially important to be routinely tested for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, which are the most commonly reported STDs among sexually active teens and young adults.

 

No matter what your age, gender, or sexual orientation, you should consider having more frequent testing (every 3-6 months) if you have multiple sex partners, particularly if you rarely or never use protection. You may also benefit from more frequent testing if your current partner has an STD, even if they’re receiving treatment. 

Because certain sexually transmitted infections can pose a serious threat to unborn babies, you should undergo standard STD testing in your first trimester if you’re pregnant. Repeated testing may be required if you’re sexually active throughout your pregnancies, particularly if you have new or multiple partners.  

The bottom line on STD testing

No matter how conscientious you are about using protection or how committed you may be to your partner, if you’re sexually active, you should get tested. 

Remember, many of the most common STDs can be cured with medicine, and those that can’t be cured can often be successfully managed with the right treatment. 

If you’re ready to schedule a comprehensive STD screening test, the team at AllCare Family Medicine and Urgent Care of Atlanta can help. Book an appointment online or over the phone today.

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