How Often You Should Actually Get Tested for STDs, According to Doctors
Hey, you! Close your Tinder app for a sec, because this is important: STDs in the US are on the rise. Gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis cases all increased in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control. That year also saw around 50,000 new HIV cases -- and one in eight infected people don’t know they have it. Yikes.
With all these viruses and bacteria circulating in the dating pool, how often should you actually be getting tested for STDs? We interviewed an OB-GYN, a nurse practitioner, an infectious disease specialist, and a sexual psychophysiologist to find out.
People 24 and younger, once a year
There are no hard-and-fast guidelines to STD screening, says Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, a board-certified infectious disease physician at the University of Pittsburgh. But there are certain risk factors to take into consideration, and age is one of them. Unfortunately, you tight-bodied, keg-standing whippersnappers have a higher STD risk than your parents. Young women are especially vulnerable to chlamydia and HPV, says nurse-practitioner Bob Smithing, clinical director of FamilyCare of Kent. And HPV can lead to cervical cancer because young women’s cervixes lack a barrier cell present in women older than 25. “The more partners you have when you’re young,” Smithing says, “the higher your risk for cervical cancer later in life. So I’ll tell younger patients to be selective.” But you probably already knew high standards are a good thing.
Men who have sex with men, every three to six months
Gay and bi guys have higher rates of syphilis and HIV, says Dr. Adalja, and should be tested for HIV, gonorrhea and chlamydia at least every six months. “We test not just in their urethras,” Dr. Adalja says, “but we also check for rectal infection and sometimes in the mouth for gonorrhea.” Depending on your risk factors -- drug use, number of partners, proclivity for the wilder and more daring bedroom activities -- you might lean toward getting tested every three months.
Married, monogamous couple, once a year or never
YAWN. Just kidding. But yeah, as you can probably guess, monogamous couples don’t have much to worry about. “Couples in long-term monogamous relationships are at a low risk for STD transmission,” says Dr. Jason James, a board-certified OB-GYN in private practice in Miami, Florida. There’s no data on how often to screen lesbians, so Dr. Adalja advises them to follow the same guidelines as heterosexual females. Unless you’re showing symptoms, regularly shoot up or are pregnant, you probably don’t need an STD test if you’re in a monogamous relationship.
But! Sometimes the plot thickens... with adultery! “Deception is involved when monogamy is violated,” says Dr. Nicole Prause, a sexual psychophysiologist. “It’s very common for partners with an outside, concealed partner not to use condoms and not to tell their current, unprotected partner,” Dr. Prause says. “Sadly, testing may be a necessary alternative to good communication for many couples.”
Womp-womp. There’s also a good chance your partner has herpes type I or II (85% of US adults do). “The type no longer indicates the location of [herpes], because oral sex has been extremely common in the US for decades,” Dr. Prause says. She adds that there’s a movement to stop calling herpes “sexually” transmitted, considering you can give it to a baby by pinching its adorable, chubby cheeks.
Open relationship couple, every three months to once a year
“We have to differentiate between an open relationship that’s a limited group and one with no limits,” Smithing says. Got a group of five to eight partners who all have sex with each other? You’re probably fine to get tested once a year, Smithing says. If you and your partner(s) have a rotating cast of side pieces, you should get screened every few months. “Do I have any good, official sources [for this]? Not really,” Smithing admits. “Because of course in healthcare they don’t want to address that sort of thing.”
Full-service sex workers (aka hookers and porn stars), once every two weeks at least
The industry makes its own guidelines. That could mean bi-weekly screenings for adult film actors or weekly screenings at a legal brothel -- it’s “a case-by-case basis,” Dr. Adalja says. “Individuals in that industry want to ensure the safety of their employees, so they will test at a more frequent interval.” Because sometimes, sharing isn’t caring.
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