Getting Tested for STI's
By Hakima Tantrika
Millions of people have, at some point in their lives, been treated for a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Having an STI is very common, and getting tested is the only way to know for sure that you have one.
Although it’s common, most people don’t talk about it much. Having an STI, or even getting tested for one, is sometimes wrongly thought to be a dirty or scary thing. The danger actually is of this stigma. People are afraid to get tested, and as a result, STIs can spread even more.
Don’t worry, though! We're here to break through this stigma through information and communication and give you everything you need to know about getting tested for STIs.
Why is getting tested for STI's important?
Your sexual health is a vital part of your overall health, and getting tested for STIs is an important part of a healthy sex life.
If you do have an STI, it is better to find out early to avoid spreading it to other people. Most STI's do not have symptoms and some can cause serious damage over time.
How do you get an STI?
You can get an STI whenever you have skin-to-skin genital contact and/or anytime you share sexual fluids with another person.
This includes, but is not limited to oral sex, anal sex, and vaginal sex. Condoms and dental dams significantly lower the chances of STI spread, but they do not entirely eliminate the risk of getting an STI.
Wearing a condom greatly reduces the risk of transmitting STI's, but it is not 100% proof. Therefore, anyone who is sexually active is recommended to get tested for STI's regularly.
Most people with an STI don’t have any symptoms. Symptoms can also come and go. You can be symptom-free for months or even years while carrying an STI. A person might even think that they are cured from an STI when symptoms are gone, when in reality it they are contagious.
When should you get tested?
Even if you feel totally healthy, you need to get regularly tested if you are sexually active because most STIs have no symptoms.
It is a good idea to get tested every time you change sexual partners or when starting a new relationship.
You could even get tested together with your partner! This shows you care about your health and your partner’s health. It can be awkward to bring up STI's with a partner due to the stigma surrounding it, but it is also a wonderful opportunity to talk openly with them and begin a new engagement with open communication and transparency.
If you visit a doctor/primary care physician annually, this is a great time to ask to get tested. You can also ask your gynecologist. Just make sure you ask for a full STI panel because these tests are not always included in a routine health check and you want to make sure you cover all the bases.
If you don't have insurance or want to be seen immediately, you can also make an appointment at a clinic near you to get tested. If you need extra support, ask a friend or someone you trust to help you make a plan to get tested. You, your health, and your sex life are worth it.
What if it’s positive result?
Don’t panic! Most STI's are curable with antibiotics, and there are many treatments available for the STI's that cannot be cured.
Getting a positive result doesn’t necessarily mean that you contracted the STI from your current partner. However, you will need to communicate your results to your partner and any other sexual partners in the past who could have contracted the STI from you. It is not inevitable or certain that your current or past sexual partners contracted the STI, but it is possible, and they should get tested soon.
The fear of a positive result may make it nerve-wracking to get tested. However, the sooner you can get tested, the better. If you get a positive result, your doctor will be able to prescribe the necessary care you need.
If you get a negative result, your mind will be at ease. Either way, you will know that you put in the effort to take care of your health and your sexual partners'.