BY Chioma Ozoemelam
A friend of mine asked me if I thought it weird that she wanted to get STD testing with her boyfriend of 2 years. At first, I thought, “Did she find out he was cheating?” But on second thought, I decided it was not weird. I proceeded to ask if they had ever gotten tested for STDs, or if they got tested before they started having sex. She said they had never gotten tested. I was not surprised, but I was a little disappointed. A lot of us underestimate the importance of getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases before having sex with a partner.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) are infections that are spread from one person to another, usually during vaginal, anal, and oral sex. They’re really common, and lots of people who have them don’t have any symptoms. Without treatment, STDs can lead to serious health problems. But the good news is that getting tested is no big deal, and most STDs are easy to treat.
The best time to talk about getting tested is before you start having sex (including oral sex). The next best time is now, even though you have been dating for a while. Getting tested with a partner is super important and one of the best ways to prevent STDs.
It’s totally normal for the conversation to feel a little awkward, especially when you have been in the relationship for a while. It is a sensitive subject and may result in hurt feelings if someone takes it the wrong way or thinks you are trying to imply that they are dirty. But sexual health is too important to ignore and you will feel better once you get it over with. You never know, your partner might be glad you brought it up.
Here are some tips to help:
- If you are talking to your partner who you are already sexually involved with, let them know that getting tested doesn’t mean that you don’t trust them.
- Let your partner know that you care about them and you just want to make sure you both are healthy.
- Explain to them that a lot of people can have STDs for years and not know it; most people do not have any symptoms and getting tested is the only way you can find out if you have any infection or not.
- Talk before you have sex if you are with a new partner. You could say “let’s get tested before we have sex, so we can protect each other.”
- Get tested together.
- Agree to stay safe, use condoms.
It is important that you and your partner get tested regularly. I advise that you get tested at least once a year.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you get tested for the following:
- HIV: All adults and adolescents from ages 13 to 64 should be tested at least once for HIV.
- Gonorrhea and Chlamydia: All sexually active women younger than 25 years should be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia every year. Women 25 years and older with risk factors such as new or multiple sex partners or a sex partner who has an STD should also be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia every year.
- Syphilis, Hepatitis B: All pregnant women should be tested for syphilis, HIV, and hepatitis B starting early in pregnancy. At-risk pregnant women should also be tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea starting early in pregnancy. Testing should be repeated as needed to protect the health of mothers and their infants. However, if you are sexually active, you can test for these too.
- All sexually active gay and bisexual men should be tested at least once a year for syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. Those who have multiple or anonymous partners should be tested more frequently for STDs (i.e., at 3 to 6 months intervals).
- Sexually active gay and bisexual men may benefit from more frequent HIV testing (e.g., every 3 to 6 months).
Other STDs to get tested for include:
- Genital Herpes: There are two main types of the herpes virus. Type 1 is the virus that more typically causes cold sores, although it can also cause genital sores. Type 2 is the virus that causes genital sores more often.
- Human Papilloma Virus: Certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause cervical cancer, while other varieties of HPV can cause genital warts. Many sexually active people become infected with HPV at some point in their lives, but never develop symptoms. There’s no routinely used HPV screening test for men. In women, HPV testing involves Pap-smear tests, which are recommended every three years for women between ages 21 and 65. Vaccines can protect both men and women from some types of HPV.
- Trichonomiasis: Trichomoniasis is an STD that’s cured with antibiotics. It’s super common, and most people that have it don’t have any symptoms.
What To Do About Positive Results
If you test positive for an STD, the next step is to consider further testing and then get treatment as recommended by your doctor. In addition, inform your sex partners. It’s no fun to tell the person you’re dating that you have an STD but it’s the right thing to do, and it helps them stay healthy. Your partners need to be evaluated and treated because you can pass some infections back and forth.
Try not to play the blame game when you talk to your partner. If one of you tests positive during your relationship, it doesn’t automatically mean that somebody cheated. It can take a while for STDs to show up on a test, and most people don’t have any symptoms.
It’s normal to be worried about how your partner’s going to react, and there’s really not much you can do: they might get upset and scared. If that happens, try to stay calm and talk about your plan to stay healthy and not give your STD to anyone. You might just need to give your partner a little time and space to process the information, which is normal. They should also talk to their doctor about ways to protect themselves. In the end, the conversation may even bring you closer together.
You may feel ashamed, angry, or afraid. It may help to remind yourself that you’ve done the right thing by getting tested, and saving others from getting infected. Make sure to talk with your doctor about your concerns.