STI: Understanding Risk and Tests By Population
Prevention & Treatment An enduring myth about sexually transmitted infections (STI) is there will always be obvious signs and symptoms. The reality is something more complicated.
STIs may have no symptoms at all, and even when there are signs, they can be mild or confused with other common conditions.
Getting in gear
Anyone who has sex can have an STI and not know it, which is why it’s so important to make sexual health part of the conversations you have with your health care provider. We know it’s not always easy but here are some tips:
Choose a health care provider you trust. You should be able to discuss anything during your visits and be treated in a respectful, non-judgmental way. This is your right.
If you don’t feel comfortable or that your needs are being met, you may want to consider finding another provider
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to STI testing. This is why communication is so important: your specific testing needs depend on things like your age, gender, sexual history and sexual orientation. Transgender men and women have their own needs, too. A frank, detailed and accurate discussion of your sexual history allows your provider to give you the personalized, quality care you deserve
Tests for you
While we can’t stress strongly enough that there’s no “laundry list” of STI tests that everyone should have, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend specific tests for certain populations:
Sexually active women under age 25 should be tested annually for Chlamydia and gonorrhea
Sexually active men who have sex with men should be tested annually for HIV if status isn’t known or negative, or if the patient or their partner has had a new partner since the last test.
Depending on sexual history, testing for urethral and rectal gonorrhea and chlamydia may be recommended.
Everyone between the ages of 13-64 should have at least one HIV test (here again, more frequent testing might be recommended given individual risk factors).
At the first prenatal visit, pregnant women should be tested for HIV, syphilis, hepatitis B, chlamydia and gonorrhea (if under age 25 or have risk factors like a new partner) and hepatitis C (with risk factors such as injection drug use).
Beyond STIs, your provider can help you sort out a number of sexual health issues such as contraception or birth control, which vaccines may be recommended for you (like those to protect against the Human Papillomavirus or HPV), mammograms or prostate cancer tests, even how well you’re treated by your partner. You are your own best advocate so speak up for your sexual health