Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
This post was originally published on February 10, 2014.
By Kendall McKenzie
How often you should be tested for STDs really depends on your personal risk factors (like if you’ve had a new sexual partner since you were last tested and if you use protection, like condoms). Planned Parenthood has a nice little quiz that can help you find out if you’re due for an STD test. At minimum, sexually active folks should be tested once a year, even if they always practice safer sex.
It’s a good idea to get tested again (on top of the once a year rule) after having unprotected sex, or if you think your partner might have an STD (because they’re experiencing symptoms or they’ve had sex with someone else). It’s also really, really common for people with STDs to not have or notice symptoms, though they can still pass the infection to someone else. So, getting tested regularly and always using condoms is your best bet to avoid STDs – no matter how healthy you feel or what your previous test results have been.
Unfortunately, you shouldn’t assume that you’re going to be tested for STDs automatically when you visit your nurse or doctor for regular checkups, even if you get a pelvic exam or Pap test. If you want to be screened for STDs, make sure to specifically ask.
It’s also important to be very honest with your nurse or doctor about your sexual practices, including your STD history, number of sexual partners, the kinds of sex you’ve had (oral, anal, vaginal), how often you use protection, and other activities that may put you at risk for certain infections (like sharing needles). This will help your doctor figure out which STD tests make the most sense for you, since there are different tests for different STDs. Don’t be embarrassed either. Remember, STDs are really common, and doctors aren’t there to judge you. If you feel uncomfortable being completely open with your health care provider, you can always come to Planned Parenthood — not being judgmental is kind of our thing.