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Tommy Gonzales

Mar 25, 20227 min read

Can I have an STD without knowing it?

The information provided herein does not constitute an expert or medical advice, nor intended to replace such advice.


The possibility of carrying an STD can have significant health and psychological consequences, making testing highly important, especially if you are in a high-risk group for infections. These high-risk groups include persons that engage in sexual activity with multiple partners, intravenous drug users, or have been previously diagnosed with an STD.[1] It’s also important to remember that STDs can spread through vaginal, anal and oral sex.

Unfortunately, in many cases the STD or STI may not present any symptoms at all[2], with common STDs leaving you vulnerable to some of the harshest long-term complications, including infertility, organ damage and even cancer.

Did You Know? Asymptomatic STDs are more common! Recent evidence shows that asymptomatic, or symptomless STDs, are far-more common than those that do present symptoms, especially in the case of women[3]. In fact, most people who get infected with a disease such as chlamydia or genital herpes can never even know they contracted an STD or develop symptoms only years after.[4] It is in this time-window that they may inadvertently spread the disease to a partner through sexual activity.

One example is Chlamydia, an STD in which 75% of women and 50% of men never present any symptoms at all.[5] Gonorrhea will only present symptoms in 50% of women and 10% of men, leaving a large population of people untreated, unless they are tested in time.[6] This is even more important in the case of HIV, where the long-term risks include severe risk to your life if left untreated, as well as increased spreading of the disease to others through sexual activities.

You can have an STD, even if you feel good. The information above leads to only one conclusion: just because you haven’t noticed any of the symptoms usually associated with STDs, such as skin sores, warts, abnormal discharges from the genitals or a rash, does not mean that you don’t have a dormant STD that can be spread to others.

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When Should I Be Tested?

Regular STD testing is recommended if: You are sexually active outside a monogamous, faithful, long-term relationship such as marriage. Have a sexual relationship with someone diagnosed with an STD or which hasn’t confirmed negative results for STDs. Engage in high-risk behaviors, such as being a sex worker, use IV drugs, have multiple sexual partners (+1 each 12 months). You’ve been previously diagnosed with an STD. You present symptoms of an STD.

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It’s important to remember that every disease has a different progression from the time of initial exposure, meaning that some tests should only be taken after enough time has passed since the time you suspect that you’ve been infected with an STD. Here are the different time frames in which some of the most common STDs can be tested:

Gonorrhea and Chlamydia: Testing is suggested to be performed 2 weeks after exposure.

Syphilis: Tests for syphilis result positive after 1-2 weeks the chancre has been formed, with sensitivity increasing up to ~100% 4 to 8 weeks after onset of primary chancre.

HIV: The window period for testing depends on the test, being (10 to 33 days) for the Nucleic Acid Test, (18 to 45 days) for 4th generation testing and being (23 to 90 days) for antibody testing.

Hepatitis B/C: It will be detected an average of 4 weeks (range: 1–9 weeks) after exposure.[7]

Written by Tommy Gonzales on March 28, 2020

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  1. High-Risk Sexual Behaviour - healthlinkbc.ca
  2. Asymptomatic sexually transmitted diseases: the case for screening - ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
  3. SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED INFECTIONS 2016–2021 - World Organization Health (PDF)
  4. How soon do STI symptoms appear? - nhs.uk
  5. Trends in STDs in the United States - cdc.gov
  6. Gonorrhoea - Overview - nhs.uk

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