Once you become sexually active, it’s very important to get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) regularly. STIs are quite common; the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 1 million STIs are acquired around the world each day. However, it’s important to remember that most of these infections are asymptomatic, which makes it even more important to get tested so you can help stop their spread.
But you may be wondering just how often you should get tested for STDs. Keep reading if you want to know how often to get tested for STDs and what to expect during testing.
How often should I get tested for STDs?
There are two main steps that you should always take to protect yourself against STDs: use condoms every time you have sex, and get tested regularly. However, you should make sure to follow this advice correctly, which involves knowing how to use condoms properly and getting tested for the right STDs and with the right frequency.
The guidelines for how often you should get tested for STDs will vary depending on your age, number of sexual partners, and other factors. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to get tested for STDs at least once a year, but your healthcare provider may recommend testing more often if you have certain risk factors.
It’s particularly important for you and your partner to get tested for STDs if you’re starting a new relationship.
Depending on your sexual behavior, you may need to get tested every few months. This will help keep you safe, diagnose any STDs as early as possible, enable you to get the right treatment, and help prevent the spread of STDs.
Let’s discuss how often you should get tested for different STDs in more detail.
Which STD tests should I get?
Chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis
According to the Mayo Clinic, you should get screened for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis every year if you:
- Are a sexually active woman under the age of 25 years old
- Are a sexually active woman older than 25 years old, but have other risk factors for STIs
- Are having sex with a new partner or have had multiple sexual partners
- Have HIV/AIDS
- Are a man who has sex with men
- Have suffered from sexual abuse or rape
According to CDC guidelines, everyone between the ages of 13 to 64 should get tested for HIV at least once. If you don’t have any risk factors and your last test was negative, you should continue to get tested at least once a year. You may need to get tested more often if you:
- Are a man who has sex with men
- Have had intercourse with a partner with HIV
- Have had multiple partners since getting your last HIV test
- Are pregnant or planning to try to conceive
- Have shared needles or other drug injection equipment with other people
- Have exchanged sex for money and/or drugs
- Have been diagnosed with a different STI
- Have been diagnosed with hepatitis B or tuberculosis
- Have had sex with someone who has one of these risk factors, or with someone with an unknown sexual history
Human papillomavirus (HPV)
HPV is one of the most common STIs around the world, and it can cause health problems such as genital warts, precancerous lesions, and even some types of cancer. However, most cases of HPV are completely asymptomatic. Factors like your age and past HPV test results will determine how often you need to get tested.
According to Planned Parenthood, you should get an HPV test, most women between the ages of 25 and 65 years old should get an HPV at least every 5 years. If your HPV tests have been negative, you probably won’t need to get tested after the age of 65. Pap tests are also used to look for changes caused by HPV, and in most cases, you should get a Pap test every 3 years.
Screening tests aren’t routinely used for herpes. The best way to diagnose this STD is to take a swab from an active lesion or blister. Blood tests for herpes also exist, but they’re not as accurate as swab tests.
How does STD testing work?
Depending on the STDs that you’re getting tested for, you may need to provide different types of samples. The most common types of samples include:
- Finger prick blood sample
- Urine sample
- Vaginal or urethral swab
If you’re getting your STD test at a clinic or doctor’s office, a healthcare provider will usually take the samples and take them to the lab for processing. But if you’re using an at-home STD testing kit, you’ll have to collect your own samples and make sure to mail them back properly.
If your test comes back positive, your healthcare provider will be able to help you understand your diagnosis so you can get the right treatment. Fortunately, STDs can be either cured or successfully managed through modern treatments — as long as you get diagnosed as early as possible. You can learn more about at-home STD tests at STDWatch.com.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) - who.int
STD testing: What’s right for you? - mayoclinic.org
GETTING TESTED - cdc.gov
What’s an HPV test? - plannedparenthood.org