Why should I get tested?
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs, also called sexually transmitted infections or STIs) are very common. Every year there are more than 19 million new cases of STDs in the U.S. By age 25, roughly one in two sexually active people will get one. If you think it can’t happen to you…think again. Since STDs often show no symptoms, many of those infected don’t even know it. The only way to know if you or a partner has an STD is to get tested. Here’s the good news: all STDs are treatable, and many are curable. Putting off getting care for an STD can have lasting health effects for both women and men. Left untreated, some STDs can cause infertility (that is, make you unable to have children). Some can also increase your risk of getting cancer. And get this—already having an STD increases your risk of getting HIV and other STDs if you have sex with an infected partner.
If you notice any changes or irritations “down there,” or any unusual discharge or discomfort when urinating, you should see a health care provider immediately as these may be signs of an STD. However, not all genital infections are STDs. STDs can often be mistaken for common infections or irritations. For example, bumps like pimples or hair follicles on or around the genitals may be confused for genital warts. Women often confuse STDs with yeast infections and other conditions. That’s why it’s important to see a health care provider, who can determine what (if any) STDs you should be tested for.
Not everyone likes to talk about their sexual history. But, before you start a new sexual relationship, it’s a good idea to talk with your partner about your sexual history and getting tested for STDs. After all, you are not just having sex with your partner but with everyone they’ve had sex with…and everyone they’ve had sex with…and well, you get the point. It can be intimidating to think about, but taking charge and getting tested will help you take control over the situation.