Ask a VWC Nurse: Answers to Your Commonly Asked Questions
Once a month, we feature answers to commonly asked questions that our Valley Women’s Clinic medical staff receives. Our nurses provide answers to these questions here on the blog.
Q. How Often Should I Get Tested for STIs?
April is STI Awareness Month. Anyone who is sexually active can get an STI, and STIs can be spread through vaginal, oral and anal sex. And since there are nearly 20 million new incidence of sexually transmitted infections in the US every year, and half of those infected are between the ages of 15 and 24, it’s a pretty important topic to be informed about.
Many people with an STI don’t know that they have an infection because they may not have symptoms, as symptoms sometimes do not show up for several weeks or at all.
Thus they may be unintentionally spreading the infection to new partners or the infection may be causing damage to their reproductive system. In fact, according to the CDC, undiagnosed STIs cause an estimated 24,000 women to become infertile each year.
Certain STIs, when undiagnosed and untreated, can cause serious health problems.
The only way to know for sure if you have an STI is to get tested. Valley Women’s Clinic offers free and confidential STI testing for chlamydia and gonorrhea, two of the most common STIs. We will provide you with referrals for treatment if your test comes back positive. We also offer free pregnancy testing. Request an appointment at our Blacksburg or Radford office.
A. How Frequently You Should Get Tested for STIs Can Vary Based on Your Age and Number of Sexual Partners, but Should Typically Occur at Least Once a Year.
Here is a brief overview of STD testing recommendations from the CDC:
- All sexually active women younger than 25 years should receive an annual chlamydia screening. Women older than 25 with risk factors such as new or multiple sex partners, or a sex partner who has a sexually transmitted infection should also be tested annually.
- All sexually active women younger than 25 years should receive an annual gonorrhea screening. Women older than 25 with risk factors such as new or multiple sex partners, or a sex partner who has a sexually transmitted infection should also be tested annually.
- All adults and adolescents from ages 13 to 64 should be tested at least once for HIV.
- All pregnant women should receive syphilis, HIV, chlamydia, and hepatitis B screening, and gonorrhea screening for at-risk pregnant women starting early in pregnancy, with repeat testing as needed, to protect the health of mothers and their infants.
- All sexually active gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) should receive screening at least once a year for syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. MSM who have multiple or anonymous partners should be screened more frequently (at 3-to-6 month intervals).
- Anyone who has unsafe sex or shares injection drug equipment should get tested for HIV at least once a year. Sexually active gay and bisexual men may benefit from more frequent testing (e.g., every 3 to 6 months).
It’s always the right time to be informed about your health. Talk to your partner about STIs. Consider getting tested today.
Also consider taking some steps to reduce your risk for STIs. While condoms can provide some protection from STIs, the CDC also recommends the following ways to help reduce your risk:
All infographics in this post are courtesy of the CDC.
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