How does someone get an STI? And how do I know if I need tested?
Playing catch with a baseball is a fun, harmless pastime—playing “catch” with STIs is a different ballgame. Whether you’ve heard them called Sexually Transmitted Infections or Diseases, you know they don’t sound like a walk in the park. STIs are a serious business, but they also don’t have to be the end of the world. Here’s what you need to know about how they are contracted and when you might need testing or treatment:
Most STIs are contracted through vaginal, oral, or anal sex with an infected person. Some STIs, however, can also be spread through skin-to-skin contact (such as mutual masturbation, “dry sex,” or prolonged kissing), or spread to babies during childbirth or potentially pregnancy. Still others can be spread through non-sexual contact including reusing or sharing syringes (or even tattoo needles!) with an infected person.
Many people think that if their partner has an STI, they will see it. That is a huge misconception, however, because many STIs don’t show symptoms right away or at all. Even if there are no outward symptoms or immediate physical discomfort, many STIs have long-term consequences if they go untested and untreated. They can lead to more diseases, infertility, birth defects, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancies, cancer, and in rare cases even death. No matter what kind of STI a person is exposed to, early testing and treatment is key.
If you are wondering if you need tested, here is a quick list of pointers:
- Anytime you have a new sexual partner, you should get tested.
- If your partner has had any new sexual partners, you should get tested.
- Anytime you have sex with a person who has a known infection (even if you used condoms), you should get tested.
- Anytime you experience unusual symptoms after a sexual encounter (genital pain, warts, bleeding, pain while urinating, abnormal discharge, etc.), you should get tested.
- If you test positive for an STI and get treatment, you may need to schedule another appointment three months after your initial appointment to get re-tested.
Remember: the only ways to be 100% safe against STI’s are to not engage in any sexual activity that puts you at risk for STI’s (refer to second paragraph of this article), or to only have sex in a committed, mutually monogamous relationship with someone who is uninfected.
STIs are certainly a risk that comes with being sexually active, but there are ways to keep yourself safer:
- Latex condoms can be effective at preventing some STIs if used correctly and consistently. However, the typical use failure rate is 18%.
- Get vaccinated for Hepatitis B.
- Get tested, treated, and re-tested responsibly (see above).
- Ask your partner about their sexual history, and ask them to get tested if they have had previous partners.
If you have any questions about your sexual health or want to schedule an appointment give us a call today!
Sources for this article are available upon request.