July 16, 2019
Most of us learned the basics of sexual wellness in a painfully awkward adolescent health class, but many adults forget just how important these lessons are. For any sexually active person, responsible pleasure is a must—not just for you, but for your partner as well.
Unfortunately, too many sexually active people feel embarrassed discussing sexual health, avoiding potentially uncomfortable, but necessary, conversations about sexually transmitted diseases (STD). This shame is more than an unnecessary burden – it’s dangerous. Fear of embarrassment and judgement is an all too common excuse to avoid heading to the doctor’s office for a routine STD screening. With undiagnosed STDs causing infertility in roughly 24,000 women a year and costing the U.S. about $16 billion annually, regular STD testing is more important than ever. So, what can you do to maintain sexual wellness for you and your partner?
This will vary for everyone, primarily based on how many sexual partners you have, or how many sexual partners your partner has. Some basic recommendations for STD testing follow, but you should talk to your doctor about what's right for your lifestyle.
• If you’re between the ages of 21 and 25 and engaging in sexual activity at least once a year, you should be getting tested annually for gonorrhea and chlamydia — two STDs that are most prevalent in people under 25.
• If you’ve just entered a relationship or have met someone you think you might want to have sex with, both parties should have an open conversation about their STD status and be tested for all the most common STDs (HIV, herpes, hepatitis, chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhea) as soon as possible. This allows you both to enter into a sexual relationship with trust, safety, and respect for each other’s health.
• If you’re in a polyamorous or open relationship, more frequent STD tests are necessary to maintain trust and well-being for every partner in the relationship. It will be essential to set that boundary with all parties involved, as multiple sexual partners will put you at a higher risk for contracting an STD. Just make sure you find a sex-positive health provider who understands the specific concerns for polyamorous relationships.
• If you’ve been diagnosed with an STD before, be sure to revisit the doctor within six months of testing positive. Women who have had one STD, even treated in a timely manner, are at a higher risk of contracting another STD within the following six months.
• If you’ve recently had unprotected sex or are unsure if your partner is monogamous, you should head to your trusted doctor to get screened for most STDs. It should be noted that some STDs take longer than others to show up on a test. Gonorrhea and chlamydia can provide a reliable test result two weeks after exposure; syphilis can take anywhere from one week to three months; and HIV, hepatitis C, and hepatitis B can take six weeks to three months.
• If you’re experiencing symptoms like bumps, sores, swelling, painful urination, pain during sex, severe itching, or unusual bleeding and discharge, see a doctor immediately. Not only can they test you for STDs, but they can rule out any other underlying condition that may be causing your symptoms.
Healthy, consensual, and positive sex requires honesty, responsibility, open communication, and self-advocation for your own health. The fear of judgement or embarrassment should never stop you from discussing sexual health with your partner or partners. The more people who work to maintain sexual wellness and end the stigma of STDs and STD testing, the safer and more enjoyable sex will be for everyone.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information on this web site is for general information purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or health care provider on any matters relating to your health.