There are some situations where getting tested for an STI is obvious. If a partner tests positive, or if you have symptoms, you’ll want to know if you’re in the clear.
But what if you don’t have any symptoms? Is there still any reason to get tested?
The answer is yes.
We’re here to shed some light “where the sun don’t shine” and illuminate ways to support your sexual health.
Before we get started, we should clear up the difference between an STD (sexually transmitted disease) and an STI (sexually transmitted infection). You’ll see the words used interchangeably, but the preference today is ‘STI’ as the majority of sexually transmitted conditions are considered infections.
The absence of symptoms doesn’t mean you’re free from infection. There’s typically a period of time when an STI will stay dormant without any symptoms. This can be days, weeks, or even months. Without symptoms, testing is the only way to know for sure, and knowing if you’re positive can directly impact your recovery.
There are some STIs that are curable with medication, like gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, and trichomoniasis. Some viral infections are incurable, like HPV, herpes, HIV, or hepatitis b. But, in most cases, early intervention can help to minimize the impact on your life and your partner’s. Getting tested gives you the chance to receive the care you need right away.
Without treatment, many STIs can result in long-term health concerns. For example, some can lead to fertility issues or birth defects. Untreated HPV can lead to cervical cancer. Some can even lead to death.
If you think you’re not at risk, consider the current trends. Even before quarantine mandates, STI rates in the US were reaching dizzying heights. The CDC recently released a report showing that 2019 was the 6th consecutive year of increased cases. To provide some perspective, that’s at least 1 in every 5 Americans testing positive for an STI.
Throughout the pandemic, many resources reserved for STI testing, treatment, and education were redirected to COVID-related efforts. Now, as Philly gets its groove back and we relax social distancing guidelines, this uptick is likely to continue unless we work together to change the narrative.
You can pass an STI to someone even if you don’t have symptoms. If you’re sexually active, getting tested is an essential step in stopping the spread of STIs.
Another key to turning this story around starts in a familiar place – the bedroom.
The best way to avoid an STI altogether is to practice safer sex. This entails protection (like condoms) and open communication with your partner. Talk with each other about getting tested. It may not always be the most comfortable conversation, but it’s an invaluable way to show respect for your partner and yourself and to help stop the spread of STIs.