You always go to your gynecologist, or other physician, for your yearly check-up. You therefore assume that you'd know if you were positive for an STD. The thing is... unless you are going to Planned Parenthood for your exams, there's a good chance you're wrong. Many, if not most, private doctors do not screen for sexually transmitted diseases unless you specifically ask them to do so. So, the next time you go in for your annual visit, ask your doctor if she has been, or will be, screening you for STDs. Then, if they say yes, ask what STDs they're planning on screening you for.
Even doctors who test their patients regularly, don't necessarily test for all common STDs. There are good reasons not to test for genital herpes and HPV in individuals who don't have symptoms, but this may give some people a false sense of security. Therefore, it is important to know exactly what diseases you have and haven't been tested for as well as the last time you were tested.
What should you be tested for and how often? To some extent std screening depends on your individual risk factors, but some general guidelines are below:
STDs that your doctor should test you for every year, and/or before starting a new sexual relationship:
- HIV (this represents a change in CDC guidelines, which now recommend universal testing)
STDs that you should be tested for regularly, but not yearly.
- Cervical Cancer (current testing guidelines) – via a Pap Smear.
Note: The majority of cervical cancers are caused by the sexually transmitted virus HPV
STDs for which testing is not generally recommended unless you know you have been exposed to them or you have symptoms:
- Genital Herpes
- Hepatitis B
Note: BV is considered to be a sexually associated condition rather than a sexually transmitted disease
STDs You Should Be Tested For During Pregnancy:
- HIV : At the first prenatal visit, and then again in the third trimester. Women who were not tested during pregnancy should be rapid tested at the time of delivery. Note: Although these are the CDC guidelines, HIV testing during pregnancy is not yet required in all states.
- Syphilis: At the first prenatal visit (all women), during the third trimester (high risk women only), and at delivery (all women).
- Hepatitis B: At the first prenatal visit, and then again in the third trimester for high risk women.
- Chlamydia: At the first prenatal visit, and then again in the third trimester for high risk women and women <25 years old.
- Gonorrhea: At the first prenatal visit for women who live in areas with large numbers of cases. Again during the third trimester for women at high risk.
- Bacterial Vaginosis: Some studies suggest that asymptomatic women at high risk for preterm birth should be tested for the sexually associated condition bacterial vaginosis, but the data is controversial. Testing is not supported for asymptomatic women in general.