is something that everyone needs at least once in their lives, and most people need to be tested for STDs
on a far more regular basis than that. That's because STDs don't only affect people who are "high risk." They're a fact of life for ordinary Americans - and can impact anyone who has sex.
Unfortunately, most people have no idea how common STDs are... and how important testing is. They incorrectly assume they'd know if they were at risk of contracting an STD and would be able to tell if they had one. However, the high frequency of misconceptions isn't really surprising. The truth is that even many doctors are uninformed about sexual health risks, and therefore do not regularly encourage their patients to get STD tested. They too assume it isn't necessary.
Why does everyone need to get STD testing?
Just because your partner has never had sex doesn't mean they can't have a disease that may be sexually transmissible. A number of STDs are spread by skin-to-skin
contact. Other sexually transmissible conditions, such as oral herpes
, may even be passed by casual affection between family members. A substantial fraction of people with cold sores get them from their relatives during childhood, but those cold sores can then be spread sexually during oral sex
Married people, and those in other committed relationships, often say that they don't need STD testing, because they're in mutually monogamous
relationships. To an extent that is true, but only if everyone involved in the relationship was screened for STDs before they got together. Many people with STDs have no idea that they are infected, which can cause relationship problems when symptoms appear after a couple has been together for years... or when a woman discovers she's been infected with chlamydia
only after she has trouble getting pregnant
. Screening before a relationship starts can let everyone involved know where they stand, and help avoid unjustified accusations of cheating.
Some people don't bother getting tested for STDs when they're in a relationship because they've had unprotected sex
, and they assume that if they were going to get an STD they'd have it already.... Why bother worrying about something that it's too late to prevent? However, it's never too late to get tested, or to start having safer sex. It's not like STDs are transmitted every time an infected person has sex.
There's no question about it - being diagnosed with an STD isn't any fun. However, even less fun than knowing you have an STD is being afraid that you might
have an STD. Many people who have avoided STD testing for years find that it's actually a relief to know for certain what is going on in their bodies. Once they know, they can do something about it. In addition, certain STDs, like HIV
are easier to treat when they're caught early
. Scientists have begun to gather evidence that, when HIV treatment is started early enough, it's even possible to achieve a functional cure
Still, the best reason to get tested for STDs is because doing so helps you to have open, honest, and accurate conversations with sexual partners about STD risk and safe sex. Unless you've both gone to your doctors and asked for STD testing, there's no way to know whether you have any infections that you'll want to disclose to each other.
While it's a good idea to play safe even in low risk situations, it's also really nice to be able to make informed choices about your sexual health. You can't determine whether someone has a sexually transmitted infection just by looking at them or based on what they do. The only way to know what's going on is to seek out testing. It may not be perfect 100 percent the time, but it's far more accurate than relying on guesswork or assumptions.