While sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) strike fear into the hearts of many people, just as many assume that it couldn’t happen to them. Even if it could, they reason, they would know and would do something about it right away.
Unfortunately, that’s just not the case, says the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA): “The truth is many STIs have no signs or symptoms in the majority of people infected. Or they have mild signs that can be easily overlooked. This is why the term ‘disease (as in STD) is starting to be replaced by infection (or STI). The only way to know if you have an STI is to get tested.” (1)
Even if you have decided to get tested, however, it can still be a daunting prospect. If you’re looking for guidance on the subject, here are a few helpful tips.
Men: Watch for Pain
One of the most common signs of an STD in men is pain in the testicles or urethra. This pain can be mild, leading many men to ignore it or assume “it will pass.” This is a bad strategy for two reasons:
- The pain most likely will pass, since many STDs only have periods of symptoms. Once they clear up, though, that doesn’t mean the STD is gone – this may lead you to dismiss valuable information and miss your window for effective treatment.
- This ups your chances of transmitting an STD to someone else, and they don’t deserve it.
Men: Don’t Assume You’re Safe
The fact of the matter is, advice to get tested regularly is aimed squarely at women. As many authors have pointed out, “If women are considered at high risk for chlamydia and gonorrhea—which is what this screening recommendation implies—surely a significant number of them are getting it from heterosexual men. In fact, says Peter Leone, MD, an infectious disease specialist at the University of North Carolina, “’for the majority of the population of women, their biggest risk is their male partner.’ So if that’s the case, why should women bear the full burden of getting tested?” (2)
Don’t be that partner. Don’t assume you’re safe. Don’t assume that just because women bear the majority of the responsibility for birth control, they bear the majority of the responsibility for testing as well. Do your part.
Women: Don’t Ignore Bleeding Between Periods
Bleeding between periods can happen for a number of reasons, including pregnancy, hormonal imbalance or rough penetration during vaginal sex. However, bleeding between periods can also be a sign of STDs. If your doctor has not already explained bleeding to your satisfaction, or if you have never experienced it before, test right away.
Women: Don’t Assume It’s a Yeast Infection
Many women dismiss signs and symptoms of STDs as yeast infections. Discharge, smell and itching are all symptoms of yeast infections, it’s true. But if they don’t go away with standard treatments, they’re less likely to be persistent yeast infections and more likely to be STDs. If you can’t shake an infection, get tested.
Both: Get Tested BEFORE Having Sex with a New Partner
When you meet someone in whom you’re interested, it’s tempting to dive right in. The chemistry is there, and waiting seems like the last thing you want to do. However, remind yourself that the actual last thing you want to do is put yourself at risk of infection, especially since some (HIV, hepatitis C, syphilis) can have deadly long-term consequences, while others (chlamydia, gonorrhea) can pose a serious risk to your future fertility.
Instead of taking that risk, ask your new partner to get tested and do the same. If they refuse, they’re not a good potential partner anyway. Walk away.
Both: Use High-Rated Tests
There exist a number of home tests that promise to catch your STDs, but don’t necessarily do a good job at it. This could be because they use cheap testing materials or employ shoddy labs. It could also be because they don’t test the right fluids for certain diseases. For instance, the only tests that can reliably ascertain the presence of HIV use blood samples. Steer clear of anyone who promises an all-in-one solution or uses testing standards that real physicians wouldn’t recognize.
Both: Get Tested Regularly
Yes, you should absolutely get tested regularly, and ASAP if you think there’s even a chance you might have contracted an STD. As ASHA points out, “you may think your annual medical check-up will include tests for STIs, especially if your healthcare provider knows you are sexually active. The fact is that some providers might test for some infections when you come in for a regular check-up, while others do not test for any STI unless you ask them to.” (3)
In other words, your sexual health isn’t something that even your physician is going to take care of for you; you have to look out for yourself. If you meet any of the following criteria, get tested right away:
- You are a man who has sex with men
- You are a woman who has sex with men who have sex with other men
- You have had unprotected sex with an unknown partner
- You’ve engaged in sexual activity when drunk or high
- You have had a sexual experience that involved multiple partners
- You know for a fact your sexual partner has a disease
- You are switching partners
- You are sexually active but not monogamous and have not been tested for a year
- You and your monogamous partner have not been tested since becoming monogamous
Both: Use a Home Test Kit
If you fall into any of the above broad categories, it’s time to make testing a priority today. Luckily, there’s a better way to do that than scheduling a million visits to the doctor’s office. Instead, order a home test kit from iDNA. Our kits are private, reliable and affordable – and you can take as many tests as you need without setting up an appointment or going through insurance.
Don’t wait to get that test, either. Knowing the status of your sexual health is important, both for you and for your partners. Take control of your sexual health by ordering an iDNA kit today, testing right at home and getting the results you need to make smart decisions. Our team is standing by to help, so order now!
(1) Get Tested. (2019). Retrieved from http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/stdsstis/get-tested/
(2) STI Testing for Straight Men Is Way More Lax Than It Is for Women, So That’s Cool. (2019). Retrieved from https://wellandgoodnyc.com/good-advice/std-testing-for-straight-men/
(3) Get Tested. (2019). Retrieved from http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/stdsstis/get-tested/