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Should I Get Tested? And How?

Since many STDs (short for sexually transmitted diseases) have no symptoms, you don’t want to take any chances. The longer an STD goes untreated, the more damage it can do to you and others. STDs can’t be “cured” on their own; they must be treated. For example, a herpes sore may come and go, but the herpes virus stays in an infected person’s body and can still infect a partner, even when the sore isn’t present.

If you have no symptoms, but have had oral, vaginal, or anal sex without using condoms—or you’ve had sex with more than one partner—you should get tested once a year. (A Pap smear is the only screening test for an HPV infection of the cervix.)

Many think they don’t need to get tested because they don’t have symptoms, but don’t be fooled. It’s very common not to show symptoms, and it’s why STDs are also known as sexually transmitted infections, or STIs. Just because you’re asymptomatic does not mean you are all clear.

Your chances of getting an STD increase when you’ve had unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners. If you continue having sex with multiple partners, you should get tested every six months. And if you’re having unprotected sex, you should take steps to protect each other, such as use a condom, get tested and/or be monogamous. It’s also a good idea for partners to get tested before having sex with each other. This will help them feel more comfortable.

It may be embarrassing to talk about, but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

If you’re in a committed relationship and use condoms, get STD tested once a year. Even though you totally trust your partner, people sometimes make mistakes and cheat. And they often keep it secret, because they want to keep the relationship. So, always be safe.

After getting tested, be sure to continue using condoms, even if you’re in a steady relationship or using another type of hormonal birth control.