The importance of regular STI testing

doctor with patient consultation

Did you know that one in five people in the United States have a sexually transmitted infection? The worst part is that many people don’t realize they have an STI until it’s too late because embarrassment and denial keeps them from getting tested regularly. If you may be at risk of STIs and have been putting off that trip to the doctor, here are four reasons to consider getting tested.

Avoid Long-Term Complications

You might think that STIs are just a nuisance, but many of them can cause long-term health problems, infertility and even death. For example, untreated chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease. Regular testing is key to catching and treating STIs early before they can cause damage to your body. There was a time when STIs like syphilis and gonorrhea were incurable and led to a slow, painful death, but today they can be cured with a simple course of antibiotics.

Stop the Spread

One of the most important reasons to get tested for STIs is to reduce their spread through the population. An STI diagnosis doesn’t have to mean an end to your sex life, but partners should be aware of your status in order to protect themselves. There are even telehealth services that offer mail order PrEP prescriptions for people who are too embarrassed to see a doctor in person or lack adequate access to healthcare. If you are in a committed monogamous relationship, you may not need to be tested as frequently. But if you have multiple partners, this is definitely something you’ll want to do on a routine basis.

If you do find yourself with an STI, be sure to communicate this with any sexual partners you may have. This is vital to stop the spread of these diseases. Even if you feel apprehensive, your partner will be glad that you took the preventative measures necessary to keep them from getting sick.

Reduce Pregnancy Risks

Many STIs can cause pregnancy risks, including miscarriage, premature labor, low birth weight, or even stillbirth. These illnesses can also be passed along to a baby during vaginal delivery. Further, STIs have also been linked to birth defects such as cleft lip, brain defects, and limb defects. If you or your partner is pregnant or trying to conceive, STI testing is a vital part of preparing for your new baby. Treating any STIs and taking precautions to prevent the spread of disease during delivery can reduce or eliminate the risk to your newborn. If you have a more serious STI such as HIV, it is important to disclose this with your obstetrician so they can do their best to keep your child from contracting it as well.

Prevent Cancer

You might not think of cancer as a sexually transmitted disease, but STIs are known to be a risk factor for several kinds of cancer. One of the most common is the human papilloma virus, which can lead to cervical, genital, anal, and head and neck cancers. Hepatitis B is another sexually transmitted virus that can lead to liver cancer over time if it goes untreated. The good news is that vaccines are available for both Hepatitis B and HPV, but STI testing is still important even if you’re vaccinated. Especially if cancer runs in your family, you’ll want to be sure to keep a close eye on your own risk factors.

Remember, not having sex doesn’t mean you aren’t at risk for STIs. Any type of sexual activity can spread STIs, even just kissing. Make an appointment with your doctor or family planning clinic to schedule your STI test today.

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