STD. STI. Whatever you call it, a sexually transmitted disease or infection is absolutely no fun for anyone. Unfortunately, it’s very easy to catch gonorrhea, chlamydia, HPV and other wellness-wrecking disorders. The good news is, most sexually shared diseases can be cured. But first, you’ve got to know that you have one. There are certain times in life when it’s a good idea to get tested for sexually transmitted infections, no matter who you are.

Why everyone should be tested for an STD

First, it’s in your best interest to understand that not every person who’s infected with a sexually transmitted disease knows it. Some people experience no symptoms at all. Others are unaware of their own infection until an intimate partner shares the dire news. If you’re about to enter into a new sexual relationship, or if you plan to resume an older relationship, both partners ought to be tested, just to make sure they are both uninfected. If you’re worried about your confidentiality, explore your STD testing options to find a clinic near you that promises privacy.

The Centers for Disease Control are experts where sexually transmitted diseases are concerned. The CDC recommends that every adolescent and adult between the age of 13 and 64 be tested a minimum of one time for HPV. The human papilloma virus can lie dormant for years, so testing is crucial to prevent the spread of genital warts.

Sexually active females may protect their health by undergoing chlamydia testing every year. Pregnancy is another imperative time of life when women should be tested for chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HPV, HIV and any other diseases they may have been exposed to. Many STDs can be passed from mother to baby, so screening for STD during pregnancy actually protects at least two people.

HIV can be spread through sexual contact and shared needles, too. For this reason, anyone who uses injectable drugs should seek testing for HIV regularly, says the CDC. Testing for this and other potential infections protects the user, their friends, and society as a whole. Most communities have at least one clinic where anyone can obtain confidential HIV testing for low or no cost. If you have health insurance, or if you are covered by someone else’s policy, you can request communications confidentiality with a phone call or by filling out a simple form at MyHealthMyInfo. This means that minors who seek STD testing can do so without their parents being informed by the insurer.

Timing is everything

If you think you should get tested for gonorrhea or another STD the day after you’ve had relations with a new sex partner, do think again. According to sex experts at Bustle magazine, STDs have to be in your body a little while before they show up on a test. Some infections, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia, take around two weeks to show up. Some forms of hepatitis may be evident in one month if you submit to a ‘rapid test’ for a liver infection. HIV is like that, too. Generally, however, both HIV and hepatitis can take as long as six months to be detectable by a typical antibody test.

Depending on how sexually active you are, you ought to seek STD testing as often as every three months. If you and your monogamous partner tested clean at the beginning of your relationship, annual testing may be appropriate. If you have more than one partner, you should do the every-three-months testing routine, even if you use a condom every time. While a high-quality condom worn the right way may indeed prevent most pregnancy and lessen the likelihood of most kinds of STD transmission, they’re still not 100 percent effective. Even a tiny amount of pre-ejaculate or vaginal fluid can carry a lot of infectious microbes.

Do it for your future

If you have an STD and you don’t have it treated appropriately and effectively, it can lead to a whole lot of health trouble down the road. If left unchecked, syphilis can cause insanity and blindness. Really. Gonorrhea can cause sterility, the inability to ever have babies. If a woman does get pregnant while infected, she may experience serious complications and even share the disease with her baby.

Protect your current health and your future health, too. Find a free clinic in your neighborhood and get tested for STD. Do it as if your life depends on it because it really does.

Natalie Martin is a freelance writer, and when she is not working on her next article she can usually be found in her garden. She attended the University of Cincinnati before turning to writing and now spends much of her time drawing attention to some of the major health problems that are plaguing the country today. Natalie resides along the Gulf Coast with her 6-year-old Labrador Retriever.

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