If you’re sexually active, STD testing is the most important aspect of maintaining your sexual health. It’s vital in diagnosing serious infections, many of which show no clear signs or symptoms. Even if you use protection, regular testing is still required as condoms are not effective 100% of the time. But how often should you get tested? We’ve asked our resident GP, Dr Rashid Bani, to give us his insight.
How often should I take an STD test?
The frequency that you should take an STD test depends on a number of factors. Things that you need to consider include how often you have sex, whether you’re in a long term relationship or whether you’ve engaged in any high risk encounters. As a general rule of thumb, we always encourage everyone to undergo a general ‘sexual health MOT’ every year, testing for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and HIV. If you’re single and you’ve had multiple sexual partners, we would recommend more regular testing.
How often should I take an STD test if I’m single?
If you’re single, you should ideally get tested before you have sex with someone for the first time and they should do the same, but it’s understandable that this is not always possible.
If you regularly have sex with different people then you will want to get tested fairly frequently – we recommend getting tested once every one to three months depending how many partners you’ve had. You should always get tested sooner if you’ve had a high risk encounter, such as unprotected sex.
If you don’t have sex very often, lets say once every 3 – 6 months, but you’ve had sex with someone for the first time quite recently, it’s worth getting tested after this encounter.
Another situation to think about is if you’re having casual sex with someone. It’s still worth getting tested at least every three months in this kind of scenario in case the other person has picked up an STD from someone else.
It’s also worth noting, that no STD test is accurate immediately after you’ve had sex with someone because it takes time for the bacteria or virus to reach a detectable level. For this reason you will want to wait a couple of weeks following an encounter before getting tested.
And finally, above all else, if you notice symptoms or one of your previous sexual partners has told you that they have an STD, you should get tested straight away.
How often should I take an STD test if I’m married or in a relationship?
If you’re married or in a long term relationship it may feel unnecessary to get tested regularly and this is completely understandable. If both people in a relationship have been faithful and were both clear at the beginning of the relationship then there is minimal chance that you will have caught an STD.
There are however a few scenarios where you may feel it’s necessary to get tested. If you’re in a relationship and for whatever reason you believe that your partner has cheated then it’s worth getting tested to be on the safe side. In these instances it’s possible to do so discreetly using services such as Your Sexual Health.
Likewise, if for whatever reason you’re in a long-term relationship and you’ve slept with someone outside that relationship then you’ll want to get tested to avoid passing it on to your partner. You’ll want to abstain from sex with your partner or spouse until you’ve been tested in these cases.
The final example is if you’re trying for a baby or if you think you’ll want to have kids in future. STDs can reduce fertility and cause complications during pregnancy. In these instances it’s always worth erring on the side of caution and getting tested even if you don’t suspect your partner has cheated. We still recommend a “sexual health MOT” once every year in these instances.
What are high risk encounters and why should I get tested following one?
Generally speaking a high risk sexual encounter is if you’ve had sex with someone without using a condom and you don’t know for certain that this person is STD free. If you’ve had sex in this situation then you should look to get tested 28 days following exposure using a standard STD test or 14 days following exposure using an early detection test. Retesting in these situations is recommended after 3 months.
There are also other factors which may cause greater risk, including if the person that you had sex with has had sex with multiple sexual partners since her last STD test. If you’ve paid for sex, then this should also be counted as a high risk sexual encounter even if you used a condom or only engaged in oral sex.
I’ve had multiple partners, but used a condom should I still get tested?
Although condoms are effective the majority of the time there are a number of STDs that you can still catch whilst using one. It’s also been known for condoms to fail in a small number of cases. Even if you use a condom everytime you have sex, it’s recommended that you get tested using the advice above to be on the safe side or at the very least you get tested every 6 – 12 months as a precaution.
Finally, remember you can catch STD’s by oral sex alone too. So it’s important that you used a condom for oral sex to be sure that there was a low risk of you catching an STD.