Sexually transmitted diseases aren’t a fun topic, and most people avoid talking about them at all costs. But this is an important conversation to have – and one that could improve overall public health. The truth is, everyone should regularly test for STDs – even if you think you’re totally clean – and it’s much easier to do than you think.
The Big Picture: Disease Prevention
The “big picture” reason behind STD testing is disease prevention. If a person knows they have a sexually transmitted disease, they can take appropriate countermeasures to avoid infecting more people. They can get treatment before the infection grows worse. They can learn more about the disease and figure out how to live with it.
All of this is impossible if you don’t know that you’ve been infected. Testing is the first step to eliminating your disease – and preventing other people from getting it.
Why Everyone Should Regularly Test for STDs
These are some of the best reasons why everyone should be regularly testing for sexually transmitted diseases:
· It’s easy and accessible. First, understand that getting tested for STDs is easy, inexpensive, and accessible for everyone. While you may feel temporarily uncomfortable scheduling an appointment, this is a common and appreciated routine analysis in the medical community. No one is judging you or thinking harshly of you when you schedule this type of appointment; instead, they’re happy you’re taking responsibility for your personal health and public health. Most health insurance policies make STD testing relatively inexpensive, and if you don’t have insurance, you may be able to take advantage of a free screening near you. Ask around your local clinics to see if there are any programs like this available. On top of that, most STD screenings are noninvasive and quick, only requiring a urine sample and/or a quick blood draw.
· Some STDs present no symptoms. Another reason why everyone should regularly test for STDs is the fact that some diseases present no symptoms whatsoever. For example, did you know that 70 percent of women with chlamydia don’t have any noticeable symptoms? Just because you look and feel healthy doesn’t mean you are; you may be passing an infection to your sexual partners without even realizing it.
· Even virgins can have STDs. In line with this, you also shouldn’t assume that you don’t have any STDs just because you’re a virgin. Some of these infections and diseases can pass with skin contact alone; HPV, HSV, and syphilis can all spread even in the absence of vaginal intercourse. Additionally, the term “virgin” means different things to different people, so a person may earnestly describe themselves as a virgin despite having sexual contact with other partners that could result in infection.
· Monogamy isn’t adequate prevention. Monogamy also isn’t adequate prevention. If you and your partner are monogamous and faithful to one another, you may feel like you’re eliminating all other external variables. But it’s possible that you or your partner brought an infection into this relationship at the beginning. It’s important that both of you get tested proactively.
· Early treatment is sometimes essential. Some sexually transmitted infections, like HIV, are best treated when caught early. Regularly screening for diseases increases the likelihood that you can notice signs of infection proactively, so you can more effectively manage the disease. If you wait until your symptoms are more noticeable or more severe, you may end up with more expensive treatments and more dangerous complications.
· It’s never too late. That said, it’s never too late to find out about your sexual health. Just because you’ve delayed getting tested for many years doesn’t mean you’re a lost cause. Finding out about a sexually transmitted infection can help you prevent its spread starting now – and if you find out you’re totally clean, you’ll immediately benefit from the peace of mind.
· Testing for STDs is a show of respect. Getting yourself tested is about more than your personal health; it’s a show of respect for all your future sexual partners and for public health in general. It shows that you care about reducing the spread of infection.
· More testing can destigmatize testing. Finally, understand that for illogical reasons, there’s still a public stigma about STDs and STD testing. If you get tested, and you talk openly about getting tested, you help to destigmatize this process, which can encourage other people to test themselves more frequently as well.
Getting tested for STDs only takes a few minutes, it’s quite affordable, and it could give you valuable information that could protect your health and the health of your partners for years. If we all do our part to get tested regularly, we can greatly reduce public infections and improve our collective health.