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Getting tested for STIs regularly keeps you and other people safe. Find out about why you should get tested if you are sexually active.
It is important to get tested for STIs if you are sexually active (which means any activity that involves touching someone’s genitals), because it keeps you and other people safe.
However, sometimes people decide not to get tested, often because they don’t have the right information about STIs and how they are spread, or because they might be worried about what people will think of them if they test positive for an STI.
Lots of STIs, such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea, don’t always present symptoms, meaning you can have an STI without knowing. It’s important to get tested every time you have sex with a new partner, and if you are in a long-term relationship it’s recommended to get tested about once a year.
Looking after your health can feel like an annoying thing to have to do, but it’s important to look after yourself and your sexual partners.
Getting tested for STIs is a very quick process, usually involving a swab of the vagina, mouth or anus, a urine sample and/or blood sample. You can do this at a sexual health clinic or your GP. You may also be able to order a home testing kit, depending on where you live – and this is even quicker and easier than going to a clinic!
Testing positive for an STI says nothing about your personality or hygiene. No one should be judging you for your sexual activity as long as it is consensual. This being said, the only people you need to tell about a diagnosis are your current and past sexual partner(s), and this can be done anonymously using ‘partner notification’ services if you don’t feel comfortable telling them yourself.
STIs are simply like any other infection, and are best dealt with quickly to avoid passing it on or having long-term complications for your health. Also, not getting diagnosed with an STI doesn’t mean you don’t have one.
Aside from using a barrier method like condoms, regular STI testing is the best way to prevent the spread of STIs. Also, the more often you get tested, the easier it will be to work out who you might have contracted an STI from and therefore the less people you will need to contact if you do test positive.
Anyone can get an STI, even if they have only taken part in sexual activity once. This includes touching of genitals with hands and vaginal, anal and oral sex.
The most common STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea often don’t have any symptoms. That means that you or your partner(s) could have one and not know about it.
Condoms are an excellent barrier method for preventing the transmission of STIs, however they aren’t always effective, especially for STIs like pubic lice and genital warts or herpes, which can be spread via contact between the genital areas that aren’t covered by a condom. It is also possible to make mistakes when using condoms which reduces their effectiveness.
Find out more about how to use condoms.
Certain STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhoea can cause infertility if left untreated, while others like HIV and syphilis can be fatal if they aren’t diagnosed early enough or managed well.
Most STIs can be treated very easily with antibiotics, and those which can’t be treated can still be very effectively managed. For instance, HIV can be managed using anti-viral medication that prevents it from being passed on to sexual partners.
It is important to make sure STIs are treated as early as possible to prevent them from causing long term health complications.
If you are sexually active it is important that you are responsible. Getting regularly tested means you won’t have any STIs getting out of hand, and hugely reduces the likelihood of passing an STI on to other people.
You don’t have to do it alone
If you are nervous about getting tested, maybe you could go with a friend or a group of friends. It may feel less scary than going on your own, and you’ll have someone to talk to while you wait!
Not an STI but STIs can trigger it.
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