STD screenings are easy to ignore – and most people do. Most people assume STDs only affect certain people or those with certain behaviors, but the reality is everyone is at risk of contracting an STD.
If you’re having or have ever had sex, you’re at risk for STDs. Many people assume testing isn’t necessary, that they’d know if they had an STD. But this is a myth.
Here’s why absolutely everyone needs to get tested for STDs, and why it’s such an important step to take in protecting your health.
1. Everyone Can Get STDs
If you think you’re completely safe from every contracting an STD, think again. Everyone, including virgins, can develop an STD at any time. All it takes is contact with someone who’s carrying an STD.
That’s right: even individuals who’ve never had sex are at risk of contracting STDs. While STDs are commonly assumed to be transmitted solely through sexual activity, some STDs can be spread by activities as simple as making skin-to-skin contact or kissing.
As Very Well Health writes, sexually transmitted diseases come in all forms and can be spread in many ways – simply through touching someone’s skin, exchanging saliva, and even unknowingly carrying a disease – which is why it’s so important that everyone, regardless of sexual history, gets tested.
2. You Can Carry an STD for Years Without Knowing
It’s commonly assumed that when you have an STD, you know it. That’s because the symptoms of STDs are uncomfortable or clearly visible – but that’s only the case for a few STDs. The reality is many STDs go unnoticed.
Many people with STDs don’t even realize they’re infected. Symptoms can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few years to appear, meaning you could suddenly start seeing the signs of an STD long after you contracted the condition. Very Well Health notes that while the STD chancroid starts showing symptoms in just 1 to 4 days, STDs like gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia don’t show any symptoms for weeks or months.
The only way to know for certain that you’re STD free is to get tested. STD testing can catch signs of STDs before symptoms appear, which helps ensure you can seek treatment quickly and won’t spread STD to your partners.
3. STDs Are Difficult to Diagnose – and They Can Cause Complications
Because many STDs can live within the body without showing symptoms, they can be tricky to diagnose. After all, if you don’t know you’ve contracted an STD, how would you know whether you should get tested or not? Here’s another reason regular testing is so important: even when symptoms appear, an STD can look like another disease.
According to STDCheck.com, if you visit a doctor with symptoms and don’t get tested for STDs, it’s likely that your diagnosis could be wrong – and that’s because STDs show symptoms that mimic those of other diseases, making it hard to diagnose the root of the problem if STDs aren’t specifically being tested for. Many STDs can give you flu-like symptoms, making it easy to assume you have nothing more than a short-term illness.
And if your STD goes undiagnosed, the problems only get more complicated. When left undiagnosed and untreated, STDs can progress, worsening your symptoms and wreaking havoc on your body. As Brook.org writes, STDs can cause serious conditions like pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and even meningitis.
While most STDs can be treated quickly and easily, the longer an STD runs free in the body, the more life-threatening it becomes.
4. Testing Is Easy, Convenient, and Confidential
One reason so many people avoid getting tested for STDs is they’re afraid. They’re afraid of what, exactly testing involves, and they’re afraid of finding out the results.
However, getting tested is incredibly easy. There are plenty of places you can get tested, such as local health centers, college campuses (if you’re a student), or even your current doctor’s office. All you’ll need to do is ask specifically for STD testing, and the medical professional will handle the rest. STD testing often includes nothing more than a urine test or a simple blood test.
There’s also a stigma associated with STDs that makes getting tested a low priority for many people. However, STD testing is entirely confidential. When you visit your doctor’s office, an STD testing clinic, or a community health organization like Planned Parenthood, the testing results are kept between you and your doctor.
Here’s another reason testing is easy and worthwhile: according to Planned Parenthood, STD testing is covered under the Affordable Care Act. If you’re carrying health insurance, the testing will likely be covered or performed for a reduced price.
Get Tested Today
There are plenty of reasons you should get tested for STDs regularly. And if you’ve never been tested, there’s no better time to take action than right now.
Getting tested will let you confidently know the status of your health. If you’re living with an STD, there are treatment options – and many STDs can be cured completely. And getting tested will also help you share the status of your health with any partners in your life, meaning you’ll play a significant role in stopping the spread of STDs.
Remember, STD testing isn’t part of your annual doctor’s check up or gynecologist exam. You have to specifically ask to be tested – so let your doctor or a nurse know that you’d like to be tested. If you’d rather have your testing done in a more confidential setting, there are plenty of free clinics and local healthcare centers offering STD testing that can get you your results.
Most STDs don’t show symptoms, or show confusing and conflicting symptoms. Don’t wait until it’s too late; by getting tested before you see any signs of an STD, you can live worry-free knowing exactly what your status is.