One in two sexually active people contract a sexually transmitted infection (STI) by the time they’re 25 years old. STI and sexually transmitted disease (STD) are two terms often used interchangeably. However, an STI typically occurs first, and it may progress to an STD if left untreated.

Anyone can get an STI, regardless of their age, gender, or sexual orientation. If you’re sexually active, you’re at risk, because the infection is spread through sexual contact.

There are more than 30 different types of viruses, bacteria, and parasites that cause STIs, but a few of the most common are chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, and human papillomavirus (HPV)

Many STIs don’t present obvious symptoms, so it isn’t always easy to recognize that you have one. The only way to know is through regular STI screening.

But when should you schedule an STI test? And why is it important to get treated? Samuel Van Kirk, MD, and our team in Redding, California, are here to help.

When to schedule STI testing

There are guidelines for STI and STD testing, but your sex life and your risk factors are unique. Testing recommendations vary based on your age, gender, and sexual history, among other factors, and Dr. Van Kirk can help you understand when you should get tested.

In general, it’s a good idea to schedule an STI test before beginning a new relationship, and ask your partner to do the same. You should get regular tests if you have multiple partners, or your partner has additional partners.

Everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 should be tested for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) at least once. HIV is the virus that leads to AIDS. 

All sexually active women under age 25 should have annual screenings for chlamydia and gonorrhea. If you’re considering getting pregnant, it’s a good idea to get an STI test. Pregnant women should have an STI screening early in their pregnancies.

If you have symptoms of an STI or STD, like sores or pain in your genital area, you should schedule a test right away. 

Why it’s important to get regular STI tests

You’re at risk for contracting an STI if you’re sexually active. These infections are spread through sexual contact, and since they don’t usually present symptoms, it’s very easy for people to spread them without knowing.

People who are younger and those who have multiple sexual partners are at the highest risk of getting an STI or STD, but it’s important to remember that they can happen to anyone. Getting tested for STIs is the only way to know for sure if you have one.

If you have an undiagnosed STI, you risk spreading it to other people if you have unprotected sexual contact. You may also risk your own health, because untreated STIs can develop into STDs and lead to infertility, cancer, and organ damage.

Treatment for STIs

Getting tested is the only way to confirm an STI diagnosis. Depending on your health and lifestyle, Dr. Van Kirk may perform routine screenings at your annual well-woman exams. You can also request STI testing at any time.

There is an FDA-approved vaccination for HPV, which can prevent the disease in people between the ages of 9 and 14 who aren’t sexually active, or help prevent spread in teens and young adults.

If your results come back positive, Dr. Van Kirk works with you to find an effective treatment plan. Some STIs are caused by bacteria, and can be cured with a round of prescription antibiotics. These include chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis.

Other types of STIs can’t be cured, but Dr. Van Kirk can recommend treatment to minimize your symptoms. STIs caused by viruses, such as herpes or HIV, are among those that can’t be cured.

Is it time to schedule your next STI test? Give our team a call at 530-242-4129 or schedule online now.

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