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So, you’ve met someone you want to bring back to your place for the night. You’ve already gotten food together, discussed the questionable legitimacy of all denim outfits, claimed that you could 100 percent beat them in Mario Kart, and are quickly finding that you can’t get your hands off of them. 

But having sex isn’t just something that impacts the rest of your night — it has the potential to impact your overall life and health. Not only are you involving the emotional and physical vulnerability of yourself, but also of another person. 

Safe sex comes with a lot of necessary responsibilities — showing enthusiasm and chemistry, gaining consent, understanding what your partner needs and where their boundaries are, and one final thing many forget — to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) often. 

woman holding a condom

Who should get tested? 

According to the CDC, adults and youth who are sexually active should be tested. For sexually active women, those who are younger than 25 years should be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia every year. 

Pregnant women should be tested for syphilis, HIV, and hepatitis B early in the pregnancy in order to protect the health of the baby. 

Sexually active gay, bisexual, and pansexual men should be tested at least once a year for syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. 60 percent of syphilis and gonorrhea cases are more common in men who have sex with men, according to a 2016 CDC study. Given the way that HIV spreads, it may be beneficial for those who engage in unsafe sex and/or sexually active gay and bisexual men should get frequent HIV testing. Regardless, it is important to get tested no matter your sexuality. 

If you have more than one sexual partner, you should be tested more frequently for STDs, like once every three or six months rather than a year. Most STDs start as STIs — sexually transmitted infections. Not all contracted diseases begin with infections, but many do. 

Is there anyone who doesn’t need to be tested?

Adults and youth who are not sexually active do not need to be tested. If you are sexually active with the same, singular person and they have no extra partners, and neither of you has an STD, there is no need for testing (which is why marriage before sex is helpful in preventing the spread of sexual disease).

Why is getting tested important?

Much like the COVID-19 pandemic where getting tested before an event can prevent super spreading, getting tested for an STD and/or STI can save lives, too. Most people know they should get tested, but very few actually get it done.

Getting tested can protect your health from worse illnesses. STDs usually don’t show symptoms right away, but if left undetected it can lead to serious, life-long STDs, increased risk of cervical cancer, and infertility. 

Many STDs have invisible or unnoticeable symptoms until years after the illness has been contracted. The only way to know your status is to get tested. The sooner you know your status, the sooner you can get treated. 

Getting tested and learning that you have a STD can prevent the spread of it to other sexual partners, therein lessening the fatality of these illnesses in your entire community. 

Couple in bed only feet white sheets
Photo by Womanizer WOW Tech from Unsplash

What happens if I test positive?

There are many treatment plans available depending on the STD you have. Most involve antibiotics because many STDs are bacterial in nature. In some cases, a single dose of antibiotics is enough to kill the colony. 

If the STD is a virus, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication which can help suppress and make them more manageable. If you have a viral STD, you can still pass it along to your partner even if you’re on an antiviral medication, so you should be upfront and honest with your partner(s). 

If you want to let others know anonymously, there are sites like STDCheck.com where you can input your partner’s number or email and they will send a message like “Someone you have been in contact with has been diagnosed/tested positive for X.”

The more honest you are about your condition, the better you will be in the long run. There’s nothing wrong with taking care of your sexual health — it’s just like making sure you’re wearing a mask during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Caring about your sexual health is smart and necessary.

Jennalynn is a non-binary, Asian American student at St. John's University located in Queens, New York. While they are a Pharmacy (PharmD) major, their passions in life are climate activism, photography, and writing. They have been featured in Teen Vogue, The Luna Collective, SUSTAIN The Mag, and are a staff writer at their university newspaper. Check out their website and socials (@jennuinn) to see their work!