Sex is great, but the diseases it can procure are not.
Dr Rachel Burdon is a sexual health expert and has been working in Sexual Health and HIV for over 15 years and weighs in on how often women should be getting tested for sexually transmitted infections.
This is how often you need to get tested if…
Dr Burden says, “any young person aged 15-29 years without symptoms who are sexually active and regardless of reported recent or past sexual activity should check chlamydia each year. They should also check Hepatitis B immunity and vaccinate themselves if they’re not immune and consider an HIV and syphilis test”
If you have a new partner, ideally you both get tested ahead of time to save any unnecessary stress. While it’s always best to have an open and honest conversation with a new intimate partner, it doesn’t always work that way in real life, which is why using barrier methods like condoms and dental dams is a must.
Dr Burdon says that, “if you are having casual sex and not using condoms get everything tested every 3-6 months”
Honestly, if you’re serious about each other, you should go get tested tomorrow—or at least before you start having unprotected sex (and ideally before that, since there are some STDs condoms don’t protect against).
“if you are starting a relationship check chlamydia each year, check Hepatitis B immunity and vaccinate if not immune, consider an HIV and syphilis test” says Dr Burdon.
Once you’ve been tested at the start of the relationship the rest is up to you. Dr Burdon advises that a test “may not be needed unless there are concerns or the relationship is open”.
You could decide to get tested three times in the relationship, and if nothing crops up, hold off on further testing unless your relationship status changes. Or, when your doctor brings up testing, you can talk it out with them.
So, what STIs should you be tested for?
It can be a little tricky, but here are the basics. The main STIs for women are chlamydia and gonorrhoea. Chlamydia is the most commonly reported STD in Australia, and gonorrhoea is also incredibly common. What’s worse is they can both be asymptomatic, are both on the rise, and when left untreated can cause infertility.
When it comes to HIV, everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 should get tested at least once, the The Better Health Channel recommends. Beyond that, if you have risk factors, like having recently had sex with someone whose sexual history you don’t know or having more than one sexual partner since your last test, you should get an HIV test at least annually. Here’s a full list of potential risk factors.
If you’re experiencing any strange itching, burning, or other worrisome symptoms down below, you should see a doctor. But even if you’re symptom free, you should know how often you need to get tested (and then actually do it).
However, at the risk of sounding pessimistic, you never know what your other half is getting up to. Sexual Health Australia says that “most estimates indicate that around 60% of men and 45% of women are willing to report that an affair has occurred sometime in their marriage and it suggests that 70% of all marriages experience an affair.” We’re not saying they’re cheating but sometimes people do, so it doesn’t hurt to get tested.
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