Every few weeks, Dr. Vanessa Cullins, a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist and vice president for medical affairs at Planned Parenthood® Federation of America, will be answering your questions here. To ask her your own question, click here.
Dear Dr. Vanessa,
I’m a woman in her early ‘30s with a pretty active sex life. I always use condoms, but I know those don’t protect you 100%. What STD tests should I ask my doctor for, and how often should I get tested?
It’s FANTASTIC that you protect yourself by using condoms every time you have sex. Condoms are the best way for sexually active people to protect ourselves. All condoms except lambskin condoms offer very good protection against HIV. They also substantially reduce the risk of other sexually transmitted infections, including chlamydia, chancroid, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, herpes, HPV, pelvic inflammatory disease, syphilis, and trichomoniasis.
But you are right — even if you use condoms, it’s still a good idea to get tested periodically. It’s also good that you’re prepared to ask your doctor about testing. Many people assume they automatically will be tested for STDs when they have an exam for another reason, such as when having a Pap test. As you know, this is not true — you need to ask for testing.
In general, sexually active people who have more than one sex partner — or have a sex partner who has more than one partner — should get tested for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV once a year. So that’s what you should do.
If you have any signs or symptoms, you should get tested for other infections, too. Some common symptoms include burning during urination, abnormal discharge from the vagina, itching, sores on the genitals, vaginal bleeding or pain with vaginal sex, or pain in the lower abdomen. Be sure to tell your doctor if you’ve had any of these symptoms or any other sexual health problems so you can get other tests you need.
Best wishes for continuing good sexual health,