Think you don’t need to be tested for STIs? Think again. According to OB/GYN Dr. Kameelah Phillips, sexually transmitted infections are a lot more common than you think.
What’s the difference between an STD (sexually transmitted disease) and an STI (sexually transmitted infection)? Can you get an STI from oral sex? Do STIs usually show symptoms, and can you treat them on your own? How often should you be tested?
These are some of the questions you may have wondered about, but not been sure how — or who — to ask. No matter who you’re romantic with or how many partners you’ve had, STIs don’t discriminate. The good news is, thanks to scientific advances, they’re really not a big deal, as long as you get tested regularly and treated promptly. In fact, they’re actually very common: One in two sexually active young people will get an STI before age 25.
We asked Kameelah Phillips, MD, a board-certified OB/GYN, to answer some of the most commonly asked STI questions. Dr. Phillips says that you should never be embarrassed to ask your healthcare provider questions about STIs because, “as doctors, we’ve seen it all.”
KCM: What are the most common STIs?
Dr. Phillips: Chlamydia and gonorrhea are very common. In fact, rates of chlamydia are at an all-time high in the U.S., with nearly two-thirds of the 1.8 million cases of chlamydia reported each year occurring in young people 15-24 years old. Luckily, both of these STIs are easily treatable and will be included in a typical STI screening.
Can you treat an STI at home?
No. Your healthcare provider needs to diagnose an STI through a quick and painless test, and depending on your results will recommend treatment. Luckily, for common STIs like chlamydia or gonorrhea, antibiotics are usually an effective treatment. Your healthcare provider can prescribe them for you.
Even if you don’t have symptoms, it’s always good to check with your healthcare provider if you’re concerned about an STI since most don’t cause any symptoms. If left untreated, though, STIs can harm a woman’s fertility, so make sure you protect your sexual and reproductive health by getting tested and treated through your healthcare provider.
Do you need to get regular testing for STIs even if you’re in a relationship?
Yes, we recommend that people get tested regularly regardless of their relationship status. Since many STIs don’t cause symptoms, your partner may not even know they have an STI, which is why testing is so vital. In fact, some of the most common STIs may not show any symptoms for years.
The CDC actually recommends that women under 25 years get tested annually and with every new partner, and those 25 years and older get tested with every new partner.
Will using condoms protect you from getting an STI?
If they’re used properly, condoms are very effective at preventing some of the most common STIs, but not all of them. Some STIs are spread through genital skin-to-skin contact. So even if you use condoms, you should still keep up with regular STI screening.
Still have questions on how, where, or when to get screened? Women’s health leader Hologic has got you covered.
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