June 6, 2022

Staying Current on STD Screenings: What You Need to Know

At first the headlines sounded promising: “Fewer people get sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in 2020.” However, upon further review, the research reveals that it’s not necessarily that fewer people were getting STDs—it’s that fewer people were getting tested. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted routine sexually transmitted infection services, resulting in a decline in testing and potential missed cases.

With more than 9 million women in the United States diagnosed with an STD each year and with STDs resulting in more serious health problems in women than men, having information about preventing and treating STDs is critical for protecting your health and the health of others.

The Importance of Testing

Not only is testing essential for getting a “big picture” understanding of how many people have STDs and need treatment, but left untreated, infections can lead to serious and permanent health problems. There are more than 25 STDs that have no symptoms – and the quickest way to spread STDs is to be unaware you have one.

Preparing for Your Health Care Visit

While sex can be an uncomfortable topic to discuss, having a conversation with your health care provider, such as a primary health care provider or OB-GYN, can help ensure that you get the right testing. To prepare and empower yourself for your health care visit, review and be prepared to share responses to the following questions:

All of these responses will help your provider assess your risk for different types of STDs.

What Tests Should I Get?

Testing will vary depending on your age, risk, sexual activity and type of sexually transmitted disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) STD screening recommendations outline when testing makes sense for syphilis, HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, chlamydia, and gonorrhea:

The American Cancer Society also has recommendations on testing for HPV, which is the primary cause of cervical cancer.

Steps After a Diagnosis

If you receive a positive diagnosis for an STD, talk to your health care provider about your options. According to the CDC, the three most important steps you can take following a diagnosis are: 1) get treated, 2) tell your partner, and 3) get retested.

While STDs are common, they are largely preventable and all treatable. Empowering yourself with tools and information related to STDs—including prevention and testing measures—will help minimize the long-term consequences of STDs. For more resources and information, visit the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Women’s Health websites.