It’s Not Always Obvious…
Getting tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is one of the most important things you can do to take care of your own sexual health and that of others — but you already knew that. Knowing when and how often to get tested can be less obvious. To make matters even more complicated, some of the most common STIs can lay dormant in people for weeks without symptoms, some may never show symptoms at all.
We want to try and help make it clearer for you about when you should go get tested, so here are 6 different signs to look for.
We’ll start with one of the easy ones. If you’re sexually active, you should get an STI test once every 12 months. Most STI tests are non-invasive and can be taken at a local clinic or lab. The good people at Action Canada for Sexual Health & Rights even have a sexual health service finder. Punch in your postal code and find the closest location to you.
The thrill of connecting with a new sexual partner can be exhilarating. Obviously, you’ll want to be safe and use a condom when having sex with a new partner. But you’ll also want to go the extra mile and get tested before you have sex for the first time, if possible. Otherwise, try to do it as soon as you have time — and encourage your new partner to do the same.
Pat yourself on the back for using protection. And know that condoms do break sometimes. If it does happen, you’ll want to get tested as soon as possible. (Depending on your situation, you might also want to use emergency contraceptive). Make sure you read the instructions on the condom — including the parts about proper storage — to limit the chance of the condom breaking or slipping off.
While it’s true that symptoms can take some time to appear — if at all — red bumps or rashes around the genital, anus or mouth area, and a coloured discharge coming out of the penis or vagina is a sign of something potentially serious. A burning sensation when urinating can also be a sign of an infection. If you experience any of these symptoms, go get tested immediately.
Once you’ve reached the more serious stages of a relationship, and are using a reliable contraceptive method (or are trying to conceive), you may forego the condom. You may also slip up one night and forget all together. Either way, if your partner hasn’t been tested in some time (a year or more), and you’ve had unprotected sex, you should both go and get tested.
If you or someone you’ve had sex with is sexually active with more than one partner, it’s important to get tested more frequently than if you were in a monogamous relationship. Safe sex is safe sex no matter how many people are involved, but having multiple partners can multiply the risks. Get tested at least once a month if you find yourself in this situation.
The thought of contracting an STI is scary. The stigma, the potential health consequences, and the embarrassment can feel daunting. But the consequences of not getting tested are far greater.
Sex is an important part of life, and there are risks associated with it. Nothing short of complete abstinence will protect you from STIs — and that’s not a healthy option for most adults (if you are into abstinence, that’s okay too). So do your part in keeping yourself and others safe by always using a condom and getting regular STI tests.