Visiting a doctor for regular check-ups is an important part of staying healthy. When you are having sex, those visits become even more essential.
Being sexually healthy includes getting tested and treated for any infections or diseases. Here are the tests you should discuss at regular checkups if you are sexually active — and why they are important.
HPV and pap tests
Human papillomavirus is the most common sexually transmitted infection. While the infection can go away on its own, certain types of HPV cause genital warts and cancer.
Anyone can get HPV and pass it to someone else during sex, but only people with vaginas can be tested. This involves a doctor taking cells from the cervix for testing. If a test comes back positive for HPV, the doctor will do a pap test — also called a pap smear or cervical screening — which follows a similar process to the HPV test. That test will show if there are abnormal cells in the cervix that could lead to cervical cancer.
There is no cure for HPV, but warts may go away on their own or with treatment. Because having HPV means you might get cancer in the future, you’ll want to continue getting regular pap tests. However, you can prevent HPV with a vaccination, which you can ask for at a regular checkup.
Even if you don’t have HPV, you should plan to get a pap test starting in your early 20s and get both an HPV and a pap test every five years.
Gonorrhea and chlamydia tests
Gonorrhea and chlamydia are sexually transmitted infections that can cause pelvic inflammatory disease in people with vaginas. This disease can later cause ectopic pregnancies, which are pregnancies outside the womb that cannot progress, or infertility.
In people with testicles, gonorrhea and chlamydia can cause a painful condition in the tubes that are attached to the testicles and may cause infertility, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the national public health agency for the country.
When you are tested for these two STIs, you will give a urine sample or a doctor may take a cell sample from the vagina, penis, rectum, or throat. If you test positive, the cure for both STIs is an antibiotic.
While HPV, chlamydia, and gonorrhea are the most common STIs, there are other infections you should be tested for to avoid health problems:
- Oral or genital herpes can cause sores and blisters around the mouth or genitals. Treatment can prevent or shorten outbreaks, but there is no cure. Getting tested and treated at regular checkups can help you avoid passing herpes to a partner.
- Hepatitis B is a liver infection. While there are treatment options, there is no cure. Fortunately, there is a vaccination, which you can request at a regular checkup.
- Human immunodeficiency virus, known as HIV, attacks the immune system. While there are treatment options, there is no cure. If you have any kind of sex, you should be tested for HIV at least once and perhaps more often.
- Syphilis is an infection that can cause sores and, without treatment, damage the heart, brain, and other organs. Getting treated can cure syphilis.
- Trichomoniasis is a disease caused by a parasite that can cause itching, burning, and discomfort during sex. Getting treated can cure trichomoniasis.
You can start regular checkups with the help of Neighborhood Healthcare, which offers in-person and video appointments, as well as free and low-cost options to eligible patients. Schedule online at nhcare.org or by calling 833-867-4642.