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reviewed 9/30/2018

STI testing: True or false?

Every year in the U.S., there are roughly 20 million new cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Yet many people with an STI don't know they have it, since an STI may only cause minor, easily overlooked symptoms—or none at all. And that's why STI testing is so important. How much do you know about getting tested?

True or false: If you use condoms, you probably don't need testing.

False. Condoms reduce the risk of getting an STI if used correctly. Still, they're not 100 percent effective. And they don't protect you from coming in contact with some sores, such as those that can occur with herpes.

True or false: Testing for STI is part of a routine wellness exam.

False. Especially if your doctor knows you're sexually active, you might think you'll be automatically tested at your yearly checkup. But some doctors don't test for any STI unless you ask them to.

True or false: You should talk to your doctor about testing if you've had unprotected sex.

True. If you've had unprotected sex with a new partner, or if there's any other reason you think you may have been exposed to an STI, it's a good idea to ask your doctor about testing. Some STIs can cause serious, long-term health problems. But early treatment can help prevent them.

True or false: Most people don't need HIV testing.

False. Federal health officials advise everyone age 13 to 64 to be tested at least once for HIV and men who have sex with men to be tested at least annually. Most cases of HIV are transmitted by the 25 percent of infected people who don't know they have it.

True or false: General STI screening includes all the tests you may need.

False. Be sure to ask your doctor any questions you have, such as what you're being tested for and specific infections you're concerned about. Your provider may recommend certain tests rather than others based on your health and risk factors. It pays to speak up and ask questions.

Learn more about STIs and maintaining good sexual health in our Health Information Library.

Visit the STI topic center

Sources: American Academy of Family Physicians; American Sexual Health Association; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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