Many people do not look forward to going to the doctor. Probably because doctor appointments are less than fun. Where else are you poked, stared at, and asked awkward questions about you and your body (well, maybe middle school)?
But we’re here to tell you that you don’t have to be scared. Your doctor or healthcare professional is your ally and your confidante. Yep–they want to hear all about you and your health, even if it’s just too embarrassing to ask. Trust us, they’ve heard it all and they only want to help you.
So, fellow Delawareans, here are our top questions to ask your doctor about STIs and your sexual health.
Q: How often should I get tested for STIs? (and which ones will you test me for?)
A: Your doctor may tell you to get tested at least once every year (like at your annual checkup) if you are sexually active. But it can vary based on: your gender, age, how sexually active you are, and if you are already positive for an STI. The STIs you are screened for can also vary based on your sexual history. You should ask your doctor about which tests you should get and how often. STIs are often NOT a part of an annual exam so speak up for yourself and your sexual health. Get the process started here, Delaware, by finding a clinic near you.
Q: What types of tests are there for STIs?
A: Blood, urine, swabs, or physical tests are all used when screening for STIs, it just depends on which STI is being screened (and the type of sex you’re having!) For example, HIV can be tested via a swab of your cheek or through a blood sample while Chlamydia is tested via a urine sample. Your doctor will let you know what they need for each test. This is why it’s important to be upfront about your sexual history, and the type of sex you’re engaging in. If you’re having oral sex, then a throat swab can help detect STIs that could be living there. Vaginal and anal sex have different tests as well. It’s definitely a lot of info to remember, so being honest with your doctor helps THEM help YOU!
Q: Can I take an at-home test to screen for STIs?
A: Yes, you can. But know that the accuracy of a self-collected sample test may not be as accurate as a test administered by your doctor or a lab. Plus, at home tests may tell you your status, but if you’re positive you’ll still need to seek treatment from a healthcare professional. Learn more about at-home STI tests here.
Q: Are there vaccines for STIs?
A: There is a vaccine for HPV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis A. Ask your doctor if you should consider getting vaccinated because some depend on age and previous sexual history. This question is a great way to keep prevention at the core of your sexual health.
Q: I already have an STI, can I get another?
A: Yes, you can. STIs are not a one-and-done thing like measles. Not only can you contract the same treatable STI you’ve had before, such as Chlamydia, but you can contract more than one STI AT ONCE. In fact, according to the CDC, people with an STI are more susceptible to contracting HIV.
Q: I have a bump/sore down there. Does that mean I have an STI?
A: Not necessarily. BUT play it safe and ask your doctor. You know your body better than anyone, so when something is off, speak up. That bump or sore could just be an ingrown hair but it could also be the first sign of genital herpes or syphilis. Remember, your doctor has seen it all, so tell them all.
Q: I have a cold sore–where’s it from?
A: Cold sores are caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV-1). HSV-1 lives in saliva and the mouth, BUT, can spread to the genitals through oral sex (which then classifies it as an STI!). HSV-2 is a virus that lives in the genital area and is transmitted through sexual contact. Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 need treatment by a healthcare provider, but those treatments can look different! Chat with your healthcare provider to learn more.
Q: If I’m taking birth control, do I have to use a condom too?
A: Birth control will only help to prevent pregnancy, not STIs. So if you are sexually active with more than one partner, or your partner or you have an STI, condoms should definitely be part of your sexual health tool kit. And if your partner doesn’t want to use condoms, check out our blog on “How to respond if your partner doesn’t want to wear a condom.”
Q: Is oral sex safer?
A: No. It’s that simple. Any type of unprotected sex carries the risk of spreading or contracting an STI and that includes oral. Not every single STI is transmitted through oral, but Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Herpes 1, HPV (human papillomavirus) HIV, and Trichomoniasis can be. This is yet another reason to test regularly and use protection.
Q: How do I ask my partner to get tested for STIs too?
A: Asking your doctor any and all of your sexual health questions is a great first step to approaching your partner about STI testing. Having your facts straight will give you confidence. And with that confidence, you can show your partner that testing is about respect for each other and part of your sexual well-being.
The world of sexual health and Sexually Transmitted Infections can be confusing to navigate. That’s why it’s important to #EraseTheSTIgma surrounding Sexually Transmitted Infections in Delaware in order to advocate for your own health. One way is to start with these 10 questions at your next checkup!