Yes, You Need To Get STI Tested Every Year — No Matter Your Relationship Status

In every partnership, especially a committed one, there's a long, healthy list of awkward topics you'll need to discuss if you haven't already. Whether it's about mingling your money, having kids (or not), reconciling political views, handling jealousy, or talking openly about your sex life, navigating these waters can prevent unnecessary future conflicts. Getting real about getting tested for STIs is also critical, even if you're in a committed, monogamous relationship.

In her research, Dr. Brené Brown names 12 "shame categories," and out of the 12, three of the top contenders for shame spirals include anything connected to money, mental health, and sexuality. These powerful forces deserve respect instead of stigma or, worse, a culture that keeps silent about them. Getting tested might seem like a delicate subject, but it will bring you closer in your concern for each other. And your Sex Ed class probably didn't teach you enough about STIs — if anything — so here's a primer.

Why it's important to get tested yearly

As a society, we tend to shame ourselves and each other for being sexual, and so there's a tendency to shroud information about sexually transmitted infections in darkness, which can be emotionally and physically debilitating. An infection is simply an infection, and that makes it a health issue no matter how it was contracted. No one gets embarrassed by getting the flu or measles; we treat them medically to stop further damage to the body, and that's the neutrality we need when facing testing, treatment, or communication about STIs.

There are six STIs that are asymptomatic that you could unknowingly walk around with for years: human papillomavirus (HPV), HIV, genital herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. You may have been in your current relationship for a good while, but if you were sexually active before, you should get yearly STI tests so you can detect an infection that may have been hiding dormant in the background. If you don't know you have it, you can transmit it.

Per the Mayo Clinic, chlamydia and gonorrhea require a yearly test for everyone, though they specifically call out sexually active people with vulvas under 25, vulva-owners over 25 with multiple partners or in a new relationship, men who sleep with men (MSM), anyone with HIV, trans women who sleep with men, or anyone who's had non-consensual sexual contact.

How to talk about it with your partner and others

Anyone who's sexually active should get tested regardless of relationship status, sexual orientation, gender, or number of partners. You'll definitely need to prep yourself for the conversation, and you could even use this example: Dr. Luis Ferdinand M. Papa verified for My Labbox that "there have been reports of chlamydia remaining dormant for over twenty years."

Before you approach your partner, get into a calm, even-handed mindset. Don't talk about this during sexy time; this is more of a bold-light-of-day conversation. You might first call out how weird or uncomfortable it is if you need, then try something like, "I care about you and I've been thinking about the best way for us to have each other's back. I was considering getting an STI test and wondered if we could do it together?" Or be proactive, get your own test, and then talk about the results. You might say you tested negative and ask if they've gotten tested.

An important thing to remember is that if either of you tests positive, it doesn't necessarily mean anyone cheated. If you do get a positive test, make your best effort to contact former partners to let them know. Tell your current flame you've treated it, urge them to get tested, and offer to go with them in support. If you're in the earliest stages of a relationship, there are smart ways to navigate your STI diagnosis with a potential partner.