Talking about your sexual health and testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can be uncomfortable, but sexual health is an essential part of your overall health.
Anyone who is having vaginal, anal, or oral sex can get an STI. It’s important to know about screenings, early detection, and testing for STI infections.
STIs are on the rise in the United States. Doctors and other experts recommend regular testing for STIs, especially if you are sexually active, pregnant, or have risk factors.
Doctors are especially worried about increased cases of syphilis. Women who are pregnant can also pass syphilis on to their babies. In some states and cities, ALL pregnant women should be tested for syphilis three times during their pregnancies.
If you are sexually active, or thinking of becoming sexually active, it is important to talk with your healthcare provider about your sexual health and ways you can protect yourself during sex.
Common STI screenings include, but are not limited to, chlamydia and gonorrhea, Human Papillomavirus (HPV), Hepatitis B, syphilis, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Many STIs do not have symptoms, may not have symptoms until much later, and some can lead to serious long-term health problems. Getting tested and treated for STIs early can limit the long-term effects of the infection and prevent long-term complications.
The best way to avoid giving or getting an STI is to practice abstinence. Other ways to keep you and your partner safe are to:
- Use condoms.
- Agree to only have sex with one person who agrees to only have sex with you.
- Get vaccinated against HPV and Hepatitis B.
- Do not use alcohol or drugs before or during sex.
If you think you have been exposed to HIV during sex or other ways, you can take medications to prevent the infection from happening. This is called “post exposure prophylaxis” or PEP.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following STI guidance:
Adults and adolescents from ages 13-64 should be tested at least once for HIV.
Sexually active women younger than 25 should be tested every year for gonorrhea and chlamydia.
Women over 25 with risk factors, new or multiple sex partners, or a sex partner who has an STI should also be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia every year.
Anyone pregnant should be tested for syphilis, HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C starting early in pregnancy. Those at risk for infection should also be tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea early in pregnancy. In some places, pregnant persons should be tested for syphilis three times during the pregnancy, because doctors are seeing more cases of syphilis in pregnant persons and their babies.
All sexually active gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men should be tested:
- At least once a year for syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea.
- Those who have multiple or anonymous partners should be tested more frequently, such as every 3 to 6 months.
- At least once a year for HIV, and may benefit from more frequent HIV testing, like every 3 to 6 months.
- At least once a year for Hepatitis C, if living with HIV.
Anyone who engages in sexual behaviors that could place them at risk for infection or shares injection drug equipment should be tested for HIV at least once a year.
People who have had oral or anal sex should talk with their healthcare provider about throat and rectal testing options.
If you would like an STI screening, contact your PCP. If you need help with scheduling an appointment or transportation to your PCP (for eligible members), call your MO HealthNet Managed Care plan, Healthy Blue, at 833-388-1407 (TTY 711) Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central time.