Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions
Is it possible to get STDs in a monogamous relationship?
Linda Lesondak, PhD on August 15, 2011
If you and your partner are mutually monogamous, do you need to use protection during sexual activity? That depends on what tests you received and when.
Timing is everything. Depending on how soon your got tested after your unprotected sexual encounter, you may need to get tested again. Why? Because every STD has a “testing window,” or the period of time between possible exposure to an infection, and detection of the infection through a blood or urine test.
For example, if you did get an STD from a past sexual partner, you probably wouldn't test positive for it right away. For example, for the most accurate HIV test results, it is recommended to wait at least three months (12 weeks) after possible exposure to the virus. Herpes simplex virus, on the other hand, can usually be detected after about four weeks. Please see our STD Testing Windows Guide for more information about when to get tested for common STDs.
Do you know which STDs you got tested for? For example, if you’re a woman and you received a Pap test from your gynecologist, that only screens for abnormalities caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). Most doctors don’t automatically test for STDs so you may need to be vocal about what tests you want. Other common STDs that can be transmitted during unprotected sex include herpes 1 & 2, chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV, trichomoniasis, syphilis and HPV.
If you test negative for all these STDs and you and your partner trust each other to have sex only with each other, unprotected sex doesn’t carry a high risk of spreading STDs.
Should your partner get tested, too? You mention that you are your partner’s first and only sex partner. However, remember that STDs can be spread through oral and anal sex, as well as genital rubbing (or dry humping), and – in some cases – skin-to-skin contact. And if either of you have an oral herpes infection (cold sores) it can be possible to transmit the oral infection to the genitals of your partner by oral sex. So while your partner may not have had vaginal sex before you, I encourage you to have an open conversation with your partner about other types of sexual activity that might have occurred...possibly putting your partner at risk for STDs, too.
To be on the safe side, a thorough STD screening for the most common STDs may be a good idea depending on your personal STD risk factors.
For more information about STD risk, prevention and testing, I encourage you to browse our Expert Guide to STD Basics.
Thanks again for writing, and I wish you and your partner good health!
Dr. Lesondak is a Community Psychologist with the Chicago Department of Public Health. Her areas of expertise include STDs, HIV, preventive care, public health and community planning, as well as human sexuality and women’s health. Dr. Lesondak was educated at Georgia University in Atlanta.