Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions

anonymous on September 13, 2011

What STD tests should we have before getting married?

My girlfriend and I aren’t going to sleep together until we’re married...but she has had two previous partners, and I haven’t had any. What kinds of STD testing should we have before marriage to make sure we’re both healthy? I’ve heard that HIV might not show any physical effects for a long time, so this worries me.

answered by
Lisa Oldson, MD on September 13, 2011

First, I commend you both for your decision to get tested for STDs before you’re sexually intimate…that’s a smart, caring way to ensure that you enjoy the healthiest possible sex life in future. 
 
You’re right that HIV doesn’t necessarily show specific, easily-identifiable signs or symptoms right away. In fact, some people with HIV have no symptoms of the virus early on; and some early HIV symptoms, like extreme fatigue, can be mistaken for another condition, like mononucleosis.
 
In fact, early symptoms of HIV ⎼ the virus that causes AIDS ⎼ usually go away after a couple weeks and can be mistaken for other illnesses.One studyby the University of Washington, Seattle, even found that only 5 out of 19 HIV-infected patients who sought treatment from doctors for early HIV symptoms ended up being tested for HIV. 
 
That’s why HIV and STD testing is a great idea before having sex with a new partner...
 
Because your girlfriend had previous partners, it is possible she was exposed to an STD...and you may have been, too. You mention that you haven’t had any sexual partners, but keep in mind that any sexual activity with an infected person ⎼ including oral sex, skin-to-skin contact (naked dry-humping), unprotected genital rubbing, potentially even deep “French” kissing if you have bleeding gums, sores or cuts in your mouth ⎼ can increase the risk of catching an STD.
 
To start your sexual relationship out on the right foot, testing for common STDs is a great idea. Some common STDs include HIV, herpes 1 & 2, hepatitis B and C, chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. In addition to testing for common STDs, your girlfriend can also visit her regular doctor for a Pap test to look for any abnormal cells caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). And anyone can be screened for genital warts by a visual examination performed by a physician.
 
After getting tested, you’ll know each other’s STD status for sure and, if needed, you can start any necessary treatments right away. Remember all STDs are either curable or manageable with the right treatment plan.
 
For more information about STD tests, prevention and treatment, see our Expert Guide to STD Basics.
 
I wish you and your girlfriend the best of health in your developing relationship.
 
Related info:

Lisa Oldson, MD

Dr. Oldson is Medical Director of the Analyte Physicians Group. She is on staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, as well as Clinical Instructor at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. Her areas of expertise include STDs (with a particular clinical emphasis on herpes), women's health, preventive medicine, diabetes, obesity and weight management, and mood and anxiety disorders. Dr. Oldson was educated at Rush Medical College and completed her residency at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, IL.

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