Anonymous on August 15, 2011

I don’t have any STDs and my partner says he’s clean...should he still get tested?

I had a medical exam with my gynecologist not too long ago and everything went well, so it’s safe to say that I have no diseases. A guy whom I currently see has never been tested for any sexual diseases, and he says he doesn’t have any. I trust him, but I don’t trust the other people he has been with. Is it necessary for him to get tested, too? Do we need to use condoms?

answered by Lisa Oldson, MD on August 15, 2011

You’ve asked some great questions about sexual health. I’ll do my best to answer them, as well as offer you some additional information.

First, are you sure you’ve been tested for STDs? And do you know exactly what you were tested for? The reason I’m asking you to consider these questions is because most gynecologists don't automatically screen for STDs during an annual exam. Remember, a Pap test only screens for some types of the human papillomavirus (HPV), but there are a lot of other STDs out if you’re worried that you may have been exposed to an STD, I would urge you to get tested for all common STDs, including chlamydia, herpes, HIV and others.

All you have to do to test for common STDs like these is provide blood and urine samples.

You and your partner should consider getting tested for common STDs. Why? You can't tell if someone has an STD just by looking. Even wonderful people can have an STD...if your boyfriend knew he had a disease, it sounds like you’d trust him to tell you. But you’re right: many people don’t know they’re infected. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that about 50 million Americans have genital herpes...incredibly, only about 10% of those people are aware of their infection!

It's great that you're using a condom every time you have sex...very smart. But there are STDs that can spread even with consistent condom use.

While using latex condoms and being in a mutually monogamous relationship go a long way toward protecting you from STDs, condoms don’t cover all of the skin that will touch during sex. Genital herpes, genital warts and syphilis can all be spread through skin-to-skin contact...that’s why I would encourage both of you to also get full STD testing and share your results with one another before giving up condoms.

In fact, continuing to use condoms will give you additional protection against things we can't test if your partner carries the type of HPV that can cause cervical cancer. There aren’t any reliable tests that can screen men for HPV (women get tested with Pap tests), so your only method of protection is using condoms and limit your sexual partners.

I would also suggest that you speak with your doctor about vaccinations, like the HPV vaccine and the hepatitis B vaccine to find out if they’re right for you.

Thanks so much for writing...and while the information I provided hopefully helps answer your concerns, you can learn more about STD risks, testing and prevention in our Expert Guide to STDs.

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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