If you’re engaging in sexual activity at least once a year and you’re between the ages 21 and 25, you should be getting tested for chlamydia annually. “The prevalence of chlamydia up until age 25 is so high that it’s important to test for it,” board-certified ob/gyn Antonio Pizarro, M.D., tells SELF.
Since gonorrhea is also a common STD in people of that age range, your doctor will likely want to check you out for that as well, Hook explains. At this appointment, you and your doctor can discuss your sexual history and which other STD tests you might need.
If you're over 25, the standard guidelines say you should get tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia if you have a new partner or partners, or if you’ve had unprotected sex.
...you’re in a dry spell, but you got tested for all STDs soon after the most recent time you had sex.
Good job! But you might want to get tested again. Depending on the type of HIV test, it can take between one and 12 weeks after infection for the test to show up as positive, Hook explains. This means if you ran out and got tested right away, it could have been too soon for the disease to present. Ask your doctor or clinician about your testing options if you'd like the results as soon as possible.
...you’re currently having casual sex:
“If you have a new partner, ideally you both would be tested together ahead of time and have full disclosure,” Pizarro says. But it doesn’t always work that way in real life, which is why using barrier methods like condoms and dental dams is a must, he says.
So is getting tested more often than once a year. “If you have multiple partners, particularly if you’re not using [protection], you should consider more frequent testing,” Hook says. He recommends at least every six months.
...you’re just starting a relationship:
Honestly, if you’re serious about each other, you should go get tested tomorrow—or at least before you start having unprotected sex (and ideally before that, since there are some STDs condoms don’t protect against). “Getting tested is not a matter of distrust, it’s a matter of respect for one another,” Hook says. “It allows people to enter the relationship with confidence about their partner’s status, which is optimal if they want to move forward in a sexual relationship and not have to worry about things like condoms unless there are other reasons for doing so.”
It doesn’t need to happen the very day you define the relationship. But it’s good to have that information so that if either of you has an STD, you can get rid of it or start any necessary treatment early on in the relationship.
...you’re in a long-term relationship:
Doctors will offer testing based on the above recommended guidelines for your age, risk factors, and symptoms. What you do with that is up to you. You could decide to get tested three times in the relationship, and if nothing crops up, hold off on further testing unless your relationship status changes, Hook says. Or, when your doctor brings up testing, you can talk it out with them.
“If a patient’s in a relationship and feels like they haven’t been exposed and would rather not be tested—although plenty of patients have been exposed in committed relationships and end up with surprises—I would certainly have to respect that,” Pizarro says.
Keep in mind that if you’re polyamorous or in an open relationship, you may require more frequent testing depending on your specific situation. Your doctor can offer more guidance on that front.
And if you start to experience strange symptoms, you or your partner has cheated, or anything else makes you think you might have been exposed to an STD, you should definitely get tested, Pizarro says.