Talk. Test. Treat. to protect your health and avoid STIs

April 19, 2022
Kimberly Matulonis-Edgar, Prevention Programs coordinator of the HIV, STD, and Hepatitis Section in the Division of Public Health

Sexually transmitted infections (STI) are passed from one person to another through sexual activity. They can also be passed from one person to another through intimate physical contact.

They don’t always cause symptoms or may only cause mild symptoms, so it is possible to have an infection and not know it. That is why it is important to get tested if you are sexually active. To find STI testing and free services available near you, visit www.findidahotesting.com.

The most reliable way to avoid an STI is to not have sex. If you are sexually active, or thinking of becoming sexually active, it is important that you take some simple steps to protect your health. STIs are preventable. They also can be treated with medication and some can be cured. If you have sex, know how to protect yourself and your sexual partner from STIs.

TALK: Talk openly and honestly with your partner(s) and your healthcare provider about sexual health and STIs.

Talk with your partner(s) BEFORE having sex. Not sure how? Here are some tips to help you start the conversation.

  • “I really care about you. I want to make sure we’re both healthy. Let’s get tested before we have sex. That way we can look out for each other.”
  • “Many people who have an STI don’t know it. Why take a chance when we can know for sure?”

Make sure your discussion covers several important ways to make sex safer:

  • Talk about when you were last tested for STIs and suggest getting tested together.
  • If you know you have an STI (like herpes or HIV), tell your partner.
  • Agree to only have sex with each other.
  • Agree to use condoms the right way every time you have sex.

Talk with your healthcare provider about your sex life as it relates to your health. This helps your healthcare provider understand what STI tests you should be getting and how often.

Here are a few questions you should expect and be prepared to answer honestly:

  • Have you been sexually active in the last year?
  • In the past 12 months, how many sexual partners have you had?
  • What are you doing to protect yourself from STIs?

Not all medical checkups include STI testing, so don’t assume that you’ve been tested unless you discuss it with your provider. If your provider does not discuss sex or STI testing with you, bring it up. Don’t be shy!

Ask your healthcare provider whether certain vaccines, like the hepatitis B vaccine or the HPV (Human Papillomavirus) vaccine are right for you.

TEST: Get tested. It’s the only way to know for sure if you have an STI.

Many STIs don’t cause any symptoms, so you could have one and not know. If you’re having sex, getting tested is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health.

Learn which STI tests CDC recommends for you. Even if you’re pregnant, you can still get an STI.

To find STI testing and free services available near you visit www.findidahotesting.com.  In addition to traditional, in-person visits, other options that may be available include:

  • Video or phone appointments with your healthcare provider.
  • Urgent care facilities allow walk-in STI testing and treatment appointments.
  • At-home collection where you collect your own sample and take or mail it to a lab for testing. (Starting in May, a new at-home collection option will be available to Idaho residents called LetsGetChecked. Visit www.findidahotesting.com to learn more.)

If you’re not comfortable talking with your regular healthcare provider about STIs, find a clinic or local public health district that provides free or low-cost confidential testing.

TREAT: If you test positive for an STI, work with your healthcare provider to get the correct treatment.

Some STIs can be cured with the right medicine, and all STIs are treatable. Make sure your treatment works by doing these things:

  • Take all the medication your healthcare provider prescribes, even if you start feeling better or your symptoms go away.
  • Don’t share your medication with anyone.
  • Avoid having sex again until you and your sex partner(s) have all completed treatment.
  • A follow-up STI test may be needed to make sure the treatment worked.
  • Your healthcare provider can talk with you about which medications are right for you.

Learn more:

Kimberly Matulonis-Edgar is the Prevention Programs coordinator of the HIV, STD, and Hepatitis Section in the Division of Public Health. Kimberly has worked for the department since 2015 and focuses on educating the public about sexually transmitted infections.

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The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is dedicated to strengthening the health, safety, and independence of Idahoans. Learn more at healthandwelfare.idaho.gov.