Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are some of the
most widespread infections both in the United States and the world. STIs affect
both men and women, and two-thirds of all STIs occur in people younger than 25.
Exposure to an STI can occur any time you have sexual contact that involves the
genitals, the mouth (oral), or the rectum (anal). Exposure is more likely if
you have more than one sex partner or do not use condoms. Some STIs can be
spread by nonsexual contact, such as during the delivery of a baby or during
It is important to practice safer sex with all
partners, especially if you or they have
high-risk sexual behaviors.
There are at
least 20 different STIs. Testing recommendations for some of the most common
STIs in the U.S. follow. In general, testing is recommended for those at high
Chlamydia is a common STI in the United States. Left
untreated, chlamydia can lead to many complications, especially for women. If a
woman has chlamydia when she gives birth, her newborn can have the
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends
chlamydia testing for all sexually active women ages 24
and younger. The USPSTF also recommends testing for women older than 24 with
high-risk sexual behaviors. The task force does not state how often to be
screened. After reviewing all of the research, the USPSTF has not recommended
for or against regular chlamydia screening for men.1
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends screening every year for sexually active adolescents and women up to age 25. Women older than 25 who have high-risk sexual behaviors also should be screened every year.2 You may have a urine test for chlamydia (if it is available in your area) even if you do not have a full pelvic or genital exam.
The CDC recommends tests for pregnant
women with high-risk sexual behaviors so they do not spread chlamydia to their
babies. All pregnant women should be screened during their first prenatal
visit. If a pregnant woman is at high risk for chlamydia, she may be tested
again during her third trimester.
The CDC also recommends you have the test again 3 to 12 months after you finish treatment. Women who have been diagnosed and treated for chlamydia may get it again if they have sex with the same partner or partners.2
For more information, see the topic Chlamydia.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force
(USPSTF) strongly recommend that all pregnant women be
syphilis because of the severe consequences of being
pregnant while infected or having a child born with
Screening should be done:4
- At the first prenatal visit for all pregnant
- During the third trimester and again at delivery for
pregnant women who have an increased risk of acquiring syphilis.
The USPSTF also strongly recommends that anyone with
high-risk sexual behaviors be screened.
testing for syphilis is recommended for men who are
sexually active with other men. If these men also engage in risky sexual
HIV, or have a sex partner with syphilis, testing
should take place more often.
For more information, see the topic
USPSTF recommends testing all sexually active women
ages 24 and younger. The USPSTF also recommends testing for women older than 24 who engage in high-risk sexual behaviors.1
If you engage in high-risk sexual
behaviors, you may want to consider being tested once a year for
gonorrhea even though you don't have symptoms. Testing
will allow gonorrhea to be quickly diagnosed and treated. This helps to reduce
the risk of transmitting gonorrhea and avoid complications of the infection.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also
recommends testing for pregnant women who engage in high-risk sexual behaviors
to prevent them from transmitting gonorrhea to their babies. All pregnant women
should be tested during their first prenatal visit. If a pregnant woman is at
high risk for gonorrhea, she may be tested again during the third trimester
before delivery to prevent transmitting the infection to her newborn.5
For more information, see the topic
Other types of STIs include:
Genital warts or
human papillomavirus (HPV). Certain types of HPV can
cause cancer of the
- Genital herpes.
- Hepatitis B.
Other infections that may be sexually transmitted include
human immunodeficiency virus (HIV),
hepatitis C, and possibly
information, see the topic Sexually Transmitted Infections.
Health Screening: Finding Health Problems Early
Sexually Transmitted Infections
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2014). Chlamydia and gonorrhea screening: Final recommendation statement. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/RecommendationStatementFinal/chlamydia-and-gonorrhea-screening. Accessed October 14, 2014.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010). Chlamydial infections section of Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines, 2010. MMWR, 59(RR-12): 44–49. Also available online: http://www.cdc.gov/std/treatment/2010/default.htm.
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2004). Screening for syphilis infection. Available online: http://www.ahrq.gov/clinic/uspstf/uspssyph.htm.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2002). Syphilis: General principles. MMWR, 51(RR-6): 18–28.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010). Gonococcal infections section of Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines, 2010. MMWR, 59(RR-12): 49–55. Also available online: http://www.cdc.gov/std/treatment/2010/default.htm.