Q: How do I get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?
A: When you have sex with someone, you're essentially having sex with everyone they've ever had sex with, too. And that includes oral sex, because you can transmit infections via saliva and other fluids.
The problem with STIs is that you can be infected for years without having any symptoms—and then infect future partners without even knowing it. Everyone who is sexually active should be screened for STIs at least once a year, and three to six months after any new partner. Most docs now use quick and painless urine tests to diagnose some STIs; in women, a doctor might follow up with a pelvic exam if the test is positive.
Pap smears, which detect precancerous changes in cervical cells caused by HPV, are not recommended until at least age 21. Of course, the best way to reduce the risk of STIs is by not having sex or by using condoms if you choose to engage in vaginal, anal or oral sex. If you do get diagnosed with an STI, make sure that your partner gets tested and treated accordingly.
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Michael F. Roizen, MD, is Professor of Internal Medicine and Anesthesiology, Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. He has co-founded 12 companies, including the popular websites RealAge.com and YOUBeauty.com.
Mehmet C. Oz, MD, is Vice-Chair and Professor of Surgery at Columbia University and director of the Cardiovascular Institute and Complementary Medicine Program at New York Presbyterian Hospital. His TV show—The Dr. Oz Show— recently won its third Emmy, with Dr. Oz his second as the best daytime talk show host.
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