- Routine STD testing for men who sleep with women is not recommended by the CDC.
- Official recommendations are written with public health funding in mind, which can impact the type of testing promoted.
- The CDC advises healthcare professionals to consider STD testing for anyone at risk.
- The consequences of STDs are often more serious for women than for men.
- Getting tested is a way to protect your partner’s sexual health.
- Letting your partner know you have an STD will help her get treatment as soon as possible.
STD testing for men who sleep with women (MSW) is not among the official sexual health screening recommendations of the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The institution says some groups of women and men who have sex with men (MSM) should get regular checkups. Find out if you should still get an STD test — even if you’re a heterosexual man.
STD Testing For Men Who Sleep With Women: What CDC Says
CDC issued updated recommendations for the screening and testing of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in 2021. The document focuses on STD detection among special populations, such as pregnant persons, women under the age of 25, and MSM.
CDC recommends STD testing for heterosexual men only in a few situations:
- Everyone between the age of 13 to 64 should get tested for HIV at least once.
- All persons who engage in risky behaviors should get tested for HIV once a year.
- People who practice oral or anal sex should talk to their physician about throat and rectal testing options.
The CDC doesn’t recommend routine screening for other STDs, such as gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia.
What’s Behind CDC Recommendations
If the health authority doesn’t explicitly say that MSW should get regular check-ups, can you just chill? It depends! The recommendations are exactly that – suggestions for best practices based on current research.
But to understand the official position, we need to take into account other factors, for example, distribution of public health funding. STD testing for men who sleep with men is a focus of recommendations because this group has higher rates of STDs.
Similar reasoning applies to young women. For them, a sexual illness comes with a greater risk of serious health complications.
The CDC prioritizes STD testing for gay men over testing for MSW because the second group is regarded as low risk, and that’s the justification behind current recommendations.
This doesn’t mean you or your doctor should disregard your concerns about sexual health. If you’ve had risky situations in bed, talk to your doctor. CDC recommendations tell clinicians to “always consider the clinical circumstances of each person in the context of local disease prevalence.”
STDs Are Still Dangerous
Sexually transmitted diseases (sometimes called sexually transmitted infections — STIs) are still a big problem. They contribute to many health concerns, including infertility.
STIs are also a big public health burden. In the U.S. alone, 1 in 5 people has an STI. In 2018 alone, new cases of sexually transmitted infections generated $16 billion in direct lifetime medical costs.
It’s never fun to catch an STD, but even here, there is an element of luck involved. Some STDs are more serious than others. Getting regular testing is important because the sooner you find out, the greater your chance to heal.
However, other STDs are more serious. There’s still no cure for HSV (herpes) or HIV, for example, though people who test positive can live a long life with medical monitoring and appropriate treatment.
Health Impact of STDs Can Be Worse for Women
There is no gender equality with STDs. Compared with men, women carry a bigger burden. Take chlamydia, for example. Most men don’t develop long-term complications from this infection. For women, on the other hand, chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and permanent damage to the reproductive system.
Women are also more prone to catch an STD. That’s because the lining of the vagina is thinner than that of the penis, making it more vulnerable to bacteria and viruses.
Should You Get Tested If You’re A Heterosexual Man?
If you’re a sexually active guy, no matter who you sleep with, getting tested is a sign that you care for your partner or partners. Even if you’re super careful and always practice safer sex, there’s always a risk.
Condoms are very effective against disease, but they don’t promise 100 percent protection. Moreover, many heterosexual couples practice oral sex without latex barriers, which poses extra risk of STIs.
Think about it this way: You may go for a long time without even knowing you have an STD. In that period, you may unwittingly infect your partner with an illness that could have serious consequences for her. Don’t be that guy!
If you’ve never had an STD checkup, now is the time to think about it. You may ask your doctor for basic tests at your next annual health checkup. If you’re monogamous, it’s good practice for both partners to get tested before starting a new relationship.
If you’re currently single or not looking for a long-term relationship, always use condoms and latex barriers and check your sexual health regularly.
Tell Your Partner If You Test Positive
And what if the results come out positive? Honesty is your best policy here. Telling your partner helps her get treatment as soon as possible to minimize health risks, including risk of infertility.
Informing your lover about a positive HIV test result can save them from getting infected. Nowadays, post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is available. If taken in time (within 72 hours), it may save your partner from getting HIV.
STD Screening Made Simple
OK, so you want to do the right thing and get that STD checkup. Here’s what to expect:
- Talk to your doctor, or if you don’t feel comfortable, go to a sexual health clinic for anonymous testing.
- You will speak confidentially to a sexual health professional who will suggest which tests you should have.
- You may see the doctor for a physical examination of your genitals.
- Depending on test type, you may be asked to take a urine sample, get your blood drawn, or get a swab from your genital area.
- If you test positive, you may get a prescription for medication that you have to take as recommended.
Some couples go to sexual health clinics together. What may not sound like a romantic ritual is a sign of mutual respect and care for the other person.
Protect Your Sexual Health
Let’s face it. If you’re sexually active, you put yourself and your partner(s) at risk of STDs. And if that’s not scary enough, remember that these illnesses can mess with your bedroom pleasure by increasing your risk of ED.
The best thing you can do is to learn more about sexual health and safer sex. Our blog is a good starting point for evidence-based information. Looking for sexual health treatments? We’ve got you covered there, too. Order your medication here and get it delivered discreetly, straight to your doorstep.
Anka Grzywacz is a sexologist, reproductive health expert and Certified Sex Coach™. In her online practice she helps busy women and couples solve their intimate problems.