The decision to get tested for a sexually transmitted infection (STI) is perhaps one of the most important decisions someone in their twenties can make to take care of their sexual and reproductive health. STIs are common, especially in young people and are spread predominantly through sexual contact. A majority of people who are infected with an STI may experience mild symptoms or be completely asymptomatic. Yet, STIs can pose serious health risks if left untreated. Despite the severity of the situation, it can still be difficult to encourage young people to get tested for STIs — as the World Health Organisation (WHO) points out, people seeking screening and treatment often face the barriers of limited resources, stigmatization and the poor quality of services.
Here is a guide taking you through the importance of STI testing, the prevalence of young people who are afflicted, and what we can do to help.
Who is at a high risk for an STI?
Young adults, especially females, are at an increased risk of exposure to STIs due to the biological makeup of the cervix, the relatively immature immune systems and the possibility of new or multiple partners. In a recent report released by the Singapore Ministry of Health, the highest incidence of STIs in 2016 occured in young adults between the ages of 20 and 29 years.
Females who are afflicted with an STI are less likely than their male counterparts to experience symptoms as most times, these symptoms disappear on their own or are not easily visible. Sometimes, these symptoms are often mistaken for another infection such as bacterial vaginosis. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) specifically recommends that females who are below the age of 24 and are sexually active be tested for the common STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhea annually.
Protecting yourself and others from infection
Being at a high risk, having an untreated STI or being unsure of your sexual health status can be dangerous not just for yourself, but for those around you. Most STIs are curable and can be treated if detected early. However, if left untreated, they can cause infertility as well as other health complications. Some of these may develop invisibly over the course of decades, often without any outward signs until severe complications occur.
What should I do?
STI screening may be scary and disruptive, but the long-term benefits far outweigh the risks. Early testing provides you the means to access treatment before complications occur or other people become infected.
At Ease, we have reduced the barriers to getting tested by making STI tests more affordable and accessible by allowing you to get tested from the privacy and comfort of your home (or at one of our partner clinics), and have your results delivered to you via email within 7 days.