Annual STD Testing: Many Should Get It

Getting screened for certain sexually transmitted diseases might make a sensible New Year's resolution.

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Getting screened for certain common sexually transmitted diseases might make a sensible New Year's resolution this year—and next year, and the year after. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in November that the number of new chlamydia infections last year set a record—more than 1 million cases. The agency's advice to many women and some men: Get tested annually. Public-health experts also recommend routine screening for certain other STDs, depending on your sex, age, and likelihood of exposure. Here's a look at screening recommendations for some of the more common STDs.

HIV/AIDS. Everyone ages 13 to 64 should be screened for HIV at least once, according to CDC guidelines issued last year. Annual testing is advised for high-risk individuals, including anyone who has had more than one sex partner—or whose partner has had more than one partner—since last being tested and all men who have sex with men. In addition, pregnant women and anyone who needs to be tested for tuberculosis or for another STD should also get an HIV test.

HPV. The Pap test is the standard screening tool used to detect cancerous and precancerous changes of the cervix, often caused by the human papillomavirus, a common infection that can also lead to genital warts but usually results in no symptoms. Women younger than 30 should get Pap tests annually, starting at age 21, or earlier if they're sexually active. Those ages 30 to 65 may be eligible to get tested as little as every third year, if they've had three consecutive normal Pap smears. And a doctor may advise a woman older than 65 with a history of good results that she no longer needs the test. The HPV DNA test, recommended for women older than 30 and for those with abnormal Pap smear results, is typically done at the same time as a Pap test. There is no HPV screening test for men.

Chlamydia. The CDC recommends chlamydia screening at least annually for sexually active women age 25 and younger. Annual screening is also suggested for older women with risk factors—including a new sexual partner or multiple recent partners—as well as men who have sex with men. (Routine screening isn't recommended for other men.) Pregnant women should also get tested.

Gonorrhea. Women, including pregnant women, who are at high risk should be tested, and men who have sex with men should be screened annually, according to the CDC. Gonorrhea is the second most commonly reported infectious disease in the United States.

Syphilis. The CDC suggests screening for all pregnant women, and men who have sex with men should be tested at least annually. The syphilis rate reached an all-time low in 2000, but it has been increasing since then.