Take Charge of Your Sexual Health

What you need to know about preventive services

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Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

All sexually active women aged 24 and younger should be screened annually for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Women aged 25 and older who have risk factors for STIs, such as having unprotected sex (sex without a condom), a new partner, or multiple partners, should also be screened for both chlamydia and gonorrhea. 

Talk to your provider about being screened for syphilis. You may need to be screened if you have HIV, have unprotected sex with a partner whose health status you don't know, or use drugs or alcohol.

All pregnant women should be screened for chlamydia, syphilis, HIV, and hepatitis B during their first prenatal visit or within the first trimester. Pregnant women aged 24 and younger, as well as older women with risk factors for STIs, should also be screened for gonorrhea. Those who are at continued risk for STIs should be retested for chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV in their third trimester.

HIV Testing

You should be tested for HIV at least once as part of your routine health care, even if you think your partner only has sex with you. You should also be tested if you aren’t currently having sex, but you have had sex in the past. 

You should be tested at least once a year if you have unprotected sex, have had an STI or have a partner who has, have multiple partners, share drug injection equipment (including needles or syringes), or have a partner who engages in any of these behaviors. 

Cervical Cancer Screening

Most women aged 21-65 should have a Pap test every three years. You may need to be screened more often if you had an abnormal Pap result. If so, talk with your provider. The Pap test looks for cells on a woman’s cervix that could become cancer. A Pap test alone does not test for STIs, nor does it test for other cancers of the reproductive system.  

Some women over age 30 can safely go up to 5 years between cervical cancer screenings. To do so, ask your provider to also test you for HPV (human papillomavirus). The cells collected for the Pap test will also be tested for HPV. If it shows that you don’t have HPV, and you have a history of normal Pap results, you can go five years between screenings.

Even though you may not need annual screening, you should still see your provider regularly for checkups. For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/cancer/cervical/basic_info/screening.htm.

Hepatitis B Screening

You should be screened for hepatitis B if you are pregnant, have a partner who has hepatitis B, have multiple partners, have had an STI, share drug injection equipment (including needles or syringes), or live with a person who is infected with the hepatitis B virus. You should also be screened if you were born in a country where hepatitis B infection is common (Asia, Africa, the Pacific Islands, parts of South America) or were born in the United States to parents from one of those countries.

Hepatiis B is a virus that attacks the liver. It is spread through infected body fluids, including blood and semen. Infection can either be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term). People with hepatitis B may not look or feel sick, but can still infect others. Chronic hepatitis B infection can often be treated, but not cured. To learn more, visit www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hbv/index.htm.

Hepatitis C Screening

All women born between 1945 and 1965, you should be screened once for hepatitis C. Many “baby boomers” born between those years have hepatitis C and don't know it. They may have engaged in risky behaviors or received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before national screening for the virus was in place. Most people become infected with hepatitis C by sharing drug injection equipment. If you inject illegal drugs, you should be screened periodically for hepatitis C. You should also be screened if you've been in prison, have HIV, or have ever injected illegal drugs.

The risk of getting hepatitis C from having unprotected sex is low, but it is possible. You are at higher risk if you have HIV or another STI, have multiple partners, or engage in rough sex.

Hepatitis C is a virus that attacks the liver. It can cause severe illness and permanent liver damage. However, it can often be cured, especially if the infection is detected early. To learn more, visit www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/C.

Intimate Partner Violence 

If your partner is sexually, verbally, or physically abusing you, or forcing you to do things against your will (such as get pregnant, not use birth control, or engage in unsafe sex), speak up and let your provider know. They can refer you to a program or mental health professional who can help you.

If You Are Transgender 

Many of the preventive services in this guide will help you stay healthy. Although finding a provider who can address your unique healthcare needs may be challenging, it is important to get tested regularly for HIV and other STIs, and vaccinated against hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and HPV (if you’re eligible). Use condoms and practice safer sex to protect you and your partners. For more in-depth guidance, see the resources listed at the end of this guide.