Test I Ever Had

By Mandi Cai

Good sex education teaches us that every sexually active individual should get tested. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that "all adults and adolescents from ages 13 to 64 should be tested at least once for HIV." Sexually active individuals should get tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia yearly, and individuals who have multiple or anonymous partners should consider getting tested more frequently, i.e. every 3-6 months.

It's wise to get regularly tested and openly converse about one's sexual health with a new partner(s) as the baseline etiquette. But sex education still leaves some questions unanswered.

For example, what are the window periods of some common STDs? (A window period is defined as the period during which a standard test for the STD may produce a false negative) How are common STDs spread? (skin to skin, through bodily fluids, etc.) Which STDs are generally asymptomatic? Which STDs are treatable vs curable?

Window periods of common STDs

After having unprotected intercourse, some will rush to get tested and expect the results to be accurate. But in reality, there is a period of time after possible contraction during which the bacteria or antibodies in response to the virus are not detected by tests.

*Window periods were taken from The STD Project, STDcheck, North Dakota Department of Health, and the BC Centre for Disease Control. The starts of the window periods were averaged together, and the ends of the window periods were averaged together. If a window period only specified one date (i.e. 'One should get tested after 4 weeks'), the same date was treated as the start and end dates.

STDs spread by skin to skin contact

Some STDs are not just spread through oral, vaginal, or anal sex - they can also be contracted via skin to skin contact.

*Skin to skin contact happens when the infected part of one's skin comes into direct contact with an open lesion or mucous membrane on an uninfected individual.

Asymptomatic STDs

A example of an asymptomatic STD is chlamydia, which is known as the "silent infection" - according to the CDC, studies reported that "only about 10% of men and 5-30% of women with laboratory-confirmed chlamydial infection develop symptoms." Most STDs can be asymptomatic for months or years, and can cause serious damage to one's internal body if left untreated. The best thing to do is to get tested regularly if you're sexually active.

*Symptoms for each STD are provided by the CDC's detailed STD fact sheets.

Treatable vs curable STDs

The good news is that the common STDs listed here are either treatable or curable if detected early enough. Bacterial STDs are typically curable via antibiotics, while viral STDs and the spread of the virus can be managed via medication.


Charts were created using D3. Data was gathered from the sources listed below. Code is on GitHub.