My partner and I have been together for three years and I was a virgin before we met. He has been my only sexual partner in all of those years and he claims that he hasn’t had sex with anyone else too. We both tested negative for the HIV virus twice in the last two years but we still have sex with a condom every time. Is it safe for us to ditch the condom now? That is, are there still any STDs that my partner might have without knowing it, that we should be worried about, even though nothing whatsoever has seemed wrong with either of us for three years and my partner has had several regular annual physicals in that time? He thinks it’s time we stopped using the condoms since we completely trust each other.
— Sophie, 26
It gives me so much joy every time I see such trust and communication between partners. I love that both of you started off on the right foot by paying so much attention to your sexual health.
Before I answer your question about ditching the condom, let’s address your question about STIs.
Yes — there are STIs that have no symptoms that you may have been exposed to; this means that you can have them and transmit them to others without ever knowing it. Not to scare you, but there are other STIs that may take years to result in symptoms, if they ever develop at all.
Some of these types of STIs present symptoms only when irritated by say a hormonal change or a particular stressor. This is why some women notice a difference in vagina discharge or begin to itch right after a stressful week or month or around their periods.
Chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis at certain stages, herpes (between outbreaks), and human papilloma virus (HPV) (the virus that can cause genital warts and certain types of cancer) can all be asymptomatic. HIV can have an incubation period of up to ten years before symptoms of advanced AIDS appear, although usually the antibodies show up on a test within six months of transmission of the virus.
Though it sounds like your partner has been tested for HIV, if neither of you have been tested for other STIs, you can’t know for sure if you’re infected or not. In addition to the HIV test, both you and your partner can be tested for gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia. As for other STIs, though there’s no routine tests available, a visual exam of the genitals and other potentially impacted areas can be done to look for signs of HPV and herpes.
After these information (please follow the links to learn more about these STIs), if you still want to ditch the condom, be sure to extend your tests to cover these other STIs and reinforce your trust in each other.
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