photo: Marissa Pina/Vivala
A few weeks ago I went on my very first Tinder date which went very well. But when I shared all the fun details with my girlfriends, they only seemed focused on one particular thing: "Did you seriously tell him he needs to get tested on the first date?" one of them asked. "Um, yea," I said baffled by the question. "That's my rule. No sex until tested. Period." I don't believe in holding off the STD convo post-sex. My health comes first and I'm not trying to break into a panic attack in the middle of the night wondering if some dude gave me something. 

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Plus, with the rise of STDs, it's become more important than ever to get your guy tested. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, STDs rates in 2015 increased by 2.8 percent since 2013. This included diseases, like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. Despite those stats, you'd be surprised how many women are afraid to ask their partner about their STD status. So, I decided to speak to a few experts to break down why this is SO important.

First and for most, you can still get STDs using condoms. I repeat you can still get STDs using condoms. 

"It's really important to realize that the condom has to cover the entire penis in order to protect against STDs. If there are lesions that are not covered by the skin, sexually transmitted diseases like herpes, syphilis, or HPV can be passed to the partner," says Dr. Diana Ramos, OBGYN and Co-Chair at the National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative. "Also if there's foreplay that consists of skin-on-skin contact and the penis touches the vagina, an STD can also be transmitted that way too."

Another thing to keep in mind is the kind of condom you're using too. This is especially important if you suffer from latex allergies or sensitivities. 

"In order to protect you from STDs, the condom needs to be latex, not lamb skin or anything natural," Ramos says. "Because Latex is not porous, it doesn't allow bacterial viruses to go through. But you have to remember that there is nothing out there that will protect you 100 percent which is why getting your partner tested is so crucial."

A lot of people also don't realize you can actually get STDs from oral sex alone, which can include everything from syphilis, HIV, herpes, HPV, gonorrhea, and even chlamydia. 

"I've had patients that have come in with a chronically hoarse voice, and the EMT would look at their throat and find warts in their vocal chords that were caused by HPV," says Ramos.

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It doesn't end there. A sexually transmitted disease can also affect your chances of having kids. 

"Women can become infertile depending upon the STD that they acquire from the partner. If their partner has an STD like chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, or hepatitis B, that can lead to infertility or cause complications in the baby if they do end up becoming pregnant."

The common excuse I hear regarding STD testing is not knowing where to get tested. But apparently there are a lot more places to get tested for STD's out there then you'd think. 

"There are clinics tied to health departments and private physician offices. Some infections, like HIV, can be tested for at home. Depending on the infection being tested for, results can range from minutes for HIV or to a couple of days for syphilis," says Amesh Adalja, a board certified infectious disease physician at the University of Pittsburgh. 

Also, depending on what state or city you live in, there are clinics that actually offer free and confidential STD testing. Some Planned Parenthood locations offer walk-in STD and HIV testing, as well as urgent care centers like City MD in NYC.

As awkward or uncomfortable as it may seem, the conversation regarding STD testing is something that needs to happen. There's no perfect time to have it, but ideally you want to talk about it before sex even happens. It's time to drop the stigma around testing and put our health first.

"No woman should worry about scaring anyone when it comes to her health," says Phillip Petree, author of The Man Puzzle: A Guide To Understanding Men (Heart, Mind and Soul)

"Men are equally concerned about their sexual health, especially as we get older. Most men have no problem taking an STD test but what they worry about is the implied commitment to a long-term relationship. If he's not ready to make that commitment, he's not going to take the test."

"You have to think beyond the moment because that one moment can impact the rest of your life," says Ramos. "The most important thing is to value yourself." 

That's the issue is that many women have, she says, and we don't give ourselves the courage to speak up for our health and for our fertility. Think twice because precaution can go a long way.