Dear Lucy: Recently, while having sex, the condom we were using broke. I am not worried about pregnancy, as I am also on birth control; however, how long should I wait to get an STD test? Is it better to wait a week or two (or some other period of time), as it would presumably take some time for the infection/symptoms to appear, or should I just get checked out ASAP? —Worried Sick
Dear Worried: Lucy is so happy you asked this question! You’re not the first to deal with a ruptured rubber, and you’re not the first to worry about the implications thereof. For an answer to your question about testing for sexually transmitted diseases (or STDs) Lucy turned to Howard Heller, an infectious disease specialist.
There’s no need to rush over to MIT Medical immediately unless you develop symptoms like vaginal discharge, pelvic pain, or sores in the genital area, Heller tells Lucy. “Otherwise, gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomonas, syphilis, and hepatitis B could be diagnosed within two to three weeks,” Heller says, “so it would be reasonable to wait that long before coming in to get tested. Symptoms of herpes simplex—sores in the genital area—would probably show up within a week.”
Heller notes that HIV infection is usually detectable within two to three weeks with the current “fourth generation” HIV test that detects both antibody to HIV as well as the HIV itself. But if you are concerned about the possibility of HIV infection from your sex partner after a broken condom, you may need to consider immediate “HIV post-exposure prophylaxis” (HIV PEP). Research has shown that starting HIV medications as soon as possible after a high-risk event—and at least within 72 hours—can greatly reduce the risk of becoming infected. HIV PEP is available at MIT Medical’s walk-in Urgent Care Service as well as in all emergency rooms.
Of course, Lucy must add, the best defense against STDs is a condom that doesn’t break in the first place. For some tips on minimizing your future breakage risk, Lucy suggests spending a few minutes reviewing correct condom use with this excellent video. Here’s to good health and healthy sex! —Lucy
Information contained in Ask Lucy is intended solely for general educational purposes and is not intended as professional medical advice related to individual situations.
Always obtain the advice of a qualified healthcare professional if you need medical diagnosis, advice, or treatment. Never disregard medical advice you have received, nor delay getting such advice, because of something you read in this column.