[Question #7154] Possibility of undected STIs in 10 year + marriage

10 months ago
Hi, I'm just wondering if it's possible for any STIs other than the more serious HIV and syphilis to persist in a monogamous relationship for more than ten years without detection.  My husband and I had a handful of prior sexual encounters before we met. We were very young and the idea of testing never occurred to us at the time.

I know my blood was checked for many STIs before each of my pregnancies (4 and 6 years ago) and we were also checked for chlamydia (both neg) around 7 years ago when my husband had epididymitis. I also know I have HPV and have had lletz treatment. There have been no other red flags really, other than yeast infections and the odd UTI.

So my question is whether any of the other common STIs could have been shared back-and-forth between us over the years without us realising. I guess I'm referring to herpes or gonorrhea. I know from my own prior experiences that I was relying, naively perhaps, on my sexual partner to use protection properly and there was definitely one incident of breakage where I had to get the morning-after pill. Interestingly the clinic never suggested getting tested for STIs!

Is there any cause for concern here or am I just paranoid? I am very health-conscious now and I know my guilt about my past behaviour/carelessness colours my judgement on these things.  Unknowingly passing something on during childbirth also concerns me as the hospital don't check for all STDs as standard where I live.

Any help would be appreciated. I tend to think very obsessively about such matters and all rationale goes out the window.




H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
10 months ago
Welcome to the forum. Thanks for your confidence in our services.

Probably a lot of people have simmilar concerns -- thanks for this question. You have touched on the only realistic possibiliites for persisting STIs you or your husband may have brought into your relationship a decade ago, HPV and herpes. You already know about your HPV infection, which sometimes can persist with recurrence of active infection. Genital (or oral) herpes simplex virus (HSV) infections persist for life, but in the absence of recognized recurrent outbreaks, it is unlikely either of you is infected with HSV2. HSV1? Conceivably but also probably unlikely. In any case, neither of these can be transmitted back and forth between you. People are immune to new infections with the HSV type(s) they already have, and partners with genital herpes do not "ping pong" the infection back and forth. The same probably is true of HPV, although the science on this is less clear than for herpes.

Gonorrhea and chlamydia are cleared by the immune system long before 10 years, almost always within a year. EVen if you had not been tesed in past years, I would have assured you there is no realistic chance either of you is infected now (of course assuming no extra-martital sexual contacts by either of you). And your negative blood tests assure you don't have syphilis or HIV.

Your husband's epididymitis may have raised the question of chlamyida or gonorrhea at the time, but epdidymitis also results from non-STI urinary tract infection, and some cases are not duie to any detectable infection.

All things consiered, I see no cause for worry. Just follow your doctors' advice about routine pap smears, but otherwise I'm confident all is well.

I hope these comments are helpful. Let me know if anything isn't clear.

HHH, MD
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10 months ago
Hi Dr Handsfield, thank you for your reassuring response.  You have addressed the majority of my concerns very well.

There were no issues for either of us for the first 4 years of our relationship, which is when I got my first yeast infection. I think the epididymitis episode was the following year. The doctor in that instance was adamant that chlamydia was to blame and had us all paranoid about infertility etc! Not sure why she didn't test for gonorrhea. Perhaps it was not as common at the time. Would clearance time for both chlamydia and gonorrhea be affected by reinfection back and forth? I know my husband would have taken antibiotics a number of times over the years but I had none until childbirth.

So can I also assume that nothing was passed on in childbirth?  There was no sign of any issue at delivery, other than sticky eyes in both kids in the early weeks but this resolved itself. This would be around 8 years after we met. I never had any sign of herpes so I would assume I have no issue there. The midwives never mentioned this as a risk anyway.

To be honest, this is probably more of an anxiety/OCD issue than anything else. I tend to narrow in on worst-case scenarios and rare cases. Too many "what ifs" coupled with the knowledge that I *may* have had something at some point but don't anymore.


H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
10 months ago
If your husband had a positve chlamydia test from the urethra when he had epididymitis, then the doctor is correct:  chlamydia wqs the cause. But if no testing was done, it's true that chlamydia is a common cause, but not necessarily the only one. However, given that suspicion at the time, you both should have been treated (and you should have been tested) for chlamydia. If any of this is uncertain, you both could be tested for chlamydia now, as a precaution -- but for the reasons discussed above, I am confident the results will be negative (once again, with the assumption that neither of you has had other partners).

There is no realistic chance either of your kids acquired any STD during their deliveries and even less possibility they still have anything.

There's a lot of OCD and anxiety in some of my own family members and I was already suspicious about this from the substance and tone of your questions. But I really don't think you have anything to be worried about in regard to STD.
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