Sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise globally. Nearly 1 in every 5 individuals in the United States alone is affected by an STD. Fortunately, advancements in the field of medical diagnosis have made it easier to detect STDs earlier for prompt treatment.
Unfortunately, there is no single way to test for all STDs at once. STD testing covers the most common sexually transmitted diseases, including Gonorrhea, HIV, and Chlamydia. Most routine STD tests cover anywhere from 10 to 14 different types of infections depending on where you get the tests taken. However, many routine test regimes don’t include HPV and Herpes even though these are fairly common infections.
STD testing is usually painless and quick. Your doctor may prescribe several tests depending on the signs and symptoms you show. You may also need a certain type of STD test if you exhibit risk factors for that particular disease. Since STD tests are not universal, each infection needs to be tested individually in most cases.
WHAT DOES A ROUTINE STD TEST HOLD?
It’s worth mentioning here that STD testing is not a part of routine medical examinations in the United States. If you want to get tested for STDs you have to explicitly ask your doctor, nurse, or other healthcare providers for these tests.
STD testing, as mentioned before, is usually quick and painless. It is widely available in the United States at multiple hospitals, independent clinics, and public health care centers. Routine STD testing includes several samples that may or may not be taken depending on the sign and symptoms you have. These may include:
- A urine sample
- A blood sample
- Cheek and genital swabs
- Open sore examination and sampling
- Samples from warts, rashes, and/or any discharge
Of course, testing for individual STDs differs from infection to infection. Gonorrhea and Chlamydia, both infections notoriously frequently occurring together, are diagnosed with a urine test and a swab taken from the genitals. Testing for blood samples is ideal for Syphilis, Hepatitis, and HIV. Additionally, an open sore swab may also help diagnose Syphilis. Genital Herpes is diagnosed with samples from blisters. Blood tests help differentiate between the two main types of herpes infections. A Pap smear is most commonly employed for HPV infections in women.
Your doctor may need to take a detailed history to narrow down the causes before they test for any STD. They may ask you questions about your current health status, your sexual history, and whether or not you use protection. They may then move on to a complete and thorough physical examination. Physical examinations often reveal signs and symptoms on a patient that help the physician narrow down the cause to a few culprits.
Your doctor may be able to form a provisional diagnosis with just your signs and symptoms. However, a test result is often needed for a definite diagnosis. Most STD tests are conclusive and accurate. But it's important to note that negative test results may not exclude a certain disease as the cause right away.
Depending on where you get tested from, your test results can be available anywhere within minutes to several weeks. STD testing done at a doctor’s clinic is quick and yields results in 20 to 30 minutes for most infections. However, samples sent over to independent labs for more sophisticated testing may take weeks to return.
Typically, your doctor will guide you on the type of tests you need depending on the signs and symptoms you exhibit. They may also take into account your clinical and sexual history. Your doctor may ask you about the number of your current sexual partners and how frequently you use protection.
Different types of sex can put you at risk for different types of infections. Therefore, your physician might ask you about the type of sex that you've practiced with your sexual partner(s). Your partner's sexual history is also quite important in determining the type of tests you need. Their past medical history could show an STD that you should be tested for accordingly.
Interestingly enough, your travel history may also give a clue to your doctor about the type of infection you may be carrying. This is because some sexually transmitted infections are endemic in particular geographical areas.
It is also possible that you might not exhibit any signs or symptoms at all. For this reason, the CDC has formulated a screening plan for individuals to ensure avid testing in high-risk groups. These guidelines include:
- HIV testing for all sexually/reproductively active individuals (aged 13-64)
- Gonorrhea and Chlamydia testing in women under 25 once a year
- Syphilis, HIV, and Hepatitis B testing in pregnant women
- Regular testing for individuals who engage in unprotected sexual intercourse with multiple partners
- 3-6 monthly testing for Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and HIV in sexually active men
CAN I TEST FOR STDS AT HOME?
Testing for STDs at home is certainly possible. Many home testing kits have been developed for certain sexually transmitted diseases. You can test yourself at home for STDs like HIV, Chlamydia, and Gonorrhea. However, you will always want to confirm the test result with your doctor.
Testing yourself at home is quite straightforward. All you need to do is collect a sample, usually a urine sample or a genital or oral swab, and send it out to the nearest testing lab. Usually, the results will come back from the lab in a few days.
At-home testing kits save you the trouble of going to a doctor's office or a testing lab. They also save you from potentially embarrassing situations because the testing is done entirely at home. There is no need for a pelvic examination by a doctor. Sample collection is easy and painless and it does not take much time to get your tests back.
Definite testing by a health care provider is often needed after home testing results come back. This is done to confirm the diagnosis because at-home testing kits may often be unreliable and inaccurate.
If your test results have come back positive, the very first thing to do is to consult your physician. They may order repeat or further testing to make sure that your diagnosis is correct. Your physician may also be able to guide you on what to expect now that you have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection.
You must inform your recent sexual partners about your diagnosis. This is done to ensure that they understand the situation and get tested accordingly. Informing them also helps reduce the spread of this infection.
You should also let your family or friends know about your diagnosis so that you are better equipped to deal with the emotional turmoil of the situation. The important thing to remember is that if the situation feels overwhelming, it is only natural. Informing your friends and family may provide you with the support you need.
Your doctor may advise you to start a certain treatment regime. Make sure that you stick to this treatment schedule so that your disease is either cured or controlled enough to not become a nuisance. Staying careful and employing safe sexual practices is ideal once your physician gives you the green light for sexual intercourse.
It is also important to seek professional help for your mental health and stability. Finding out that you have a sexually transmitted disease can be hard on your mind. Sex therapists or psychiatrists may be able to help you maneuver this situation much better.
WHERE DO I GET TESTED FOR STDS?
STD testing is widely available in the United States. For starters, government-funded clinics offer free or affordable STD testing. These tests cover a large number of sexually transmitted infections. Moreover, Planned Parenthood clinics also provide an efficient testing facility. Get tested for free at IMG Health Clinic 1-800-773-7066.
You can also get tested at your doctor’s office. Arguably, your doctor may be able to help you through this situation much better since they have access to your full medical history. Other testing facilities include local pharmacies and drug stores.
You can also test yourself at home with a wide variety of at-home STD testing kits.
Q) How Long Does It Take To Get Tested For STDs?
Getting tested for STDs does not take long. Rapid STD testing kits at a doctor's office may be able to return conclusive results within minutes to hours. More sophisticated testing conducted at a specialized lab may take longer, up to a week or two.
Q) How Much Does It Cost To Get STD Tests Done?
Getting STD tests isn't as expensive as many believe it is. You may be able to get tested for a low price, or even for free, at many government-funded labs and clinics.
Q) Are STDs Curable?
Only the STDs that are caused by bacteria are curable. Viral STDs are not curable, however, they can be managed effectively with modern anti-viral medications.