Definition & Overview

Being sexually active does have its risks, especially if you have different partners. One of those risks is the possibility of contracting a Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD), such as gonorrhea, syphilis, or HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). Some STDs have cures, but others don’t. Regardless of whether an STD can be cured or not, it’s imperative that it be detected while still in the early stages to prevent it from getting worse or spreading to other people.

STDs begin as infections, which is why some health professional would rather call them Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI). Like any other type of infection, there is a way to detect an STD infection while it is still in its early form.

STD testing refers to several different methods to detect an infection, such as blood tests, vaginal discharge tests, stool test, and laparoscopy. Each type of STD has a different method of detection.

Apart from the symptoms, STDs also affect the person in different ways, such as emotionally and socially. For instance, if the tests produce a positive result, the infected person is morally obligated to inform his or her sexual partners of the condition. This is so that they can also undergo STD testing and receive treatment if required. People with an STD can feel socially disgraced, which could lead to emotional difficulties.

Who Should Undergo & Expected Results

Those who are sexually active with different partners aren’t the only ones who should undergo STD testing. If you’ve been exposed to any of the following conditions, you should also consider having the test performed:

  • You were forced to have sexual intercourse
  • You are a man who had sex with another man/men
  • You have a new partner
  • You use intravenous drugs
  • You are at risk of an STD and are pregnant or intend to become pregnant

It’s important to remember that undergoing an STD test is not just to detect the disease and receive the right treatment, but also to prevent it from spreading. Additionally, some infections do not show any symptom, which is why many people with STD do not know that they were infected. Those who don’t know that they were infected can spread the disease unknowingly.

If the result of the test is positive, the doctor will recommend a treatment plan, even if the STD cannot be cured. In such cases, the treatment plan will include measures to prevent the disease from getting worse.

How Does the Procedure Work?

The method of STD testing will depend on the suspected disease. If you are displaying any symptoms of the disease, the doctor will decide which type of test you should undergo. If you are only concerned that you may have acquired an STD, but are not displaying any symptoms, then you will need to undergo several different tests. Here are some of the most common tests:

  • Gonorrhea & Chlamydia – urine test or swab inside the penis or vagina
  • HIV, hepatitis, syphilis – blood test, swab of genital sores if present
  • Genital Herpes – No tests currently available can produce accurate results, but the doctor will recommend a blood test or culture of blisters.
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV) – HPV test or Pap test

Some people may assume that they are going to be tested for STD if they undergo other types of tests. Unfortunately, this is not true. You will need to inform the doctor that you want an STD test. Blood exams, urine tests, or Pap tests are not designed to look for STDs specifically, unless they are part of an STD test.

You should also remember that it is imperative that you’re honest with your doctor or health care provider. Answer all of their questions truthfully so that they can decide which type of test you need. If you aren’t truthful with your answers, there is a chance that the STD will not be detected, which would give you a false sense of relief, and prevent you from receiving treatment.

Possible Complications and Risks

Every type of STD test is safe. Thus, they will not have any risks or complications. However, there is a chance for false-positive or false-negative results. If a test produces positive results, the doctor will recommend further tests to confirm those results before providing a treatment plan. You should also be aware that negative results might end up being false, especially if you provided false information to the doctor or health care provider.

Here are some of the areas where you should provide accurate information:

  • The level of sexual activity
  • If you have multiple partners
  • If you are taking any medications
  • The reasons why you suspect STD, especially if you suspect that you partner may have other sexual partners.
  • If you participate in anal sex

The reason why you need to provide accurate information is because not all STDs can be detected through certain tests. For example, if you participate in anal sex, the anal STD may not be detected through standard tests. If you fail to provide this information, you could be at risk of rectal cancer. If you inform your doctor that you engage in anal sex, the doctor will recommend an anal pap smear, which can detect rectal cancer.

References:

  • Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). Recommendations on the use of quadrivalent human papillomavirus vaccine in males. MMWR. 2011;60:1705-1708.

  • American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Infectious Diseases. Policy Statement: HPV vaccine recommendations. Pediatrics. 2012. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2011-3865.

  • Berman Bm Amini S. Condyloma acuminata. In: Lebwohl MG, Heymann WR, Berth-Jones J, Coulson I. Treatment of Skin Disease: Comprehensive Therapeutic Strategies. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:chap 46.

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) Recommended Immunization Schedules for Persons Aged 0 Through 18 Years and Adults Aged 19 Years and Older - United States, 2013. MMWR. 2013;62(Suppl1):1-19.

  • Habif TP. Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Mosby; 2009:chap 11.

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