Sexually Transmitted Diseases are common. If you are sexually active, especially with multiple partners, you may have questions about the risk of getting a sexually transmitted disease and when to get tested
Getting tested is important, that is because you can have a sexually transmitted disease without knowing it. In many cases, there are no symptoms, because you can have an infection without disease symptoms.
If your sexual history and current signs and symptoms suggest that you have a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or a sexually transmitted infection (STI), your doctor will do a physical or pelvic exam to look for signs of infection, such as a rash, warts or discharge.
Laboratory tests can identify the cause and detect coinfections you might also have.
Depending on the type of suspected infection, you may get one of the following types of tests:
- Blood tests. Blood tests can confirm the diagnosis of HIV or later stages of syphilis.
- Urine samples. Some STIs can be confirmed with a urine sample.
- Fluid samples. If you have open genital sores, your doctor may test fluid and samples from the sores to diagnose the type of infection.
Testing for a disease in someone who doesn’t have symptoms is called screening. Most of the time, STI screening is not a routine part of health care. But when a person’s risk for getting an STI changes, screening is suggested. The risk level may change when a person is in a new setting with a higher risk, such as a prison or jail. Or it can be based on factors such as if a person has a history of STIs. Screening is recommended for:
- Almost everyone at least once. Screening with a blood or saliva test for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS, is suggested for everyone ages 15 to 65. Experts recommend that people at high risk have an HIV test every year.
- Pregnant women. All pregnant women will generally be screened for HIV, hepatitis B, chlamydia and syphilis at their first prenatal visit. Gonorrhea and hepatitis C screening tests are recommended at least once during pregnancy for women at high risk of these infections. Hepatitis B screening is suggested at each pregnancy for everyone.
- Women age 21 and older. The Pap test screens for changes in the cells of the cervix, including inflammation, precancerous changes and cancer. Cervical cancer is often caused by certain strains of HPV.
- Women under age 25 who are sexually active. Experts recommend that all sexually active women under age 25 be tested for chlamydia infection. The chlamydia test uses a sample of urine or vaginal fluid you can collect yourself.
- Reinfection by an untreated or undertreated partner is common. If you’ve been treated for an initial chlamydia infection, you should be retested in about three months. Get retested if you have a new partner.Screening for gonorrhea is also recommended in sexually active women under age 25.
- People with HIV. If you have HIV, it dramatically raises your risk of catching other STIs. Experts recommend immediate testing for syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and herpes after being diagnosed with HIV. They also recommend that people with HIV be screened for hepatitis C.Women with HIV may develop aggressive cervical cancer, so experts recommend they have a Pap test at the time of the HIV diagnosis or within a year of becoming sexually active if they are under 21 and have HIV.
- People who have a new partner. Before having vaginal or anal intercourse with new partners, be sure you’ve both been tested for STIs. However, routine testing for genital herpes isn’t recommended unless you have symptoms.
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