STD Testing Facts & Information
Many Doctors Do Not Test for STDs Automatically
Ideally, all doctors should automatically do STD Testing for all sexually active younger women and men for STDs every time they get routine reproductive health care, such as Pap smears. But many do not, and it is wise for all women to request STD testing if they have had more than one sex partner or if there is any doubt about their partner’s sexual history or lifestyle.
Don’t assume that STD testing was done just because you had a Pap smear. Paps are a good way to check for cervical infection with HPV (human papillomavirus), some types of which cause cervical cancer. But a Pap smear itself is not a test for other STDs.
Aside from Pap smears, routine STD testing usually means testing the urine or a swab specimen for chlamydia and gonorrhea; blood tests for HIV and syphilis; and, in women, checking for vaginal infections.
Sometimes a blood test for HSV is also wise, especially if there are symptoms that could indicate herpes or if you have been sexually exposed to an infected partner. It usually isn’t necessary to test for viral hepatitis unless there are special risks.
Of course, testing for STDs should be done promptly whenever symptoms show up, such as new vaginal or penile discharge, or when there’s the appearance of new genital sores, irritation, or bumps that may indicate genital warts.
See also: STD Information
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
The health and future of every adolescent are shadowed by the risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Regular STD testing can help prevent unintended transmissions, and early diagnosis can greatly improve treatment options and avoid problems associated with a full-blown infection.
Unfortunately, social stigma often inhibits discussions between health care providers and patients about STD/STI risk, and the need for testing. Sexually transmitted diseases are common and you could have an STI without even knowing as most people show no symptoms and the only way to know is to be tested.
More than half of all people will have an STD/STI at some point in their lifetime. Recent estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Infection (CDC) show that there are 20 million new STIs every year in the U.S.
The rate of STIs is high among young people in the United States. Young people ages 15-24 contract almost half the nation’s STIs every year; and the CDC estimates that one in four young women ages 15-19 has an STI.
Each year one in four teens contracts an STD/STI. But in a national survey of US physicians, fewer than one-third routinely screened patients for STDs/STIs.
Consistent condom use provides substantial protection against the acquisition of many STDs, including a statistically significant reduction of risk against HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, and syphilis.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI)
You can get an STI by having intimate sexual contact with someone who already has the infection. You can’t tell if a person is infected because many STIs have no symptoms. But STIs can still be passed from person to person even if there are no symptoms.
Not all STIs are spread the same way. STIs are spread during vaginal, anal, or oral sex or during genital touching. So it’s possible to get some STIs without having intercourse.
Untreated STIs can cause different health problems including cancer, pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, pregnancy problems, widespread infection to other parts of the body, organ damage, and even death.
Having an STI also can put you at greater risk of getting HIV. Not stopping risky sexual behavior can lead to infection with other STIs, including HIV. Also, infection with some STIs makes it easier for you to get HIV if you are exposed. People can have symptoms for months or even years before the onset of AIDS
Experts estimate that one young person in the United States is infected with HIV every hour of every day. Nearly 15 percent of the annual new cases of HIV infections in the United States occur in youth ages 13 through 24.
It is estimated that as many as one in five Americans have genital herpes, and nearly one million new infections each year. Yet up to 90 percent of those with herpes are unaware they have it.
Over 14 million people acquire HPV each year, and by age 50, at least 80 percent of women will have acquired genital HPV infection. Most people with HPV do not develop symptoms.
Some studies show that for those who already have a clinically apparent genital HPV infection, using condoms promotes the regression of HPV lesions in both women and men.
STD Testing Guidelines
Most of the time, “STD screening is not a routine part of health care”. Laboratory tests can identify the cause and detect coinfections you might also have contracted.
Experts recommend that women should have a Pap test at least every three years. The Pap test screens for cervical abnormalities, including inflammation and cancer, which are often caused by certain strains of human papillomavirus (HPV). Women with HIV may develop aggressive cervical cancer, so they should have Pap tests twice a year to screen for HPV.
Some women may have no symptoms for 10 years or more. About half of people with HIV get flu-like symptoms about 3 to 6 weeks after becoming infected.
If you have HIV, it dramatically raises your risk of catching other STIs. Experts recommend that these people should be tested more frequently for syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes, and hepatitis B. Some experts also recommend regular HPV screening of HIV-infected men who risk anal cancer from HPV contracted anally.
STD Testing kits
STD Testing Procedure, Diagnostics
One STD screening test suggested for everyone is a blood or saliva test for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS. Blood tests can confirm the diagnosis of HIV or later stages of syphilis. Some STIs can be confirmed with a urine sample.
Laboratory tests of material from a genital sore or discharge are used to diagnose the most common bacterial and some viral STDs at an early stage. If you have active genital sores, testing fluid and samples from the sores may be done to diagnose the type of infection.
Sexually Transmitted Infections List – Also Known As STD List
Chlamydia is a sexually transmissible infection (STI), a very small parasitic bacterium that, like a virus, requires the biochemical mechanisms of another cell in order to reproduce. Bacteria of this type cause various diseases including trachoma, psittacosis, and non-specific urethritis.
Chlamydia infection is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections. If left untreated, chlamydial infections can cause serious reproductive and other health problems with both short-term and long-term consequences.
Chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in women, which can lead to chronic pain and infertility. Also, can be passed from an infected mother to her baby during childbirth.
Chlamydia in men can spread to the testicles causing epididymitis, which in rare cases can lead to sterility
Chlamydia can be effectively cured with antibiotics. If detected early, chlamydia can be treated with a single dose of antibiotics.
Unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge
Lower abdominal pain
Painful sexual intercourse
Burning feeling or painful urination
Painful or burning sensation when urinating
Unusual discharge from the penis
Testicular pain or swelling
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that shows as blisters or sores caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). HSV Type 1 & 2. The herpes virus is spread by skin-to-skin contact and is transmitted during sex.
Having a sexually transmitted infection (STI) such as genital herpes increases the risk of getting HIV infection if you are exposed to HIV.
Genital Herpes Symptoms
Pain in legs, buttocks, or genital area
Itching, burning, or swollen glands in the genital area
Pain when urinating
Small blisters around the genitals
Small cracks in the skin
Redness or a distinct rash
Gonorrhea, is a sexually transmitted infection (STI), a venereal disease involving inflammatory discharge from the urethra or vagina.
It is most common in young adults and does not always cause symptoms. The risk for men that have sex with men is higher. Also, a pregnant woman can pass it to her baby during childbirth.
As with most sexually transmitted diseases, the risk of infection can be reduced significantly by the correct use of condoms
Treatment is with antibiotics, usually with ceftriaxone, as drug-resistant strains are increasing. Ceftriaxone is typically given in combination with either azithromycin or doxycycline, as gonorrhea infections may occur along with chlamydia, an infection that ceftriaxone does not treat.
Heavy bleeding during periods
Pain during sex
Bleeding between periods
Yellowish vaginal discharge
Pain when urinating
Syphilis is a sexually transmissible infection (STI). A serious highly contagious chronic bacterial disease that is contracted chiefly by infection during sexual intercourse, but also congenitally by infection of a developing fetus.
Babies born to women who have syphilis can infect their baby in the uterus or during birth, consequently, babies may have severe deformities
Syphilis develops in stages, and symptoms vary with each stage.
The first sign of syphilis is a small painless sore, called a chancre. The sore appears at the spot where the bacteria entered your body. The person may not know they have the infection
A secondary stage causes non-itchy body rashes that last several weeks, often on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. Many other symptoms commonly occur, including fever, tiredness, sore throat, patchy hair loss, weight loss, swollen glands, headaches, joint pains, and muscle pains.
If you aren’t treated for syphilis, the disease moves from the secondary to the latent (hidden) stage. A latent period is a time during which there are no symptoms or obvious signs of disease.
A tertiary stage known as tertiary (late) syphilis may occur in up to a third of people infected with syphilis who don’t get treatment after a latent period which may be many years. Symptoms include deafness, blindness, paralysis, numbness, loss of coordination, and dementia.
At this stage, the disease may damage the brain and spinal cord, or the heart and blood vessels, producing severe complications, disability, and even death.
Hepatitis B is an infectious disease that affects the liver (inflammation of the liver) caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). It is 50 to 100 times more infectious than HIV. It is one of five known hepatitis viruses: A, B, C, D, and E.
The hepatitis B virus is transmitted through direct contact with infected blood, intravenous drug use, and sexual intercourse. Mothers who have hepatitis B sometimes pass the virus to their babies or children.
Hepatitis B Symptoms
Skin and whites of eyes turning yellow
Upset stomach or vomiting
Loss of appetite
A headache and muscle aches
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that causes Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). HIV is an infection that attacks and damages the immune system, weakening the body’s ability to fight infections.
If left untreated causes serious infections and cancers over time. Ultimately HIV can lead to the development of AIDS.
HIV is transmitted by sexual contact with an infected person, by sharing needles and syringes, exposure to infected body fluids, and from mother to child during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding.
Short-term memory loss
Rash or flaky skin
Mouth, genital, or anal sores
Diarrhea, vomiting, and upset stomach
Enlarged lymph nodes
Quick weight loss
Feeling very tired
Fevers and night sweats
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a DNA virus from the papillomavirus family with subtypes that cause diseases in humans ranging from common warts to cervical cancer. New vaccines have been developed to protect against certain types of HPV infection.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). There are many different types of HPV that target different parts of the body. Researchers have identified over 170 types of HPV, more than 40 of which are typically transmitted through sexual contact.
Different types of HPV can either be low risk or high risk, depending on the ability of the virus to cause cancer. cancer occurs in people having been infected with HPV for a long time, usually over a decade or more.
Some of the low-risk HPV types can cause minor changes to the cells of the cervix or cause genital warts that do not usually lead to cancer. Infections caused by low-risk HPV types are usually cleared naturally from the body.
Clearing an infection does not always create immunity if there is a new or continuing source of infection.
Some high-risk types of HPV can take longer to clear from the body. HPV types 16 and 18 are the most common causes of HPV-related cancers and types 6 and 11 cause genital warts.
Human Papillomavirus Symptoms
Although HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections, most HPV infections are asymptomatic, meaning they have no clinical symptoms. This means that people with HPV often do not know they are infected, and continue transmitting the virus to others.
Some people find out they have HPV when they get genital warts. Women may find out they have HPV when they get an abnormal Pap test result (during cervical cancer screening). Others may only find out once they’ve developed more serious problems from HPV, such as cancers.
Trichomoniasis is the most common non-viral sexually transmissible infection (STI) caused by parasitic trichomonads, a parasite chiefly affecting the urinary tract, vagina, or digestive system.
Trichomoniasis is associated with an increased risk of transmission and infection of HIV and may be associated with co-infection with high-risk strains of HPV.
During pregnancy may lead to low birth weight babies and prematurity, and in males has been found to cause asymptomatic urethritis and prostatitis. In the prostate, it may create chronic inflammation that may eventually lead to prostate cancer.
Trichomoniasis is considered the most common curable STD. The infection can be treated with prescription antibiotics, usually metronidazole (Flagyl)
Although symptoms of the disease vary, most people infected with the parasite do not have any symptoms. When they do, symptoms include itching or burning of the genitals, and discomfort during intercourse and urination. Women may also notice a thin vaginal discharge.
Pubic lice, also known as crabs because of their crab-like appearance, are small parasites about 1.3–2 mm long that lives in coarse body hair, usually found in the person’s pubic hair, but Crab lice may also be found in other areas such as eyelashes, eyebrows, beard, mustache, and armpits.
The pubic louse feeds exclusively on blood and is strictly host-specific to humans. The life span of adult lice is less than a month. If the lice are forced off from the warmth and humidity of the human body they will die within 24-48 hours.
Pubic lice are usually sexually transmitted through close contact. Non-sexual transmissions may occur among a family through the use of shared towels, clothing, or bedding. Infestation causes no serious harm but can be irritating.
Pubic Lice Treatment
Try to avoid scratching the area as this may cause irritation of the skin. Pubic lice can be hard to get rid of or can keep coming back, so it is important to treat them quickly. You can treat yourself at home with an insecticidal lotion or cream that can relieve pain and itching usually available over the counter from a pharmacy.
Pubic Lice Symptoms
Try to avoid scratching the area as this may cause irritation of the skin. There are over-the-counter medicines that can relieve pain and itching. You should discuss these with a pharmacist.
Std Testing Types
Doctors recommend a comprehensive 10-test panel, an STD testing package that tests for the most common STDs. This all-inclusive STD testing panel has been carefully designed by physicians to provide you with complete peace of mind.
HIV testing HIV Type 1
Oral herpes testing Herpes 1
Hepatitis A testing
Hepatitis C testing
HIV-2 testing HIV Type 2
Genital herpes testing Herpes 2
Hepatitis B testing
STD Testing How Often After Exposure
If you have had unprotected sexual contact, doctors recommend testing 3 weeks after initial exposure, and again 3 months after to confirm your initial diagnosis. This is the best way to ensure you test at the right time because different sexually transmitted infections become detectable at different times.
STD Risk Factors Infographic
Sex Education Research
There is ample research to prove that comprehensive sex education programs give young people the tools they need to protect themselves from negative sexual health outcomes.
Researchers studied the National Survey of Family Growth to determine the impact of sexuality education on youth and found that teens who received comprehensive sex education were 50 percent less likely to experience pregnancy than those who received abstinence-only education.
Public opinion polls consistently show that more than 80 percent of Americans support teaching comprehensive sex education in high schools and in middle or junior high schools. In a poll of 1,000 self-identified Republicans and Independents, 60 percent of Republicans and 81 percent of Independents think that public schools should teach comprehensive sex education.
Abstinence-Only: Evaluations of publicly funded abstinence-only programs in at least 13 states have shown no positive changes in sexual behaviors over time.
The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform led by Rep. Henry A. Waxman released a report showing that 80 percent of the most popular federally funded abstinence-only education programs use curricula that distort information about the effectiveness of contraceptives, misrepresent the risks of abortion, and contain basic scientific errors.
A congressionally mandated study of four popular abstinence-only programs by the Mathematica found that they were entirely ineffective. Students who participated in the programs were no more likely to abstain from sex than other students.
Other STD/STI Resources
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
National HIV and STD Testing Resources
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
American Sexual Health Association