Did you know testing for a sexually transmitted disease or infection (STD or STI) is your first defense against debilitating and long-term health conditions? At the Pregnancy Resource Center, we offer free and thorough STD screening services in Portland, allowing women with infections to seek early treatment. If you suspect that you may have an STD, please schedule an appointment with us to receive lab-grade, trustworthy testing.
In this post, we explore STD testing and the essential tests for diagnosing and preventing sexually transmitted infections.
Table of Contents
What Are STDs?
An STD is an infection that usually transmits from one person to another through sexual activity. However, in addition to sexual contact, some infections can also spread through:
- Close personal contact
- Exposure to blood containing an infectious agent
- Needle sharing
- Contact with bodily fluid, including semen or vaginal fluid
- Pregnancy (An infection can pass from a mother to her fetus)
An STI can be bacterial, viral, or parasitic. The most common STIs include gonorrhea, hepatitis B, chlamydia, genital herpes, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and human papillomavirus (HPV) infections.
The good news is that all STIs are treatable. For example, early antibiotic treatment can cure bacterial infections. Viral STDs are not curable, but medications make effective symptom management possible.
The Importance of STD Testing
In many cases, STIs don’t present any symptoms, and an infected person can appear healthy. When symptoms are present, they tend to be non-specific, preventing accurate diagnoses.
As a result, infected individuals often wait too long before seeking treatment, increasing their risk of long-term health complications. Additionally, when someone is unaware of their infection, they are more likely to pass the STD on to others.
Because symptoms are not always present, STD testing is necessary for diagnosing an infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends annual chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, and hepatitis B testing for women who fall under the following risk categories:
- Sexually active women under 25
- Women over 25 with a new sexual partner or multiple sexual partners
- Women who use injectable drugs
- Women who are in a monogamous relationship with a partner who an STI
- Women with HIV
If you are a woman over 21, you should undergo pap testing every three years to check for cervical abnormalities resulting from an HPV infection. Tests for HIV, chlamydia, hepatitis B, and syphilis typically form part of a pregnant woman’s prenatal care.
In some cases, STDs present symptoms. Someone experiencing the following symptoms should undergo STI screening as soon as possible:
- Pain during intercourse
- Painful urination
- Vaginal discharge with an unusual odor
- Bumps or sores surrounding the rectal or genital areas
Someone who doesn’t fall under the CDC’s risk categories can also get an STD. If you suspect that you may have contracted an STD, getting tested may reduce your risk of long-term health complications significantly.
Types of STD Testing
Various types of STI screenings exist:
Healthcare providers typically require a sterile urine sample to test for STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, and HPV. This type of testing may be a comfortable alternative to swab collection for bacterial STIs. You can click here to know how you can deal with bacterial infections.
Blood testing may be necessary to diagnose syphilis, HIV, or hepatitis infection. Some blood tests can also detect a past herpes virus infection. Most testing clinics don’t test for herpes, but you can schedule this test with your primary healthcare provider or gynecologist.
Vaginal swab testing can detect an HPV, chlamydia, and gonorrhea infection. This in-clinic test involves taking a sample from the infection site.
You can test for STDs using a urine- or blood-based home test kit. These kits can detect various STDs, including gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, hepatitis C, and trichomoniasis. You should only use kits from reputable providers to ensure you get an accurate result.
I Tested Positive for an STD – What Now?
Patients who receive a positive STD test may experience trauma, uncertainty, and shame. However, it is crucial to remember that an infection is not your fault. Anyone can contract an STD, regardless of socio-economic, marital, or educational status.
When you test positive, you need to schedule an appointment with your doctor so that you can receive the medical care you need. You should also inform your partner so that they can get tested.
Scheduling STD testing is the first step towards controlling your well-being and protecting your health. While some STDs are not curable, it is possible to seek treatment for your symptoms and live your life to the fullest.