Are STD tests really necessary? If you are sexually active, the answer is yes. But depending on your situation, there may be different tests you need to have done.
The reason you need to be tested is that many sexually transmitted diseases do not cause symptoms, particularly in women, so you may not realize you are infected.
STDs are also called sexually transmitted infections but they are exactly the same group of conditions. STI is just a newer term used for these infections.
Women who are sexually active often see their doctor for yearly Pap exams, but unless you specifically ask to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases, you may not be having those performed.
Being checked for STDs before you become sexually active with a new partner is wise for both men and women. Neither should feel uncomfortable about asking a partner or potential partner to be tested.
Here are the STDs to be tested for before you start a new sexual relationship. according to Elizabeth Boskey, Ph.D.
Boskey is a sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) expert at About.com.
The CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. About 1 in 8 people in the United States with HIV are unaware that they have it.
Chlamydia is the most commonly reported STD according to the CDC, with young and minority women being the most frequently affected. Chlamydia often has no symptoms. It is recommended that women under the age of 26 be tested every year.
Gonorrhea is the second most commonly reported STD according to the CDC and like chlamydia, may have no symptoms. It commonly affects younger men and women between the ages of 15 and 24 years. Gonorrhea, if untreated, can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, scarring and infertility.
If you think a partner has exposed you, here are STDs to be tested for:
1) Genital Herpes
Herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus and appears as painful sores or blisters in the mouth (HSV-1) or the genitals (HSV-2). Each form can occur in either part of the body and can re-appear intermittently affecting the nerve cells with pain. There is no cure for herpes but medication can keep flare-ups minimized. Herpes can also be dangerous to an infant if passed during delivery.
The first most common symptom of syphilis is a painless sore that appears on the penis or vaginal area. The sores may go away on their own. However, the infection does not, unless it is treated. It can spread to other parts of the body over a period of years and can even cause death. Pregnant women with syphilis are at greater risk for miscarriage and stillbirth.
Trichomoniasis is an STD caused by protozoa passed during genital contact during sexual encounters. The STD may or may not have symptoms. Trichomonas infection has been found to be associated with an increased risk of premature birth, infants with low birth weight, and increased risk for infants to be stillborn, according to the National Institutes of Health.
4) Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B can be spread through genital sexual contact and through passage of other bodily fluids, such as blood, and from shared contaminated needles used with intravenous drugs. Hepatitis B can be passed to an infant during delivery.
All of the above STDs should be tested for if you are pregnant, along with other tests your doctor recommends, to ensure you have a healthy pregnancy and delivery.
Other STD tests that your doctor may discuss with you are: human papillomavirus testing which is testing for a virus that's found to be the cause of most cases of cervical cancer, and bacterial vaginosis which can increase risk of getting other STDs.
If you are concerned about costs of STD testing, you can seek no-cost or low-cost services from:
Get Tested sponsored by the CDC: https://gettested.cdc.gov
YOUR STD HELP: http://yourstdhelp.com/free_clinic_locator.html
Planned parenthood: https://www.plannedparenthood.org
Don’t delay being tested if you experience any symptoms that seem unusual, or you suspect you have been exposed through a partner.
Screening Guidelines for Sexually Transmitted Diseases. What You Need To Get Tested For & When. By Elizabeth Boskey, Ph.D. Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) Expert. About.com. Retrieved Dec. 12, 2015.
What are some types of sexually transmitted diseases or sexually transmitted infections (STDs/STIs)? National Institute of Child Health and Human Department. Retrieved Dec. 12, 2015.
Gonorrhea - CDC Fact Sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved Dec. 12, 2015.
Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues.
Edited by Jody Smith
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