Sharing is caring, but not when it comes to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Getting tested for these infections is just as critical for practicing safe sex as gaining consent and using protection, so seeing your doctor or other medical professional for regular screenings is a great way to keep yourself and your partner(s) healthy and happy.
But how often is “regularly,” how do they test for STDs, and what do you do if you find out you have an infection? While all these answers vary on a case-by-case basis, there are a few general rules you can keep in mind.
When to Get Tested for STDs
Because not all STDs exhibit obvious symptoms—or any symptoms at all—you should get tested based on your sexual activity rather than waiting until things start to look or feel a bit off. To keep yourself and your sexual partner(s) STD-free, opt for screenings:
- After having unprotected sex
- Before becoming intimate with a new partner(s) for the first time
- Before you and your partner(s) stop using condoms together
- If you or your partner(s) have sex with other people outside of your relationship
- If you’re experiencing signs and symptoms of an STD
- If you or your partner(s) have shared needles with other people
- If you have been forced to engage in any sexual activity against your will
When evaluating whether or not it’s time to get tested, keep in mind that STDs can be transmitted in many, many ways including unprotected oral, anal, and vaginal sex, and via bodily fluids and/or skin-to-skin contact.
How Do They Test for STDs?
Some of the most common STDs are HPV (Human Papillomavirus), Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Herpes, Trichomoniasis, HIV/AIDS, and Hepatitis C. The tests may require a blood sample, swab, or urine sample depending on what you’re being screened for, here’s what you can expect:
- HPV Screening: DNA or cervical cell screening (more commonly referred to as a “pap smear”) if you aren’t showing symptoms, visual screening if warts are present
- Chlamydia Screening: Urine sample or swab of the affected area
- Gonorrhea Screening: Urine sample or swab of the affected area
- Syphilis Screening: Blood sample or swab of the affected area
- Herpes Screening: Blood sample if you aren’t showing symptoms, swab of the affected area with a follow-up blood test if you are showing symptoms
- Trichomoniasis Screening: Urine sample or sample of the discharge
- HIV Screening: Blood test or cheek swab
- Hepatitis C Screening: Blood test
While sharing the details of your sexual encounters with a medical professional may be a little awkward to say the least, the more information you provide the better they’ll be able to screen for any infections. For example, Chlamydia and Gonorrhea that were transferred via oral or anal sex may not be detected with a urine sample or vaginal swab. Any details you can provide will go a long way in helping detect, diagnose, and treat any infections you might have.
How to Talk With Your Partner(s) About STDs
If you discover you have an STI, you’ll need to tell your current—and maybe even past—sexual partner(s). This likely won’t be the most enjoyable conversation to have, but it’s an important one and there are a few ways you can help the conversation go as smoothly as possible.
- Do your best to remain calm and positive, even practicing the conversation in the mirror or with a trusted friend if needed.
- Remember that you and your partner(s) are going through this together, not alone.
- Understand that your partner(s) will likely have questions, so come to the table prepared with answers rooted in factual information that you learned from your medical professional.
- Consider your timing, and only start the conversation when and where you know you can discuss everything privately and uninterrupted.
Once everyone is on the same page, you can start healing together and taking the necessary steps to prevent experiencing and spreading STDs in the future.
Untreated STDs can result in severe health problems including infertility, organ damage, cancer, or even blindness, but thankfully it doesn’t need to come to that. If detected and treated early, many STDs can be cured, or at least managed and mitigated with the proper medications. Take charge of your sexual health and restore your peace of mind with discreet, confidential testing services at a nearby ARCpoint Labs location, or in the privacy and comfort of your own home with an STD Home Kit.