What Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) should I be getting tested for?
What Is The Difference Between A STD & A STI?
When people ask you, “Have you ever been tested?” What does being “tested” really mean? First, we must make the point that there is a difference between STIs and STDs. All STDs start out as an STI, but not all STIs develop into an STD. An STI progresses into an STD once symptoms are present and affect the normal function of your body (Healthline, 2020). For example, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is considered an STI when a person is asymptomatic, which is when a person has not developed any symptoms of the disease or infection. If the virus progresses to the development of genital warts or cancer, it is considered an STD. Does that make sense? Ok great, now let us talk about the spread of these diseases and infections.
The spread of (STDs) is on the rise across the United States and reached an all-time high in 2018 (CDC, 2019). As healthcare providers, the key to stopping the spread of STDs is Prevention. Prevention includes treatment for those who have contracted the disease to stop the spread, and education to equip people in our communities with the knowledge to make better health choices. Prevention includes getting tested on a regular basis as well as having conversations with your sexual partners about your status.
What Are The Most Common STDs/STIs That I Should Get Tested For?
There are several common STDs that present with and without symptoms, therefore, anyone who is sexually active should be tested for the most common STDs. A basic check-up for STDs and STIs should include: HIV, chlamydia and gonorrhea, trichomonas, syphilis, hepatitis b and c, and HPV for women. Providers usually test for STDs based on your risk factors and sexual partners. Therefore, your healthcare provider may not test you for all STDs, depending on how open and honest you are about your sexual behaviors. Testing for STDs usually includes a blood and/or urine sample, or a swab specimen from the mouth or anus. If you participate in oral or anal sex, a swab from the mouth or the anus will need to be tested to detect the disease in those parts of the body. A blood or urine test will not show if a person is infected in the mouth or the anus specifically. This fact is why it is important to be open and honest with your provider about your sexual behaviors, so they know which STDs you should be tested for.
If you are having symptoms but test negative for the most common STDs/STIs, your provider will then test you for less common causes of these diseases such as mycoplasma gentialium.
How Often Should Someone Get Tested for STDs/STIs?
Sexually active people should be tested at least yearly as recommended by the CDC (2019). It is recommended to get tested more often if you report high risk sexual behaviors in 3-to-6 month intervals. For example, if you have multiple sex partners throughout the year, then it would be recommended that you are tested every 3-to-6 months, instead of yearly (CDC, 2015). This is because your chances of contracting an STD or STI increases with each new partner and you may remain asymptomatic during that time.
The traditional walk-in clinic is one way to get tested, or if you are not comfortable with that option, getting tested through a virtual visit with a home testing kit is also completely safe and acceptable.
What We Hope to Achieve
We hope that this article has provided the information you needed to make the best decision for yourself when it comes to your sexual health. It is not easy to talk with your providers about sensitive health topics, but you and your sexual partners should be empowered to know your status, have the opportunity to have your concerns addressed and be able enjoy sexual activity without the burden of disease. Most infections can be either cured or prevented, so remember early detection is key.
Thank you for reading this article. If you have any questions, comment below and a provider will reply to you.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2015, June 4) Sexually transmitted disease treatment guidelines 2015. https://www.cdc.gov/std/tg2015/screening-recommendations.htm.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019, September 30). National profiles - overview - 2018 sexually transmitted diseases surveillance. https://www.cdc.gov/std/stats18/natoverview.htm.