If you're sexually active, you should get tested for STDs at least once a year! (recommended by CDC)
But, let's be honest, many people find the idea of getting tested to be a huge nerve-racking step forward, even when they already know that it's crucial for protecting their health and the health of their partner(s).
It's totally ok and normal, and that's why HeHealth is sharing a starter kit for you to consider before heading to the clinic to get tested! In this article, we'll provide more information about:
1. Assessing yourself for STDs
If you're worried that your partner might be STD positive, or unsure of what symptoms to look out for - don't worry! Here are some common signs and indicators such as
Unusual discharge from the vagina, penis, or anus
Pain when passing urine
Lumps, sores, blisters, spots, or skin growths appearing around the genitals or anus
Burning or itchy sensation in the genitals or anus region
Unusual vaginal bleeding from during or after sex, or between periods
Warts around your genitals, anus, or on some rare occasions, in your mouth or throat
There are many other wide ranges of symptoms that may appear for various STDs. It is also possible that some of the above symptoms are signs of conditions that are not sexually-transmitted.
In some cases, the signs and symptoms could disappear after some time without treatment. This doesn't mean that the STD is cleared, but instead...the infection could start to progress and cause permanent health impact to your body. That's why if you're experiencing any of these signs and symptoms, it's best to see your doctor right away. Don't suffer in silence! It's never too late to get tested for STDs and find out what is going on with you.
On top of these obvious STD signs, it is highly possible that you have no symptoms or very mild symptoms. So what should you do if your infection hasn't shown yet? Here's a simple assessment tool that can provide some guidance - ‘You’re more likely to get an STD than you think’.
2. The different types of STD tests & how often should you get tested?
As covered in our previous blog, STD testing isn't usually included in regular medical exams, and in fact, there are many testing methods designed to detect specific STDs.
The way to collect the samples varies depending on what is being tested and the procedure used. This can include urine test, blood test, or swab from the site of infection (e.g. inside the penis in men, from the cervix in women, or any genital sores you might have etc.) and many more.
We know this could still be very confusing, as there are so many STDs. Here's a table that summarize the information shared by CDC:
Who should take the test?
What kind of STD test?
How often should it be done?
Adults and adolescents (Ages 13 - 64)
Once in their life (at least)
Individuals involved in oral/anal sex
Throat and rectal
To be discussed with healthcare provider
Sexually active gay, bisexual, and men who have sex with men
Syphilis, Chlamydia, and Gonorrhea
Once a year
(Those with various or anonymous partner should be tested more frequently - every 3 to 6 months)
Once a year
(may benefit from more frequent HIV testing - every 3 to 6 months)
Once a year (if living with HIV)
Sexually active females
(For those at risk for infection)
Syphilis, HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C
Chlamydia and gonorrhea
Early in pregnancy (or repeated testing if necessary)
Individuals who engage in sexual behaviour that could place them at risk of infection (Eg; sharing injection drug equipment)
Once a year
For more detailed information, please visit CDC's Screening Recommendations and Considerations Referenced in Treatment Guidelines and Original Sources.
3. Planning for your STD test
STD testing can be a daunting and embarrassing experience, that's why it's important to choose the right place for you.
Before going ahead with the process of getting tested, we have highlighted two factors commonly looked at by many, which are cost and anonymity.
Cost: The cost of an STD test depends on where you live, but it will typically range from a low price to a few hundred dollars, and sometimes even free! However, there are other factors that can affect your overall bill and should be taken into consideration, such as - your income, what test(s) you require, additional physical examination if needed, and what type of health insurance you have.
Anonymity : STD testing can be a sensitive topic for some people. Especially since there are lots of stigma and shame associated with having an STD, and many people worry about their identity being linked to their results. That's why there are clinics that offer anonymous STD testing! This means that your personal information will not be attached to your test results. Instead, a unique identifier will be given to you so that you can access your results without concern for confidentiality. This service can help to ensure that more people get the care and treatment they need. If you are concerned about your privacy, be sure to ask about anonymous STD testing at your clinic.
We hope the information has been helpful! We know that getting started on this journey is not an easy one. This includes gathering and absorbing information about STD testing, which can be a little overwhelming. But fret not! We're here to walk with and support your journey by breaking it down and providing more in-depth information in future blogs.
If you are thinking to bring your partner along on this ride but find it difficult to start the conversation, we are releasing a new article on this topic tomorrow. So stay tuned!