Testing for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) includes blood tests, urine samples, and vaginal, oral or rectal swabs.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can be diagnosed after a thorough analysis of medical history, including sexual history, followed by conducting tests that detect the presence of the causative viruses or bacteria in the various tissues of the body or the body’s reaction to those offending agents.
HIV testing, Hepatitis B and C, syphilis, herpes
Tests for the viral or bacterial antigen or the antibodies produced by the body in response to infection.
Vaginal or rectal swab or swab from a sore in the mouth
Chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, HPV, syphilis in early stages (chancre)
Tests for the microorganism from the swab under the microscope.
Chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomonas vaginalis
Tests for the microorganism in the urine under the microscope.
Cervical swab (women)
HPV DNA detection under the microscope.
Your doctor will prescribe the appropriate tests after analyzing your sexual history, physical examination and conducting a thorough sexual risk assessment.
The tests can be conducted at the doctor’s clinic, a community health clinic or a lab. Most tests for STIs are covered by insurance, however, many community health programs may offer free and confidential STD testing. You may need to search for such clinics, and there could be a waiting list as well.
Can I conduct STD tests at home?
Yes, you may choose to collect the sample yourself in the privacy of your home if you feel self-conscious. Such at-home testing kits are available for several STDs, such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia.
These involve collecting urine samples or oral swabs or doing a finger-stick test with a sterile needle prick. You need to mail the test samples to a laboratory that analyzes the samples and gives you the result. Look for the test kits that are FDA-approved.
Self-testing is useful when a person cannot visit the clinic. However, if the results come back positive, you must visit your doctor to discuss further courses of treatment.
Keep in mind that many STDs have window periods (the time between the person being infected with an STD and when the STD shows up on a test). If an STD test is taken too soon after infection, it could give a false-negative result (the test comes negative despite the person having the infection). The test will need to be repeated after the window period ends.
Faulty sample collection may also result in a false-negative or a false-positive (the test comes positive despite the absence of infection) report as well.
What should I remember when visiting a clinic?
When visiting a clinic for a sexually transmitted disease (STD) test, keep the following points in mind:
- Most STI clinics ensure 100 percent confidentiality.
- You may need to make an appointment to go to an STI clinic, although some clinics have a drop-in facility without the need for an appointment (drop-in clinics).
- The staff at these clinics test for all kinds of sexual infections and no one will judge you.
- Everything will be explained to you in detail.
- You can go to a sexual health clinic regardless of your age, gender or whether you have STI symptoms.
- If the staff suspects that you or your sexual partner is at risk of harm because of your condition, they might need to notify other health care services. However, they will talk to you before they do this.
- You will be asked to fill out a sheet where you may be required to mention your sexual history in detail.
- Your tests will be conducted, and you can expect the reports in a day or two. In some cases, it may take longer.
- If you test positive for an STI, you will be asked to come back to the clinic to discuss your results and the treatment you need.
- Most STIs can be treated with medications. Some infections, such as HIV can be managed with proper antiretroviral therapy (ART). The clinic can prescribe medications and put you in touch with a counselor.
- You may need to tell your sexual partner and any ex-partners, so they get tested and treated as well.