Despite decades of warnings regarding casual sexual behavior and the risks associated with unprotected sex, sexually transmitted disease (STD) rates continue to climb dramatically in the United States.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) gets a lot of attention because it is so prevalent. Studies estimate that approximately 80 million individuals in the U.S. have HPV. However, the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) notes that other STD infections are also on the rise, hitting record levels in 2017. This includes gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia.
It isn’t understood why STD rates continue to increase, but the number of known infections in the U.S. makes it clear that testing is vital for those at risk for contracting an STD.
When left untreated, STDs carry significant health concerns for those infected. Some can lead to infertility, cancer, and even blindness. Unfortunately, many have no symptoms until they progress in severity.
For instance, you may not experience symptoms of chlamydia for several weeks after an infection. Most people experience no symptoms at all. This STD is easy to treat with antibiotics if caught early. However, if left untreated, it can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which is a medical emergency for women.
Syphilis is another STD that’s on the rise. This bacterial infection may not produce symptoms for years. When left untreated, it can cause major damage to your heart and brain. HPV is another STD that may not produce symptoms for years, but it’s the most common cause of cervical cancer in women.
STDs spread through sexual contact, including oral and anal sex. Testing provides the assurance that you aren’t carrying an STD that may put your health and your partner’s health at risk.
Because of the high rates of known STDs in the U.S. and the fact that many of these infections are not particularly symptomatic initially, the CDC generally recommends testing based on age and sexual activity. For instance, they suggest all individuals between the ages of 13 and 64 consider HIV testing at least once.
They also recommend:
Yearly chlamydia and gonorrhea screening for all sexually active women younger than 25 years and older women with new or multiple partners
Testing for syphilis, HIV, and hepatitis B for all pregnant women
Annual screening for syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea for all sexually active gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex (more frequently if you are active with multiple partners)
We also recommend you consider STD testing if:
You decide not to use condoms during sexual intercourse
You begin a new relationship
You or your partner have had sexual intercourse with multiple individuals
It goes without saying that you should consider STD screening if you or your partner have symptoms of an STD, which vary greatly and may include:
Pain or burning with urination
Green or discolored discharge from the penis or vagina
Pain during sexual intercourse
A small, painless sore (chancre) on your sexual organs, rectum, or inside the mouth, which is the first sign of a syphilis infection
An important part of STD screening includes a frank discussion with your DOCCS provider regarding your sexual activity and habits. This gives us valuable information regarding potential risks to your sexual health and provides you the opportunity to discuss your concerns in an open and nonjudgmental environment.
Otherwise, the type of testing performed depends on the STD. Most are detectable through blood tests or urine studies. Syphilis and hepatitis B, for instance, require blood tests. Your DOCCS provider may also recommend a vaginal swab for women and a urine test for men when screening for chlamydia.
At DOCCS, our urgent care facilities are staffed by internal medicine physicians who provide a full range of STD testing and treatment strategies in an environment that’s welcoming, professional, and confidential. And because we have a lab onsite, your results are often available within just a few hours.