STD and HIV Testing FAQ
STD and HIV Testing FAQ
As an adult, part of one’s health is sexual health. Specifically, one should know when to be concerned about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). STDs are a common health concern that impact 20 million people annually in the US alone. Thankfully, many of them are easily treatable – but left undiagnosed and untreated, they can have long-term effects that can be permanent.
The best way to protect yourself against STDs (including HIV, the virus that causes AIDS) is to be aware of safe sex practices, signs and symptoms of STDs, and how to get treatment should you be diagnosed with one.
This article will address some of the most common questions and concerns surrounding STD and HIV testing.
STD and HIV Testing
What is an STD?
A sexually transmitted disease, referred to as an STD or STI (sexually transmitted infection) is a type of infection that spreads through sexual contact. Sexual contact can include vaginal, anal, and oral sex. It is a catch-all term that can describe many different specific infections.
What are some illnesses that can be found through STD screening?
STD screening can identify a range of infections including:
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
Depending on your age, sex, and sexual history, the CDC recommends testing once a year for syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV. If you have sex with multiple or anonymous partners, it’s recommended to get tested every 3 to 6 months. Discuss with your provider which STDs to look for.
What are symptoms of an STD?
An STD might be visible or painful, or it might cause no symptoms at all. This is why it’s important to get tested regularly, even if you feel fine – you could have an STD and not even know it, and be passing it along to your sexual partners. Here are some symptoms you may notice:
Chancres: Chancres are small, painless sores that usually appear around the genitals, anus, hands, bottom of the feet, buttocks, thighs, or mouth. They are generally painless and most commonly associated with the first stage of syphilis.
Blisters or sores: These small, raw and sometimes fluid-filled sores will appear around the genitals, mouth, throat, or other parts of the body. These blisters can be painful or itchy. They are usually associated with herpes or syphilis.
A burning sensation when you urinate, or a need to urinate frequently: This symptom most commonly presents with chlamydia or gonorrhea. It’s important to note that painful urination can also be a symptom of a urinary tract infection (UTI). A UTI is not an STI but is still important to diagnose, as it requires antibiotics to treat.
Flu-like symptoms: Some people may experience symptoms such as fever, body aches, fatigue, nausea, or headaches. These symptoms are commonly associated with HIV and herpes.
Itching, swelling, or painful irritation around the vagina, vulva, penis, or anus, or painful sexual intercourse: This can be caused by a variety of STIs such as herpes, gonorrhea, or chlamydia. This can also be an indication of a yeast infection. Yeast infections are not STIs and are treated differently.
Rash: Both syphilis and HIV are associated with a rash that may appear on the trunk or other parts of the body.
Unusual discharge or smell from the vagina or penis: STDs such as trichomonas, chlamydia, and gonorrhea can cause abnormal discharge and smells to come from the genital area. This discharge can look thin and watery or yellowish.
How do I get tested?
Blood test: A blood test is required to test for HIV, syphilis, herpes, and hepatitis B and C.
Urine test: A urine test is used to detect chlamydia and gonorrhea, as well as UTIs. While some tests can be performed on the urine in the office, the tests for chlamydia and gonorrhea need to be performed in a laboratory and will take several days.
Cotton swabs: A swab of any sores or discharge you may have will detect STIs such as HPV, herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia, BV, or trichomonas. Your provider may obtain a swab from your genitals, anus, throat, or mouth.
How long does it take for HIV to show up on an STD test?
Not all STDs can be detected by a single test. Screening tests provide relatively quick results but certain STDs like syphilis and HIV require confirmatory tests. Furthermore, while testing early is important for detection, some tests may not be accurate if you were very recently exposed to an infection.
Syphilis can take up to three weeks to present. Gonorrhea and Chlamydia can require two weeks to yield an accurate test. Herpes can take between 2 and 10 days to show symptoms. HIV can take anywhere from 4 weeks to 6 months for it to appear on a blood test.
For this reason, it’s important to get tested at regular intervals if you believe you have been exposed.
How are STDs treated?
Talk to your doctor about the specific treatment for your STD. Bacterial infections like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are treated with antibiotics, while viral infections like herpes or HIV require antiviral medications. In addition, if you have been exposed to HIV, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) can help prevent HIV infection. This treatment is most effective when taken within 72 hours of exposure.
If you’re concerned that you have an STD or HIV, Juno is here to help. Schedule your appointment today to receive the comprehensive care you deserve.