STD Screening Information

You may think you don't need STD screenings if you haven't noticed any unusual symptoms. Many women have STDs, however, and simply do not exhibit any symptoms at all. Several serious STDs, even some that can lead to sterility or cancer, are often symptomless, leaving you vulnerable to serious consequences if you do not discover you have contracted the STD early on. You are not the only person you may be affecting if you have an untreated STD; your partner may also reap the consequences of the undiscovered condition.

Overcoming the stigma surrounding STDs
The negative stigma associated with STDs works against you; if you want to deny the fact that you might have an STD, you'll avoid going to the doctor or an STD testing clinic when that might be exactly what you and your partner need to do. By not identifying an STD early on, you lose ground in the battle to defeat the STD; you hurt yourself by your delay. Don't be afraid of STD testing. Most STDs can be treated or at least controlled through medication.

Understanding the prevalence of STDs
As of 2008, the Center for Disease Control estimated that 26 percent of teenage girls in the United States are infected with an STD. It's important that you take care not to become a part of this statistic or at least realize the threat this prevalence of STDs presents to your sexual health. By getting tested, you can ensure you get help if you need it and can protect yourself from contracting a serious disease.

Do you need to be tested for STDs?
No one likes to think he or she may have contracted an STD, but if you are sexually active and are not sure if your partner has only been with you-and absolutely no one else - you should get tested for STDs. That may sound severe, but even if you are in a monogamous relationship, you need to protect yourself if your partner has been sexually intimate with even one person before you. That one person may have had a serious STD and now you and your partner may have it. It's important for all sexually active females to get tested unless they are sure they are in a monogamous relationship with a partner who also has undergone screening or has not been sexually involved with anyone else.

If you and your partner have both undergone testing and you are in a monogamous relationship, it is safe to forego further STD testing until either of you engages in sexual behavior with a new partner.

When should you undergo STD testing?
The following are conditions under which you should get tested for STDs:

  • Before starting a new relationship. Ask him to get tested, too!
  • Once a year.
  • If you have any symptoms of an STD such as genital irritation, itchiness, sores, blisters, or unusual discharge.

What are the most common STDs?
The following are the STDs you should get tested for annually, especially if you are starting a new relationship:

  • Chlamydia. Chlamydia often presents as nondescript pain in the lower abdomen or irritation inside the vagina, but many cases are completely without symptoms. This is the easiest STD to cure, but it can have serious consequences-Pelvic Inflammatory Disease-if left untreated. A swab of the cervix is all that's required for a test, so make sure you get tested during each pelvic exam.
  • Gonorrhea. The tricky part about gonorrhea is that it is often asymptomatic, meaning you might not have any symptoms until a case of gonorrhea has advanced to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, which if left untreated can result in infertility. The test used to detect gonorrhea is a simple swap of the cervix; this is painless, quick and easy.
  • HPV (Human Papillomavirus). HPV is perhaps the most prevalent STD, and yet it has one of the most serious potential consequences: cervical cancer. The test for HPV is simple - both a pap smear and a blood test are both possible ways to detect HPV. While the majority of HPV cases resolve themselves without developing into cervical cancer, HPV is the number one cause of cervical cancer. If you are under age 26 and test negative for HPV, you may want to get the new HPV vaccine to protect yourself from future infection.
  • HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). HIV usually does not show any symptoms; rather it weakens the body's immune system so you cannot fight off other diseases as well. This disease is spread through the sharing of bodily fluids, not through casual contact. The test for HIV is quick-you choose either an oral swab test or a blood test-and in some clinics, you can get your results in 30 minutes. If you contract AIDS you will want to discuss your condition with your doctor for suggestions on prevention of transmission and will want to discuss this with potential sexual partners before putting them at risk.
  • Herpes Simplex Virus. Otherwise referred to as genital herpes, this STD is often missed because many women have few or no symptoms or mistake the few sores or blisters they develop for acne. The CDC estimates that 1 out of 4 women have genital herpes. There is no cure for herpes at this time, although suppressive therapies and symptomatic treatment are available and the spread of herpes can be limited by safe sex practices.

How can you protect yourself from contracting an STD?
There are wasy to protect yourself as best you can from contracting an STD.

  • Limit your sexual partners. It's a numbers game. The fewer partners you have, the less chance you have of developing an STD. Of course you have to factor in how many partner's he's had also, so don't be afraid to ask the tough questions before putting yourself at risk.
  • Get tested before starting a new relationship. You'll want to make sure you don't have an STD before beginning a new relationship. Before you get physical with a new partner, you'll want to ask him if he's been tested, too. If the relationship isn't intimate enough to discuss STDs, you may want to ask yourself the following question: Is this relationship intimate enough for sex if we can't talk openly about sex yet? Considering the serious consequences, it's best to hold off on sex until both of you have been tested and have discussed STD prevention.
  • Use barrier forms of contraceptives. While the pill is convenient and less intrusive, you'll want to use a condom, whether it is a male or female condom, when engaging in sexual activity with a new partner until he has undergone testing for STDs. Because barrier forms of contraceptives are less effective than the birth control pill, you may want to use both forms of protection simultaneously.

What if your partner has an incurable STD?
If you find out your partner has an incurable STD, you will want to meet with your doctor to discuss methods of prevention.

  • Herpes Simplex Virus II. Genital herpes may be incurable but is not life-threatening, and many methods of prevention are known. Ask your partner to consider taking suppressive medications that will limit the outbreaks, use condoms when having sex (oral or genital), wash with soap and hot water after contact (soap and water can kill the virus), and refrain from sexual contact when your partner is showing symptoms. If you become pregnant and your partner has herpes, be sure to discuss this situation with your obstetrician, as he or she will want to take certain precautions during the birth of your child.
  • HIV/ AIDS. Because AIDS is transmitted through the sharing of bodily fluids, you'll want to talk to your doctor about the risks and methods recommended for limiting infection before engaging in sexual relations with someone who has the AIDS virus.
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