Sexually transmitted diseases or STDs, which used to be known as venereal diseases and are sometimes called sexually transmitted infections (STIs), are among the most commonly transmitted diseases in the United States.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “More than 1 million sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are acquired every day worldwide. Each year, there are an estimated 357 million new infections with 1 of 4 STIs: chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and trichomoniasis.” Moreover, “More than 500 million people are estimated to have genital infection with herpes simplex virus” and “More than 290 million women have a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.” (1)
The scope of the problem is quite large even in the United States, where as of 2018, TIME reports that “Sexually transmitted disease (STD) rates in the U.S. are at a record high for the fourth year in a row, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).” In 2017 alone, there were almost 2.3 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. (2)
It’s a serious issue, but luckily, it’s one that you can help with a very simple step: getting tested.
What Are the Most Common STDs?
There exist quite a few STDs common in the United States and around the world, caused either by viruses or bacteria. The most prevalent of these include (3):
- Human papillomavirus
- Crabs or public lice
Less common but potentially devastating diseases include human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which can lead to AIDS and is potentially life-threatening. It’s critical to know as soon as possible if you have any STD, from mild cases to severe ones, which is where an STD test comes in.
What Is an STD Test?
An STD test is a piece of specialized equipment designed to register the presence of viruses or bacteria that cause infections. Lab tests may make use of a variety of bodily fluids, from urine to saliva to genital secretions. In some cases, your physician will even draw blood to determine the presence of a more serious STD, such as HIV.
Why and When Should You Get an STD Test?
Most people aren’t aware that “The majority of STIs have no symptoms or only mild symptoms that may not be recognized as an STI,” says the WHO. Luckily, “Accurate diagnostic tests for STIs are widely used in high-income countries. These are especially useful for the diagnosis of asymptomatic infections,” or those that have no apparent symptoms. (4)
Sadly, just because an STD doesn’t manifest in symptoms does not mean it isn’t wreaking havoc with your body. STDs are responsible for a range of negative outcomes, including:
- Unsightly warts or skin lesions
- Itching and discomfort
- Infertility or sterility
- Damage to fetuses and infants
- Ectopic pregnancies
That’s why it’s so important to get a test, because it may tell you something you don’t know about your sexual or reproductive health, giving you the tools to respond on a shorter and safer timeline. Many diseases are more curable the earlier you catch them, and have less chance of moving beyond a simple infection. You should get tested if:
- You have had unprotected sex with a partner whose sexual history is unknown
- You have had sex with multiple partners
- You have had sexual encounters you can’t remember well
- You’re pregnant
- It has been more than a year since your last test
What Does a Home STD Test Involve?
Many people are embarrassed by the idea of “going in” for an STD test. It can feel safer and less vulnerable to first test yourself in private using a home STD test. The current generation of home tests are very reliable and check for more than a dozen common STDs. This can at least give you a heads-up if you have a common one, so you can make a better decision about what to do next.
What Should You Do If You Get a Positive Result?
Unfortunately, there’s nothing “positive” about seeing a positive result on your STD test. If you do register positive for any STD, it’s important to go see your physician right away. They can help you make the best treatment plan and deal with the issue as soon as possible. Once you’ve completed the treatment and waited a suitable amount of time – assuming it is a curable disease, which many STDs are – it’s smart to retest to ensure the infection is really gone.
Should You Tell People?
While you don’t need to report your results to the world, it’s critical that you inform previous partners who might have gotten infected about their chances of carrying the disease. Not only does it protect them, it protects their future partners as well and reduces the overall chances of the disease spreading further. It’s the responsible thing to do.
While it’s natural to feel awkward about having an STD conversation, it’s critical that you do so as soon as possible so that your partner or past partner has as much information in as short a timeline as possible. You can tell them over the phone or by text, and some companies today even provide e-card services with general and more specific messages, so you can do the right thing with a minimum of interaction. (5)
In future, you can minimize your chances of getting an STD by practicing safe sex, including having only one partner at a time, using protective devices even with oral sex, and getting tested regularly.
Should I Get Tested Even If I Only Have One Partner?
Yes. Even if you are in a monogamous relationship, it’s important to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases. Many diseases do not manifest for months or even years. In that time, they can cause serious reproductive damage, you can spread them to your partner, and you can even pass them on to your baby at birth.
The takeaway: Regular screening is an essential part of a healthy sex life and can protect you and your partners from sexually transmitted diseases. If you have had unprotected sex at any time since your last test, get the information you need to protect your reproductive health. For affordable and accurate STD screening in the privacy of your own home, request your home STD test kit today.
- (1) Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). (2019). Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/sexually-transmitted-infections-(stis)
- (2) Americans Are Getting STDs at Record Rates. (2018). Retrieved from http://time.com/5379165/std-rates-sex/
- (3) The Most Common Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). (2019). Retrieved from https://www.verywellhealth.com/the-most-common-stds-sexually-transmitted-diseases-3133040
- (4) Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). (2019). Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/sexually-transmitted-infections-(stis)
- (5) BTW, You Should Get Tested: How to Tell Someone You Have an STI. (2016). Retrieved from https://www.bedsider.org/features/828-btw-you-should-get-tested-how-to-tell-someone-you-have-an-sti