There’s no way around it: getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) is scary. The whole experience is rife with stress and there isn’t a single human being who especially enjoys it. Part of the fear is the unknown and not being sure what’s going to happen next. In this case, information about STDs is a powerful tool to ease your anxiety and keep you calm during the process. By learning all you can about the experience, and getting as much info as possible before you step into the doctor’s office, you can keep your stress under control and learn a few things in the process.
Now’s the perfect time to learn a few things about STDs, because April is STD Awareness Month, a time that’s full of awareness, education, and destigmatization. Even though it’s a taboo topic, we should all try to get more comfortable talking about STDs, because there’s a lot at stake. Young adults between the ages 15-24 only make up a quarter of the American population, but they account for half of the STDs in our country. The more information we have at our fingertips, the better choices we can make.
Here are eight things you didn’t know about getting tested for STDs, and why they matter more than you might think.
1If you’re sexually active, you should get tested even if you use protection on the regular
Obviously, getting tested for an STD seems like a no-brainer if you’re having unprotected sex or if you have any STD symptoms — or if the condom broke. But even if none of these things have happened to you and you use condoms religiously, sexually active people should still make it a habit to get regularly tested. Not only will this keep you healthy and informed, it will be a major load off your mind.
2Many STDs don’t have any symptoms
You may feel absolutely fine and still be carrying an STD. That’s why it’s so important to get regularly tested and keep aware of your sexual health. Make a standing appointment with your doctor; even if nothing is wrong, it never hurts to get an extra check-up. And if something is wrong, you can handle the problem swiftly and affectively. Remember: just because you don’t have symptoms doesn’t mean you’re not harboring an STD. Gonorrhea, chlamydia, HPV, and herpes are just a few of the STDs that don’t necessarily come with symptoms. So remember to get tested, even if you’re feeling fine.
3Different STDs have different testing times
Not all STDs are created equal; some require weeks before they’ll show up on a test, while others take a mere 24 hours. For example, you can get tested within one day of contracting chlamydia, while you’ll have to wait at least 3 weeks before getting accurate results on a syphilis test. This handy list will show you the incubation time for some of the more common diseases, and how long you’ll have to wait before you should hit up your doctor.
4Many different places test for STDs
If you don’t want to see your doctor for some reason (or don’t have a general physician), never fear; there are plenty of walk-in clinics that will provide you with the care you need. And of course Planned Parenthood does a whole host of tests for a variety of STDs. Find one in your area to book an appointment.
5Honesty is the best policy
Before any testing begins, you’ll have to have a frank discussion with your doctor about your sexual practices. From there, they can determine which tests are best suited to you. Discussing your personal life in detail may not be your idea of a good time, but honesty is incredibly important in this moment.
Your doctor will discuss your sexual history and whether you are at risk for STDs. The questions can cover everything from the number of partners you’ve had to the types of protection you use. Once you’ve discussed the ins and outs of your sexual life, your doctor will have a better understanding of your needs — and a better chance of helping you get the right tests.
6There are different tests for different STDs
Unfortunately, there’s not one single test that covers all STDs. When you go to get tested, your doctor can run a battery of tests to determine your STD status. You may have your genital area swabbed to check for chlamydia and gonorrhea,while a blood test can rule out HIV and genital herpes. You could be asked to take a urine test. It all depends, so make sure to be honest with your doctor and answer any and all questions truthfully.
7All tests are not created equal
It would be great if you could always walk out of your doctor’s office knowing you have a clean bill of health. And yes, some STD tests are fast-acting. Unfortunately, others are a bit slower; samples will have to be sent to a lab, sent back, and then looked over by your doctor. The wait for results can seem excruciating. At this point, all you can do is stay calm and wait. Remember, STD testing may not be the most pleasant thing you can do, but it’s undoubtedly one of the most important in regards to your overall health.