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Should I Get Tested for STIs?

Yes! Many STIs don’t cause any symptoms, so the only way to know for sure if you have an STI is to get tested.


Who Should Get Tested for STIs?

The short answer is anyone who is sexually active. But you should also get tested if:

  • You’re beginning a new relationship and may have sex soon
  • Your partner will not be using a condom
  • Your partner has been unfaithful
  • You or your partner have chosen to have other sexual partners
  • You have symptoms indicating you could have a STI

What STIs Should You Test For?

There are so many different STIs, it is hard to know what you may have been exposed to. Discuss it with your OB/GYN and they will encourage you to be tested for some or all of the following STIs:

  • HIV
  • Gonorrhea
  • Chlamydia
  • Hepatitis B
  • Syphillis
  • Trichomoniasis
  • Herpes

Talk to Your OB/GYN

When you visit your OB/GYN for your annual exam, don’t assume they automatically test for STIs. Be open and honest with your OB/GYN and let them know if you have been sexually active or may have been exposed to an STI. Let them know if you have had multiple partners or anal sex since both put you at higher risk for STIs.

Take charge of your own health and have confidence to request STI testing. OB/GYN offices test for STIs all day long – it is very routine and a completely normal request.

It is also important to get tested for STIs if you are pregnant to protect your baby. Your OB/GYN should test for STIs at your first OB visit, and again near the end of pregnancy. It is very important to get tested if you have been a victim of sexual violence or assault. If you are a survivor of sexual violence, seek the help of a counselor and see an OB/GYN for an exam and STI testing.

24/7 Support Hotline

If you have experienced sexual assault, there are organizations that offer support such as the National Sexual Assault Hotline with a 24/7 support hotline: 1-800-656-4673. They will also help you find local support if needed.

Several STIs are “notifiable” diseases. This means that healthcare providers are legally required to report the positive results to government officials at the Public Health Department. Public Health officials keep track of STI/STD statistics, so they are aware of the number of cases and to determine if the public is at risk. Because they have been tracking these statistics, we are aware of the current sharp rise in STDs in the country, and especially in Georgia. The notifiable STDs that get reported to the health department are chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, syphilis, hepatitis and chancroid. STIs are tested with blood and urine tests. It may also take a month or longer after being exposed to certain STIs for blood tests to be reliable. For example, if someone gets HIV, it may not be detected by tests for weeks or months.

Other Means of Testing

Besides blood and urine tests, your doctor may also perform the following:

  • Swabs – Testing for STIs can also be done by cervical, or urethral swabs in your vagina.
  • Pap smears and HPV testing – A Pap smear is a test that looks for early signs of cervical or anal cancer. It is not a STI test. To check for HPV, your OB/GYN will order a separate HPV test.
  • Physical examination – OB/GYNs can diagnose some STIs, such as genital warts or herpes by physical examination. During the exam, the doctor can look for sores, bumps, and other signs of STIs.

They can also take samples from any questionable areas to send off for testing.

When to See an OB/GYN

It’s important to see an OB/GYN and discuss any noticeable changes with your doctor. Let them know if you’ve noticed any changes on or around your genitals, anus or rectum. Although some STIs may not have symptoms, it’s still important to watch for any signs of infection, even if they are very mild.  See an OB/GYN immediately if you notice any of these symptoms:

  • An unusual discharge from the vagina
  • Changes in urination
  • Genital itching
  • Genital burning
  • Sores, rashes and bumps
  • Pelvic pain
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Painful sex
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding

Can I Get a Home STI Test?

Online tests are also available for some STIs, but they aren’t always reliable. Your safest bet is to see a doctor for testing and if you are positive, you can get treatment.

What to Do If You Test Positive for an STI

If you get a positive STI/STD test result, follow up with your OB/GYN for treatment. Make sure you let any recent sex partners know of your diagnosis since they will most likely need treatment also.

Discuss with your OB/GYN any concerns and they will answer your questions. You will need to be aware of any future problems to watch for, such as pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, or future outbreaks. You will need to learn of all the risk factors and potential problems.

Also, depending on the STI, you will need to inform every future partner that you had a sexually transmitted disease so that they will know if they are also at risk.

The Importance of STI Testing

Remember, getting tested is not taboo. It’s an important part of not just taking care of your vaginal health, but your overall health too. Testing and subsequent treatment can help prevent spreading the infection and the more serious issues that could develop. Issues like infertility, endangering your unborn child, long term health problems or even death.