Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), also known as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are major health problems that if left untreated or poorly treated can cause serious complications like:
- pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- chronic pelvic pain
- urethral stricture
- dyspareunia (pain during intercourse)
- ectopic pregnancy
- laryngeal polyps
- low birth weight
- neonatal pneumonia
According to estimates of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, 15-24 year olds account for half of all new STDs infections.
Unfortunately, many people dont receive prompt treatment for STIs or are often times poorly treated. Many STDs have no symptoms or very nonspecific symptoms, which can make them hard to notice. The stigma associated with STIs also discourages some people from getting tested. But testing is the only way to know for sure if you have an STI.
Who should be tested for STIs?
If you have been sexually active, it is a good idea to be tested for STIs. It is advisable to go for stds test if:
- you are in a new relationship.
- you and your partner are thinking about not using condoms.
- you are not faithful to your partner(you have multiple sexual partners)
- your partner has cheated on you or has multiple sexual partners.
- you or your partner had a one night stand.
- you have symptoms suggestive of STIs.
- it is important to get screened if you are pregnant as STIs can complicate your pregnancy or harm your baby. Std tests are usually done in your first antenatal visit.
STIs you will be tested for
There are a number of different STIs. But the STD tests commonly done are:
- Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
- Hepatitis B
- Genital herpes if you show symptoms
- Any other tests as your doctor deem appropriate.
It is important you discuss your sexual risk factors with your doctor. In particular, you should always tell them if you engage in oral or anal sex. Some oral or anal STIs cannot be detected using standard STI tests.
Where can you get tested for STIs?
You can get tested in a hospital (private or public), a primary health centre, in a sexual health clinic or in a big laboratory that has a doctor. Always make sure you are tested in a centre that has a doctor. The doctor will examine you and counsel you on the STD tests to do based on her clinical evaluation. At home tests and online tests are also available but are largely unrealiable.
How are STD tests performed?
Depending on your sexual history, your doctor may request for a variety of tests to check you for STIs, including blood tests, urine tests, swabs, or physical exams.
Blood and urine tests
Most STIs can be tested for using urine or blood samples. Your doctor may request for urine or blood tests to screen you for:
- hepatitis b or c
In some cases, urine and blood tests are not as accurate as other forms of testing. It may take a month or longer after being exposed to certain STIs for blood tests to be reliable. For example, it takes a period of three months or longer for HIV to be detected in blood.
Vaginal, cervical, urethral, throat or rectal swabs are used to check for STIs.