When you suspect signs or symptoms of a sexually transmitted disease (STD), early diagnosis and treatment are vital to prevent transmission of the infection and any other complications. STDs can present a variety of symptoms, but some are asymptomatic and may not manifest until years later. However, it is vital to get tested if you feel exposed to an STD.
An STD can develop severe symptoms and complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and birth defects when left untreated. Thankfully, many STDs, including gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, HPV (human papillomavirus), and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), are diagnosed via urine, blood, or swab test.
You may recognize what you think are signs you have an STD, such as pain during sex and discharge. Since such signs can be mistaken for a different health condition such as a yeast or urinary tract infection, it is crucial to see a doctor and explain your symptoms. Even then, a lack of symptoms does not say you don’t have an STD. You must consult an STD doctor if you think you have been exposed to an STD.
Thankfully, at-home testing is also available. For instance, you can collect blood, urine, or swabs and mail them to the laboratory for testing. Test results are usually available for viewing online within two to ten days in most facilities. HIV self-test kits are also available, and they can give results at home within minutes.
Many people prefer at-home test kits for STDs for privacy purposes. However, it is essential to see your doctor for confirmatory testing.
Ideally, you should be proactive about your sexual health and regularly ask your healthcare provider to screen you for STDs. A routine physical or annual gynecological exam is advisable to keep your sexual health in check. Since there is no standard STD screening panel, you have to discuss any concerns you have or STDs you may have been exposed to with your healthcare provider.
Fortunately, all men and women can be screened for all types of STDs except human papillomavirus, only screened in women. During the screening, your doctor gathers your medical history and conducts a physical examination before deciding the test you should take. They may take urine, blood, or swab samples from your vagina, penis, urethra, anus, cervix, open sores, or throat to perform the test.
Some viruses, such as HIV and herpes, are not detectable in the blood immediately after acquiring the disease. It may take at least two weeks and as many as three months after exposure for herpes to get a positive test result. HIV antibodies are detectable in blood two to six weeks after exposure but can take up to three months to get a positive result.
It is best to let your doctor know if you are being tested after a risky exposure to HIV. Why? They may be able to perform a nucleic acid test (NAT) on the blood sample to detect the virus. If you test negative fr HIV, you should repeat the test after three months for confirmation.