How To Test For a STD
Sexually transmitted diseases are common, but the type of STD test you need may vary by your risk factors. We’ll walk you through the different types of tests and the new technology that makes testing that bit easier.
If you’re sexually active, particularly with multiple partners, you’ve probably heard the following advice many times: Use protection and get tested.
This is important because a person can have a sexually transmitted disease without knowing it. In many cases, there aren’t any signs or symptoms, so we’re going to separate STDs into two camps: Visual STD’s and Non-Visual. It’s pretty self-explanatory but to remove any doubt, some STDs are clearly visual whereas others may not have symptoms nor visual pointers (think Chlamydia vs Herpes). Visual STD tests couldn’t be easier due to advances in technology and we’ll give you more details below.
Firstly, what type of STD test do you need? And how often should you be screened? The answers depend on your age, your sexual behaviors and other risk factors.
Every time you have a gynecologic exam or Pap test, remember not to assume this is also an STD test. If you think you need an STD test, request it from your doctor, if you have spotted something you’re not sure about, you can also test our AI technology which will give you an answer within seconds.
Testing for ‘Non-Visual’ STD
Here are some guidelines for STD tests on specific ‘non-visual’ sexually transmitted infections.
Chlamydia and Gonorrhea
The Chlamydia and Gonorrhea STD test is done either through a urine test or through a swab inside the penis in men or from the cervix in women. The sample is then analyzed in a laboratory. Screening is important, because if you don’t have signs or symptoms, you can be unaware that you have either infection.
HIV and Hepatitis
If you’re an adolescent or adult between the ages of 13 and 64, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages HIV testing, at least once, as a routine part of medical care. Younger teens should have an STD test if they have a high risk of an STD. The CDC advises yearly HIV testing if you are at high risk of infection.
Hepatitis C screening is recommended for everyone born between 1945 and 1965. The incidence of hepatitis C is high in this age group, and the disease often has no symptoms until it’s advanced. Vaccines are available for both hepatitis A and B if screening shows you haven’t been exposed to these viruses.
Request testing for HIV and Syphilis if you:
- Test positive for another STI, which puts you at greater risk of other STIs
- Have had more than one sexual partner (or if your partner has had multiple partners) since your last test
- Use intravenous (IV) drugs
- Are a man who has sex with men
- Are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant
- Have been forced to have intercourse or engage in sexual activity against your will
Certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause cervical cancer while other varieties of HPV can cause genital warts. Many sexually active people become infected with HPV at some point in their lives, but never develop symptoms. The virus typically disappears within two years.
For HPV, there is no screening, STD test for men that is used routinely, the infection is diagnosed by visual inspection or biopsy of genital warts. In women, HPV testing involves:
- Pap test. check the cervix for abnormal cells, are recommended every three years for women between ages 21 and 65.
- HPV test. Women over 30 may be offered the option to have the HPV test along with a Pap test every five years if previous tests were normal. Women between 21 and 30 will be given an HPV test if they’ve had abnormal results on their Pap test.
HPV has also been linked to cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and mouth and throat. Vaccines can protect both men and women from some types of HPV, but they are most effective when administered before sexual activity begins.
‘Visual’ STD Test
Visual STD tests follows the same approach to non-visual. The advantage here is that you can spot the signs more quickly, it also allows you to use AI technology anonymously to check for an STD.
Your doctor performs an STD test for syphilis by taking either a blood sample or a swab from any genital sores you might have. The sample is examined in a laboratory. If you have noticed sores or red spots that concern you, you can also take our skin image test for immediate results. With over 80% accuracy on all skin diseases you can get an instant diagnosis to put forward to your doctor.
Herpes is challenging since there are few screening STD tests that exist and work effectively for the virus. Since it is a viral infection that can be transmitted even when a person doesn’t have symptoms this makes it all the more difficult. Typically, you may have ulcers or blisters that can be scraped by your doctor and checked in a laboratory. This process can take time but with advances in technology there are other methods available to you. If you have noticed spots, marks or even warts you can also check this using our AI technology – by scanning hundreds of thousands of cases just like yours, it is able to provide a diagnosis with 80% accuracy – higher than almost all GPs and even some dermatologists.
Beyond visual testing, a blood test also may help detect a past herpes infection, but results aren’t always conclusive. Some blood tests can help differentiate between the two main types of the herpes virus. Type 1 is the virus that more typically causes cold sores, although it can also cause genital sores.
Type 2 is the virus that causes genital sores more often. Still, the results may not be totally clear, depending on the sensitivity of the test and the stage of the infection. False-positive and false-negative results are possible.
At-home STD tests
Certain STD’s, such as HIV, chlamydia and gonorrhea can also be tested from home, you collect a urine sample or an oral or genital swab and then send it to a laboratory for analysis.
Some STD tests require more than one sample. The benefit of home testing is you’re able to collect the sample in the privacy of your home without the need for a pelvic exam or office visit.
However, STD tests done on samples you collect yourself may have a higher rate of false-positive results, meaning the test indicates you have an STI that you might not have. If you test positive from a home test, contact your doctor or a public health clinic to confirm the test results. If your home test results are negative, but you’re experiencing symptoms, contact your doctor or a public health clinic to confirm the results. Remember you can also use our online image testing technology for peace of mind and fast results at any time.
Ask a Dermatologist
Anonymous, fast and secure!
Specialist doctor from the University Hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden, Alumni UC Berkeley. My PhD thesis is on Digital Health and I published 5 peer review scientific papers on teledermatology.