There are many different tests (especially here in New York) that can be done to detect sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The type of STD a person has, personal medical history, symptoms and sexual history determine the type of testing that is done. The following samples may be taken to test for this type of disease:
- Blood sample
- Oral swab
- Sore or discharge swab
- Urine sample
- Genital swab
STD testing can uncover diseases whether they are producing symptoms or not. Because of this, it is important to have regular testing done if you are sexually active.
Gonorrhea and Chlamydia Testing
Annual screening should be done for those who fit the following criteria:
- Sexually active women under 25 years of age
- Men who engage in sex with other men
- Women over 25 who participate in risky sexual behavior
Both gonorrhea and chlamydia are tested by using genital swabs (cervical swab for women and an inner penis swab for men) or urine testing. Once the sample is obtained, it is analyzed in a laboratory. Both of these STDs are known for not producing symptoms in many people so it is important to be screened regularly.
HIV, Hepatitis and Syphilis
It is encouraged that everyone between ages 13 and 64 be tested once as part of their routine medical care for HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Other reasons to be tested for HIV, as well as hepatitis and syphilis, include:
- A positive test result for gonorrhea or chlamydia
- Intravenous (IV) drug use
- Multiple sexual partners
- Men who engage in sex with other men
For HIV and hepatitis, a blood sample is taken from a vein and this is sent to a laboratory for proper analysis. For syphilis, a swab of a genital sore or a blood test can be done to obtain a sample for laboratory analysis.
There is no good test for herpes, but blood testing and swabbing can be done. Swabbing is used if there is an ulcer or a blister present and blood testing can be done anytime herpes is suspected. There are tests that are able to differentiate between the different types of the virus. With blood testing, it is possible to have false-negative and false-positive results.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is very common and certain types can cause genital warts and others can cause cervical cancer. For men, genital warts are diagnosed via visual inspection and no other testing methods exist. However, there are two different testing options for women:
- Pap smears should be done annually for women ages 21 to 30 and every two years for women over 30. This test is done by inserting a speculum to allow the doctor to easily visualize the cervix. Then, a spatula is used to scrape some samples of cervical cells for further analysis.
- An HPV test is done by taking samples from the cervical canal and it is generally performed for women over 30 years old.
How Blood Testing is Done
A healthcare provider will find a viable vein, usually one in a hand or an arm, and will then tie a tourniquet above the area to allow the vein to become engorged. A small needle is then inserted into the vein and the tourniquet is released. The blood collects in a glass vial and once enough blood has been collected, the needle is removed from the vein and pressure is applied to stop the bleeding. The collection of a blood sample for STDs only takes a couple of minutes. The blood is then properly labeled and sent to the laboratory so that it can be properly analyzed. Blood testing does involve inserting a needle, but most people only experience a quick prick when the needle is inserted into a vein and no other associated discomfort. Your doctor will let you know how long it will take to get the results and what to do after the results are given.
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Dr. Gafanovich is performing STD testing as a part of her annual check up .
How Urine Testing is Done
For a urine test you should make sure that you drink enough water to ensure you can provide enough urine for the sample. Once you get to your doctor’s office, you will be handed a plastic cup and will go into a bathroom. You will then urinate into the cup and place the lid onto it. The nurse or technician will take the cup, properly label it and then send it off to the laboratory. Urine testing will not cause any pain. Your doctor will tell you when you can expect the results and how to properly follow up once you get the results.
How Swabbing is Done
For an oral swab, the healthcare professional will use a tongue depressor to move the tongue out of the way and then a sterile cotton swab is rubbed around the inside of one of your cheeks to obtain a sample. If there is a sore or a lesion in or around your mouth, the cotton swab will be rubbed on it to obtain a sample. Once the sample is obtained, the cotton swab is secured in a sterile vial or container and it is sent to the laboratory for proper analysis.
For a genital sample, the site of the swab will depend on the STD being tested for. For men, the swab may be on the inside of the penis or on the outer area of the penis. For women, the swab may be of the cervix or of the vaginal walls. If there are lesions on the genitals, the specific lesion will be swabbed. Once the sample is obtained, the cotton swab that was used will be placed into a sterile container or vial and then sent to the laboratory to be analyzed.