No Excuses! Get Tested!

Posted On November 19, 2015
Categories News 2015

Eighty percent of all sexually transmitted infections (STIs) caught by individuals around the world have no symptoms at all. Some STIs do produce visible symptoms. Herpes simplex, for example, produces blisters and sores, while syphilis has a range of symptoms. There is almost no way of knowing if you are infected with chlamydia or HIV unless you get tested. Gonorrhea may or may not produce symptoms.

There is no stigma in getting tested. The real problem is individuals who practice unsafe sex and do not get tested. In fact, one in two young adults and teens will be infected during their lifetime, and 25 percent of college students in the U.S. have an STI.

Unfortunately, a large number of people do not know about STIs and having protected sex. Forty percent of women and 13 percent of men do not know how to use a condom. Many people do not realize that anal sex is more likely to lead to an STI infection than any other sexual activity. In fact, 71 percent of U.S. college students do not use protection when practicing anal sex.

Some STIs are curable. Most are treatable. It is dangerous to ignore them. Chlamydia and gonorrhea screening 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. You need to be screened annually for chlamydia and gonorrhea if you:

  • Are a sexually active girl or woman under age 25
  • Are a woman older than 25 and at risk of STIs — for example, if you’re having sex with a new partner or multiple partners
  • Are a man who has sex with men
  • Have HIV
  • Have been forced to have intercourse or engage in sexual activity against your will

Others STIs, such as HIV and herpes simplex, are not curable but are manageable. HIV requires a complex range of drugs to fight the retrovirus and halt its progress throughout the body. Not treating the disease hastens the onset of AIDs and possible death. Syphilis is cured using a penicillin. Your doctor tests you 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. A blood sample is taken to test for HIV and hepatitis. You should 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 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

With regards to herpes, the symptoms can be managed, but the infection will always remain in your body. No good screening test exists for herpes, which is a viral infection that can be transmitted even when a person doesn’t have symptoms. If you have blisters or early ulcers, your doctor may take a tissue scraping or culture of them for examination in a laboratory. However, a negative test doesn’t rule out herpes as a cause for genital ulcerations. A blood test also may help detect a 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 more typically causes genital sores. 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.

Certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause cervical cancer while other varieties of HPV can cause genital warts. Most sexually active people become infected with HPV at some point in their lives, but never develop symptoms. The virus typically disappears within two years. HPV has been linked to cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, 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. No HPV screening test is available for men, in whom the infection is diagnosed only by visual inspection or biopsy of genital warts. In women, HPV testing involves:

  • Pap test: Pap tests, which 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.

When you think about STIs, it is important for you to consider two factors. First, you should consider your own health. Few people want to get genital warts, ooze an unpleasant substance, become infertile, blind or demented, or die. Second, if you have an STI and continue to have unprotected sex, you need to consider the health of your partner(s). You are putting them at risk for these same problems. By being tested and encouraging others to get tested, you are raising awareness of the issues and are setting a positive example. Remember, the real problem is avoiding testing and risking your health and those of your partner(s).