4 questions to ask yourself before your STD checks
Let’s face it, the prospect of carrying an STI or an STD, and experiencing STD checks is certainly a problem we can live without. Having said that, it happens and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. All you can do is take the best course of action for your situation.
Back in November 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claimed there had been a a significant increase in STDs, with approximately 20 million new infections for people aged from 15 to 25 years old, per year. Syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhoea are also becoming resistant to antibiotics according to the report.
What is an STD?
Firstly it’s important to understand the difference between an STI and an STD. In short, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) ‘could’ develop into a sexually transmitted disease (STD), but not always. An STI will not necessarily develop into a disease. You may have an infection, yet it may never lead to any symptoms or cause real health problems. Sexually transmitted diseases on the other hand can cause long-term health problems, which can often be treated.
It’s important to be able to distinguish the two because a person can still have a sexually transmitted disease without knowing it. In a lot of cases, there may not be any signs or symptoms. In fact, many experts prefer the term sexually transmitted infections, as you can have an infection without disease symptoms.
Many questions will be going through your mind if you believe you could have an STI, for example what types of STI testing do you need? Have I waited too long? What happens if my results come back positive? Often the answers depend on your age, your sexual activity and other risk factors.
The most important thing you can do right now is make sure you don’t panic and do some research. Not all symptoms equate to those of an STD. With that being said, here are four questions to consider before your STD checks.
When are STD checks necessary?
In an ideal world, if you’re sexually active you should be visiting your local clinic, GP or pharmacy to get tested for STDs at least once a year. We aren’t just talking about the more commonly known STDs such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea either; we are also talking about the big guns like hepatitis, syphilis, and HIV.
Ideally you should also get tested every time you have sex with someone new, particularly if you engaged in unprotected sex and that includes unprotected oral or anal sex.
If you're engaging with multiple partners you should be getting screened every three months. However, if you are regularly spending the night with a new partner, ideally you should get checked out more frequently. Not only does this keep yourself safe, but it is also the only way to ensure you’re not putting others at risk.
How long do I have to wait before getting checked?
The best possible answer is…don’t. Don’t wait around just because you have used protection. It’s so simple to get tested for STDs.
It only takes one unprotected sexual act to contract an STD. Not all condoms protect against STD’s. Skin-to-skin contact can still pass on an STD.
If you’ve had or want to start having sex (including anal, or oral) with a new partner without a condom, it’s a good idea to get tested. Here are the timeframes required to get a reliable test result after exposure:
Two weeks - Gonorrhoea, chlamydia and a reliable pregnancy reading.
One week to three months - Syphilis
Six weeks to three months - HIV, hepatitis C and B
STD tests are expensive, time consuming and resource consuming for our NHS. Be smart and get checked out when you must, but the goal is to prevent the need for STD tests and the best way to do that is to keep yourself safe.
If you’re having unprotected sex with new partners frequently, your odds of contracting an STD are increasingly high and you must wear some protection. Always play it safe and use a condom. If you do feel the need to get tested, this will increase the likelihood of your test results coming back as negative.
As we mentioned earlier, STDs don’t always have symptoms. However, if you’re already in a position where you have forgotten to use a condom - or maybe it split or came off - during intercourse, these are the more common signs and symptoms to look out for.
- Bumps, sores, or warts near the mouth, anus, penis, or vagina.
- Swelling or redness near the penis or vagina.
- Skin rash.
- Painful urination.
- Weight loss, loose stools, night sweats.
- Aches, pains, fever, and chills.
- Yellowing of the skin (jaundice).
- Discharge from the penis or vagina.
- Bleeding from the vagina other than during a monthly period.
- Painful sex.
- Severe itching near the penis or vagina.
Of course each STD comes with their own set of symptoms, so make sure to do your research if you are concerned about a particular STD.
What can I expect from my STD checks?
Firstly, you can make an appointment to go to a STD clinic, your local GP or at London Doctors Clinic for most std testing.
When you go to a sexual health clinic, you'll be asked for your name and some contact details. Test results won’t always be available straight away, sometimes the clinic will need to contact you later, so be sure to give them the correct contact details. At London Doctors Clinic we can get most test results to you within 4-6 hours*.
A doctor or a nurse will ask you about your medical and sexual history, tell you what tests they think you need and explain why they are suggesting those tests. If you're unsure about anything, ask them to explain.
Tests may involve:
- Urine sample
- Blood sample
- Swabs from the urethra
- An examination of your genitals
*Please note that the turnaround time for results at The Doctors Clinic Group Birmingham will be delivered within 48hours.
For more information on STD checks and STIs take a look at the following articles: