Sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, are diagnosed and treated by obstetricians and gynecologists. STD screening is an important part of preventive care for women. An undiagnosed STD can lead to serious reproductive health problems, including difficulty conceiving, loss of fertility, and perinatal transmission of the infection.
Untreated STDs can also lead to other health complications, including cancer and blindness. An STD screening is a fast procedure and the test results allow for infections to be treated as early in the disease process as possible.
How STD Screening is Performed
STD screening is performed in the doctor’s office using several different methods. Some of the screening tests, including those for HIV, syphilis, hepatitis B and C, gonorrhea, herpes, and chlamydia require a blood sample. A rapid HIV test may also be performed using a saliva sample.
A cervical swab may be performed to collect some cells and then send them for a pathological screening. Once the blood or mucous cells are sampled, they are sent to a laboratory. Processing of the results takes 24 to 72 hours. In the case of HIV screening, if the initial test is positive, a second, confirmatory test will be performed.
When are STD Screenings Performed?
STD screenings are used to check for viral and bacterial infections that are spread through sexual contact. STD screening includes checking for hepatitis B and C. These viruses are spread through exposure to blood, vaginal secretions, and semen. If left untreated, chronic infections of hepatitis B or C can lead to liver cancer.
STD screenings also include testing for HIV. This virus is spread through blood, semen, and vaginal secretions. If HIV is not diagnosed, it can lead to a breakdown of the immune system. People who have HIV and do not know they are infected can pass the infection to their sexual partners and from mother to child during birth. Herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis infections can be spread through genital to genital and oral to genital contact. All types of sexual intercourse can spread these infections.
Who Should Have an STD Screening?
If a woman is having unexplained pain during intercourse, has painful genital sores, or difficulty with urination, an STD screening should be considered.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 years of age be tested for HIV. Anyone who is sexually active should be screened for STDs. Even if a condom is used during intercourse, STDs can be transmitted through oral and genital skin-to-skin contact. People who have multiple sexual partners should be screened for STDs on a regular basis.
If you are trying to get pregnant or have a positive pregnancy test, it is important to schedule an STD screening. A baby can be infected with an STD during birth. Anyone who has unsafe sex should get an STD screening as quickly as possible, followed by a second screening in six months.
If you are unsure whether or not you should be screened for STDs, your doctor can help you to determine the best frequency.