Do I have an STI? It’s a question riddled with what-ifs and what-now’s, but don’t worry. If the thought has ever crossed your mind, you’re not the first person to question it. Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are treatable, and many are curable, but in order to get treatment, a person needs to know their status. Getting tested for STIs is the first step.
Do I Need to Get Tested for STIs if I Don’t Have Any Symptoms?
Although it’s common for STIs to be portrayed as carrying staggering side effects, the reality is that most STIs actually have no symptoms, or have symptoms that come and go over time. For many STI symptoms, such as pain during urination and unusual discharge, it’s possible that they are being brought on by an STI, but these symptoms can also be caused by other things like urinary tract infections (UTIs) or yeast infections. So, getting tested is the only way to know what’s really going on with your body.
In general, it’s recommended for people to get tested for STIs at least one time per year. If you’ve had genital-to-genital, genital-to-mouth, or genital-to-anus sexual contact without a condom or latex barrier, then it may be a good idea to consider getting tested, even if you don’t currently have any symptoms.
Won’t My STI Just Go Away?
Because STIs are infections, they will not go away on their own. Even though someone may feel totally fine right now, some STIs can impact a person’s health over time. Untreated STIs also carry the risk of being spread to others. Many STIs can actually be easily cured with medication provided by a healthcare provider. While there are some STIs that can’t be cured, there are ways to treat symptoms and help prevent that person from giving that STI to a sexual partner.
How Do I Get Tested?
STI testing isn’t always a part of a regular checkup or gynecologist exam, so it’s important that people let their healthcare provider know that they’d like to get tested for STIs in order to make sure they receive the care that they’re looking for. There are many places to get tested for STIs: you can get tested at a Planned Parenthood Health Center, a doctor’s office, or at a health clinic. There is not one way to test for every STI, so when getting tested for STIs it’s likely that you will need to do a few different tests. Your healthcare provider can help you determine which tests you need. These tests may include:
- A urine sample
- A blood sample
- A physical exam
- Testing any sores that may be present
- Using a swab to gently take discharge or cell samples from the penis, vagina, urethra, cervix, anus, cheek or throat
In order to help a healthcare provider determine which tests are best, it’s important for you to be as honest as possible with them about the types of sexual contact you’re engaging in. It may feel a little awkward talking to a doctor about your sex life and STIs, but keep in mind that it’s this person’s job to provide you with care, not to pass judgement. By getting tested you are taking care of your health.
What Happens Next?
It usually takes a few days to receive the results of an STI test, and can take up to two weeks. If you find you that you have an STI, it’s normal for emotions of frustration or embarrassment to come up. Know that you are not alone, most people have tested positive for an STI at least one time in their life. Millions have had STIs before, and millions are living with STIs now. It’s noting to be ashamed of- it just means you’re a person who got an infection.
The first thing you’ll need to do is to follow your healthcare provider’s directions for treating it. If you’re having sex with anyone, or have had sex with someone recently, it may be a good idea to let them know as well so they can access testing and treatment as necessary.
Taking care of our sexual health by getting tested and treated for STIs is important all year long, not just during STI Awareness Month. For more information about STI testing and treatment, reach out to your local Planned Parenthood at (714) 922 – 4100 or visit the Planned Parenthood website at plannedparenthood.org/learn.