Any woman who is sexually active should have regular testing for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Even if you have no symptoms, a routine STD testing by your gynecologist can be immensely beneficial for a number of reasons. In fact, many STDs and STIs have no apparent symptoms initially.
Continue reading for more information about the types of conditions we test for and how often you should be screened.
If you’re a sexually active woman, you should get screened at least once a year for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Other criteria for annual testing for these 2 STIs include:
The test for gonorrhea and chlamydia is performed either by a simple urine test or a swab inside the cervix. Once the sample gets taken, it is sent to a laboratory for analysis. You can have either chlamydia or gonorrhea with no symptoms, so testing remains essential for early detection.
HIV testing should occur as a part of your regular annual gynecological examination, especially between the ages of 13 and 64. Yearly testing for HIV should happen if you are sexually active or have had multiple sexual partners. You might need to specially request an HIV test if you’re unsure whether your doctor provides it automatically or not. Testing for HIV requires a blood test.
Hepatitis C screenings should also be requested during your annual doctor’s visit, especially if you were born between 1945 and 1965 since the rate of Hepatitis C remains higher in this age group. Hepatitis C frequently shows no symptoms until it reaches advanced stages. You can also receive vaccinations for Hepatitis A and B if you get screened and don’t have these viruses. Testing for Hepatitis C requires a blood test.
Syphilis tests require a swab from your genital area or any sores you have in that area. You may also get tested for this STD using a blood sample.
You should get tested for hepatitis, HIV, and syphilis if you’re a woman who:
No testing currently exists for genital herpes. Unfortunately, this disease may get passed from person to person with no symptoms present. However, your physician can take a scraping of tissue from sores in the genital area for testing. Blood tests remain available too, but they don’t give accurate results in many cases.
The human papillomavirus, or HPV, is present in approximately 79 million Americans. About 80 percent of sexually active people are infected with HPV in their lifetime. In most cases, the virus goes away about 2 years after getting it and doesn’t cause any health problems. However, when HPV doesn’t go away, it can lead to cervical cancer or genital warts.
The HPV virus testing for women typically involves having a Pap smear test. A Pap smear checks the cervical area for abnormal cells. Pap tests should be done fairly routinely — about every 3 years. If you have a concern about having HPV, you should get a Pap test done more frequently.
The HPV virus remains linked to vaginal, vulva, penis, anus, and oral cancers. The HPV shot remains most effective if taken before the beginning of sexual activity.
Yes, you can test yourself for certain STDs using at-home testing kits. Some women prefer at-home STD screenings because it allows them to be tested in the privacy of their own home. At-home STD tests for women can be done at any time, without a doctor’s appointment.
HIV, gonorrhea, and chlamydia tests can be taken at home and sent to a lab for further analysis. If you really want to do an at-home STD test, we strongly encourage you to send more than one sample to confirm the results of your test.
If you test positive for an STD, then you should see your OB/GYN healthcare provider as soon as possible for further diagnosis and treatment. If you experience any symptoms of an STD, see your doctor right away.
Here at All About Women, we try to make our offices comfortable and private for women of all ages. Our compassionate Gainesville gynecologists can discuss your concerns and know what steps to take next to ensure your health and well-being.