We will let you in on a big little secret: STDs, when left untreated, are just as hazardous as other chronic illnesses. Although getting tested for STDs can be a mentally daunting experience for some (or most) people, it is imperative that we ensure our sexual health is in a stellar condition. In 2018, the Department of STI Control (DSC) of Singapore revealed that there were 8,024 cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, genital warts and herpes. While this number may be small, it gives all the more reasons to get tested because most STD cases go unnoticed due to lack of symptoms. Although STD testing is usually not included in medical exams, if you happen to be sexually active, asking for it would be a wise move to do.
Who should get screened for STD/STIs?
Every person who is sexually active is never 100% safe from STDs. In fact, almost every sexually active person will be infected by STD at least once in their life. Due to the fact that STD testings are normally not part of regular checkups, you might need to consult health professionals regarding which tests you should take. The first step is to be candid and honest about your sex life. It can get embarrassing to unveil private stuff to strangers, but this will ensure that you get the correct tests needed. You might need to consider getting tested if:
- you are about to enter a new relationship
- you are thinking of not using condoms while having sex
- you or your partner have multiple partners
- you have symptoms that hint at the possibility of STD/STIs
If you are in a monogamous relationship that has been going on for a considerable amount of time and are certain that you are faithful to each other, regular STD testing may not be required. However, it is best to get screened prior to entering a new relationship because a person can get STDs and not know it for years.
What STD tests do you need?
After a thorough consultation with medical professionals, you will be recommended to take one or more tests. Usually, STD screenings encompass the following diseases:
Most doctors do not usually recommend herpes testing unless you reveal that you may have been exposed to the disease or purposely ask for it.
Before getting encouraged to perform one or more tests, you will most likely talk about these things in detail:
- The symptoms you are currently having
- Your and your partner’s history in regards to sexually transmitted diseases
- The amount of sexual partners you have had
- The type of sexual contact you have done: oral, anal, vaginal, or things revolving around skin-to-skin genital contact or sexual fluids
- The frequency with which you use protection such as condoms and dental dams
- Non-sexual things you might do that increase the risks of getting exposed to STDs
Being open about these things helps your doctors determine which tests are fitting for you. Although it may get uncomfortable, you should remember that doctors are so used to handling different cases and hearing about these things. They are here to assist you and not to judge you.
How STD testing is done
With the advancement of health and technology, STD testing is now quick, easy and painless. Despite the fact that there is no one test for all STDs, each STD has its own method(s) of testing. Some ways in which STD testing can be carried out include:
- Urine tests → Urine testing is probably the easiest and simplest way to detect STDs because all a person has to do is pee into a cup. It is primarily utilized for bacterial STDs such as chlamydia and gonorrhea. Back in the day, examining chlamydia and gonorrhea would involve a swab of the urethra (for men) and pelvic exams and cervical swabs (for women). These methods may be deemed inconvenient, which explains why people were more reluctant to get tested. Urine tests for trichomoniasis are also available albeit less common.
- Cheek swabs → Cheek swabs are a method used to detect some STDs. What medical professionals would usually do is rubbing the inside of the cheek with a soft swab.
- Blood tests → Another popular and hassle-free method to test for STDs, blood tests can be used to detect HIV, syphilis, genital herpes and hepatitis B. With blood tests, health professionals will draw blood from a person by pricking a finger or taking blood from their arm.
- Physical examinations → Doctors will observe parts of a person’s body to check for visible signs or symptoms of STDs. The symptoms can take the forms of lesions, warts, sores, rashes, discharge and irritations. This method of examination is popular for detecting HPV in men because unlike examining HPV in women, there are no surefire methods to determine whether or not men have HPV and the one way to do it in men is to check for genital warts or abnormal tissue (with the help of a magnifying glass).
- Genital and throat swabs → Swabs are used to take discharge or cell samples from the penis, vagina, urethra, cervix, anus or even throat. This method is used to examine several STDs such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, but is also employed when checking for trichomoniasis and herpes.
Not having or showing any symptoms should not be a reason why you should not get yourself checked. Nowadays, getting tested for STDs is fast and easy. Results can come back in mere minutes although some test results do need days and even weeks to process.
What to do if you test positive for STDs
We understand that a positive test result makes you embarrassed and frustrated, but we do believe that being fully updated with your sexual health status is beneficial because even if you test positive for a certain disease, your doctor can determine which treatments and medications to prescribe to you so that the disease will not progress to something more severe.
The wisest step to do after being diagnosed is to follow the doctor’s order and go along with the required treatments. After this, you should also notify your sexual partner(s) so they can get tested as well to make sure they are aware of their health. While this might not be the most comfortable conversation to have, this has to be done.
Some STDs occurring due to bacteria such as chlamydia and gonorrhea can go away and clear up with the help of antibiotics. After the disease is cured, you can get on with life. As for incurable sexual diseases such as HIV, with the right treatment, we can make sure to keep the viral load undetectable so we cannot pass the virus on to the person we are having sex with.
Millions of people have STDs and do not know it. Having STDs does not automatically mean a person is ‘filthy’ and ‘bad’, it just means infections that affect sexually active people. Every sexually active person is bound to experience STDs and there is nothing to be ashamed about.
To ensure that your sexual health is nothing short of stellar, Shim Clinic is always ready to go above and beyond to provide the most accurate STD screenings and diagnosis. We also specialize in STD treatments and HIV prevention methods such as HIV PEP and HIV PrEP.